RUSSELL, Francis (1793-1832), of 2 Charles Street, Grosvenor Square, Mdx.
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Family and Educationb. 7 Mar. 1793, 1st s. of Lord William Russell* and Lady Charlotte Anne Villiers, da. of George Bussy Villiers†, 4th earl of Jersey; bro. of John Russell*. educ. Westminster; Christ Church, Oxf. 1810. unm. d.v.p. 24 Nov. 1832.
Ensign 2 Ft. Mar. 1811, lt. June 1811; lt. 7 Ft. July 1811, capt. 2nd garrison battalion and half-pay[I] 1814; capt. 57 Ft. 1816; capt. 52 Ft. 1817; brevet maj. 1819; capt. 12 Drag. 1819, half-pay 1821; brevet lt.-col. and inspecting field officer of militia, Nova Scotia 1821; capt. and lt.-col. Coldstream Gds. 1825-d.; a.d.c. to duke of York 1826-7.
Russell’s mother died when he was 15, and his father, the younger brother of the 6th duke of Bedford, hitherto a keen politician in the family’s Foxite Whig tradition, was driven by serious financial problems to adopt a nomadic existence to evade his creditors, though he retained his seat for Tavistock on the family interest until 1819. Russell joined the Peninsular army with the Royal Fusiliers in the summer of 1811, aged 18, and served with conspicuous gallantry at all the major engagements of the next three years. He was badly wounded at the storming of Badajoz in 1812.1 Captain Gronow recalled his act of asinine bravery at the battle of the Pyrenees the following year:
The French General ... sent an overwhelming force against Frank’s regiment, which was posted against a mountain wall. The Fusiliers defended themselves with obstinate courage, but their colonel, for some reason which was never explained, declared it prudent to order a retreat, though his line was unbroken. Frank Russell, however, shouted out, ‘Not yet, colonel’, and with the colours of his regiment mounted the wall and cheered our men on; the French meanwhile renewing their attack with redoubled vigour. During this fierce struggle, however, our hero kept his position, till the fierce energy with which the French had been fighting began to cool: for Wellington had meanwhile broken Soult’s centre, and the retreat of the French forces was ordered. Before Russell quitted his post of honour, Lord Wellington with his staff happened to pass by the wall, and saw Russell standing on the wall, holding the colours of his regiment, which were riddled with bullet holes. On the following day, when the gallant young officer’s conduct was reported to our great commander, he exclaimed, ‘Ah! there’s nothing like blood’.2
At Waterloo Russell was aide-de-camp to the prince of Orange.3 He had a period as inspector of militia in Nova Scotia in the early 1820s, and in 1825 obtained a lieutenant-colonelcy in the Coldstream Guards. The following year he was appointed one of the aides-de-camp to the duke of York, the commander-in-chief.4
Russell, a devotee of the Turf and a hopelessly addicted gambler, was a popular figure in fashionable society, for, in Gronow’s words, ‘his temper and disposition were eminently sociable, and he was noted for his kindness of heart’. He was also, as Gronow coyly put it, ‘a great favourite with the fair sex’, and had ‘a pretty compliment’ paid to him by the duchess of York, who ‘presented him with a ring ... having for a motto, "None but the brave deserve the fair"’.5 Greville recorded in 1820 that he had Lady Worcester on a string; and in 1824 the wife of his cousin Lord George William Russell* wrote to his father from Woburn Abbey:
Your son le beau Franzis (as Alava calls him) was here - l’air plus conquerant que jamais - he looks at women and says ‘how do you do’ even, with a voice and glance accustomed to subdue. He has added to his manly attractions whiskers of dimensions hitherto unknown - not moustachios - but les favoris, they are black, bright, curled, thick, and garnish the whole face, which gives him the look of a joli Sapeur.6
In 1828, however, he was reported to be ‘breaking his heart’ for Isabella Forester.7
Russell, who had joined Brooks’s in 1820, sponsored by his cousin Lord Tavistock* and his uncle the 5th earl of Jersey, entered the House for Tavistock in October 1831 when Lord Tavistock’s young son found parliamentary life too much for his health. Bedford reported that ‘the Tavistockians are much pleased with Francis’.8 Sworn in on 7 Dec., he voted for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831. He was a steady, though silent supporter of its details and voted for its third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He voted for the address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry undiluted reform, 10 May, and for the Scottish reform bill, 1, 15 June. He divided with ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12, 16, 20 July, relations with Portugal, 9 Feb., and against Hunt’s motion for information on military punishments, 16 Feb. 1832.
Lady William was unintentionally prophetic when she told Russell’s father at the time of his return that he ‘has been dying to be in Parliament these many years’, for he died, intestate and v.p., ‘of a rapid decline’ in November 1832, just over a week before the dissolution.9 Bedford told Lady Holland, 28 Nov., that he had been ‘sadly affected’ by Russell’s death ‘and all the melancholy circumstances attending it’, but that he had ‘the consolation of reflecting that no human skill or care could have saved him’.10 To his son Lord George William Russell he wrote:
Poor fellow! He was capable of better things than an inglorious life spent amongst Newmarket gamblers and blacklegs! He was a brave and high-spirited soldier, and had excellent abilities, besides many other good qualities; but the love of gambling wholly absorbed him, and I have no doubt that his losses preying on his mind accelerated the bodily disease which eventually carried him off, by total destruction of his lungs.11
Lord John Russell*, reflecting on his cousin’s ‘melancholy end’, wished that ‘he could have lived to act a better part in society’, but observed that ‘if he had one uncle to save him, he had a father and an uncle to lead him wrong’.12 Russell left massive debts, reportedly in the region of £35,000.13 Administration of his effects, which were sworn under £1,000, was granted to his younger brother John.14
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: David R. Fisher
- 1. Gent. Mag. (1833), i. 84.
- 2. Gronow Reminiscences, ii. 198-9.
- 3. Gent Mag. (1833), i. 84; HMC Bathurst, 283.
- 4. Russell Letters, ii. 14; Add. 52017, Townshend to H. E. Fox, 30 Apr. 1826; Greville Mems. i. 159.
- 5. Gronow Reminiscences, i. 199-200; Raikes Jnl. i. 109; Creevey Pprs. ii. 74, 100, 167; Greville Mems. i. 217, 221, 294; Von Neumann Diary, i. 231, 240.
- 6. Greville Mems. i. 101; Blakiston, Lord William Russell, 114.
- 7. NLW, ms 2796 D, Lady Delamere to H. Williams Wynn, 20 Mar. 1828.
- 8. Blakiston, 243; Add. 51670, Bedford to Holland, 24 Oct., to Lady Holland, 31 Oct. .
- 9. Blakiston, 243; Raikes Jnl. i. 109; Gent. Mag.(1833), i. 84; The Times, 3 Dec. 1832.
- 10. Add. 51671.
- 11. Russell Letters, iii. 32.
- 12. Add. 51680, Russell to Lady Holland, 2 Dec. .
- 13. Greville Mems. ii. 352; Miss Eden’s Letters ed. V. Dickinson, 216.
- 14. PROB 6/209/246.