RUSSELL, Sir Francis (1587-1641), of Northaw, Herts.; later of Chiswick, Mdx. and Bedford House, The Strand, Westminster

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



24 Feb. 1610

Family and Education

b. Oct. 1587,1 o.s. of William Russell†, 1st Bar. Russell of Thornhaugh, ld. dep. [I] 1594-7, and Elizabeth, da. and h. of Henry Long† of Shingay, Cambs.2 educ. ?King’s, Camb. 1602; L. Inn 1608.3 m. 26 Feb. 1609, Catharine (d. 29 Jan. 1657), da. and coh. of Giles Brydges†, 3rd Bar. Chandos of Sudeley, 4s. (1 d.v.p.) 6da. (2 d.v.p.).4 kntd. 30 Mar. 1607;5 suc. fa. as 2nd bar. 9 Aug. 1613, cos. as 4th earl of Bedford 3 May 1627.6 d. 9 May 1641.7

Offices Held

Assoc. bencher, L. Inn 1611.8

Commr. sewers, Gt. Fens 1618-at least 1634, Lincs. 1618, Cambs. 1627, Devon 1634,9 j.p. Westminster 1618-d., Buckingham, Bucks. 1630-d.,10 custos rot. Devon 1619-d.,11 ld. lt. 1623-d.;12 commr. piracy, Devon 1624,13 Forced Loan 1626-7,14 martial law, Exeter, Devon 1627;15 high steward, Plymouth, Devon by 1628,16 Buckingham 1630-d.;17 commr. oyer and terminer, Western circ. 1635-d.18

Commr. trade 1625,19 treaty of Ripon 1640;20 PC Feb. 1641-d.21


Russell was descended from Stephen Russell alias Gascoigne, a vintner of Weymouth, Dorset, who sat for the borough in 1395. During the following century the family built up its property in the county, mostly by marriage, and then achieved national prominence under the Tudors.22 Russell’s great-grandfather, a Henrician courtier, acquired broad estates in the West Country, and became 1st earl of Bedford in 1550. Russell’s first cousin, the 3rd earl, was disgraced after taking part in Essex’s rising in 1601, and spent the rest of his life in relative retirement. However, the family’s reputation was redeemed by Russell’s father, a career soldier who became lord deputy of Ireland after serving in the Low Countries and was rewarded with a barony.23

Russell spent part of his youth in Ireland, but after his marriage settled at Northaw. In 1610 he was returned for Lyme Regis, in the by-election caused by the absence overseas of Sir George Somers*. Although Russell took a keen interest in his Dorset roots, later commissioning a report on ancestral memorials at Dorchester and Swyre, the family by this time had only tenuous ties with the county, and it is unclear by what means he was nominated for this seat.24 In contrast to his later career in the Lords, Russell made little impact on the Commons. He was named to five legislative committees in the first session of 1610, their subjects including clerical subscription and the problem of non-resident clergy (14 Mar. and 16 April). No record survives of his activity during the ensuing and final session.25

In 1613 Russell succeeded to his father’s peerage, and he soon became the effective head of the family, four years later purchasing most of the estates of his bankrupt cousin, the 3rd earl of Bedford. With the help of Sir Robert Cotton* he secured the re-enfranchisement of Amersham, Buckinghamshire in 1624, and in the same year began to provide a safe seat at Tavistock, Devon, for John Pym*.26 Russell inherited the Bedford peerage in 1627, and took up residence in Chiswick and The Strand. ‘Two silenced and unconformable ministers’ had guided his mother, and Russell’s own personal meditations are strongly Calvinist in tone. He was among the peers described in 1628 as ‘earnest in defence of liberty’, and he was imprisoned in 1629 on suspicion of circulating a seditious tract.27 During the 1630s he focused his energies on fen drainage and the development of the Russell estate in Covent Garden, London. Viewed as a moderate reformer in the opening phase of the Long Parliament, he was widely expected to become lord treasurer in 1641, but died of smallpox in May of that year, being buried at Chenies, Buckinghamshire. Russell was succeeded by his son William, who sat for Tavistock in both the Short and Long Parliaments.28

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. CSP For. 1587, p. 388.
  • 2. CP, ii. 78; xi. 239-40.
  • 3. Al. Cant.; LI Admiss.
  • 4. CP, ii. 78-9; Collins, Peerage ed. E. Brydges, i. 282, 284; Cussans, Herts. (Cashio Hundred), 11.
  • 5. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 141.
  • 6. C142/342/117; 142/435/118.
  • 7. CP, ii. 78.
  • 8. LI Black Bks. ii. 140.
  • 9. C181/2, f. 320v, 330; 181/3, f. 220v; 181/4, f. 160v, 163.
  • 10. C181/2, f. 331v; 181/4, f. 68; 181/5, f. 120v; C66/2859.
  • 11. C231/4, f. 81.
  • 12. CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 20.
  • 13. C181/3, f. 130.
  • 14. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 144; C193/12/2, f. 10.
  • 15. C66/2422/15.
  • 16. R.N. Worth, Cal. Plymouth Municipal Recs. 155.
  • 17. C181/4, f. 68; 181/5, f. 120v.
  • 18. C181/4, f. 193; 181/5, f. 170.
  • 19. Rymer, viii. pt. 1, p. 59.
  • 20. HMC 8th Rep. ii. 57.
  • 21. PC2/53, p. 101.
  • 22. G.S. Thomson, Two Centuries of Fam. Hist. 65, 90-3.
  • 23. CP, ii. 74-5, 78; ix. 239-40.
  • 24. Cussans, 11; CP, ii. 78; Thomson, 33, 94-5.
  • 25. CJ, i. 410b, 418b.
  • 26. C. Russell, ‘Parl. Career of John Pym’, in Eng. Commonwealth ed. P. Clark, A.G.R. Smith and N. Tyacke, 150; K. Sharpe, Sir Robert Cotton, 189; C. Russell, PEP, 132; C66/2302/13.
  • 27. Bodl. Tanner 284, f. 37; T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Chas. I, i. 358; Sharpe, 214; Oxford DNB.
  • 28. CSP Dom. 1629-31, pp. 311, 479; 1640-1, p. 439; CP, ii. 78-9.