RUSSELL, Edward (c.1652-1727), of Chippenham Hall, Cambs.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1695 - 7 May 1697

Family and Education

b. c.1652, 2nd s. of Hon. Edward Russell (d.1665) of Corney House, Chiswick, Mdx. by Penelope, da. of Sir Moyses Hill of Hillsborough, co. Down, wid. of Hon. Arthur Wilmot of Dublin and of Sir William Brooke of Cooling Castle, Kent. educ. Tottenham (Mr Lewis); St. John’s, Camb. 1666. m. 12 Nov. 1691, his cos. Lady Margaret Russell, da. of Sir William Russell, 5th Earl and 1st Duke of Bedford, s.p. suc. bro. 1674; cr. Earl of Orford 7 May 1697.1

Offices Held

Lt. RN 1671, capt. 1672-82, adm. 1689, adm. of the fleet 1694-5.

Groom of the bedchamber to the Duke of York 1682-3; PC 14 Feb. 1689-Mar., 8 Nov. 1709-d.; treas. of the navy 1689-99; elder bro. Trinity House 1689-d., master 1690-2; ld. of Admiralty 1690-1, first ld. 1694-9, 1709-10, 1714-17; one of the lds. justices 1697-8, 1714; commr. for union with Scotland 1706.2

J.p. and custos rot. Cambs. 1689-d., commr. for assessment 1689-90, commr. for Greenwich Hospital 1694; conservator, Bedford level 1696-1711; high steward, Cambridge 1699-d.; dep. lt. Cambs. by 1701-14, ld. lt. 1714- d. recorder, Harwich ?1715-d.3


Russell’s father, a young brother of the 5th Earl of Bedford, played no known part in the Civil War. Russell made his career in the navy, where he was described as ‘the best seaman of a gentleman, and do more himself in person in the navigating his ship all himself than any gentleman ever did’. He made ‘a vast fortune’ by ignoring all the rules laid down by Samuel Pepys, and held no further command after 1682, when he was given a post in the Duke of York’s household. He retired from Court after the execution of his cousin, Lord Russell (Hon. William Russell). An associate of the Whig Earl of Shrewsbury, he was sounded out by the Dutch envoy Dykveldt early in 1687. He could go to Holland without arousing suspicion as his sister Catherine resided there with her husband William Harbord, and was sent on a mission to The Hague in Apr. 1688 to ask William of Orange to come to England at the head of a body of troops and to call the people to arms. The Prince told him that what he needed was not vague promises of support but an actual invitation from powerful and influential men. When Russell objected that it would be dangerous to let too many into the secret, William replied that a few would do provided they were influential enough. Russell was one of the seven men whose names in cypher were appended to the invitation issued on 30 June, and he wrote to William a month later:

my life and fortune is absolutely at your disposal. It shall be my whole business and study to render you all the service I am capable of ... The number of your friends here daily increase; but some persons on your side of the water take such liberty in writing news and naming people that I fear it may give the Court occasion to be angry with them, much to their prejudice and not much to your service.

In mid September, he and Shrewsbury hired a small vessel and sailed secretly to Holland, carrying the heads of the Declaration William was to make on landing. He was with Arthur Herbert aboard the Dutch fleet invading England, and provided English pilots for the landing at Torbay. Afterwards, he acted as English secretary to William, and was commissioned to negotiate with Lord Bath the surrender of Plymouth. Burnet, who came to know Russell well at this time, described him as ‘a man of much honour and of very worthy principles; of a good temper, and very firm and resolute; but he is both too haughty and too lazy’.4

At the general election of 1689, Russell was returned for Launceston on Harbord’s recommendation and doubtless with Lord Bath’s consent. He was not immediately employed at sea, perhaps because he was engaged in the purchase of an estate in Cambridgeshire from the great-nephew of Gerard Russell. He was made custos rotulorum of the county, and given the lucrative office of treasurer of the navy. He may have served on nine committees in the first session of the Convention, including those to hear a petition from the seamen at Greenwich, to consider the mutiny bill and to prepare the bill of rights. He probably helped to estimate ordinary naval and military expenditure and to recommend provision for wounded seamen. He was appointed admiral of the blue on 30 May, and in September he was ordered to cruise off the French coast to prevent the junction of the Brest and Toulon fleets, though he was loath to do so because of ‘the long nights and a dark moon coming upon us, which are dreadful things at sea’. He returned to Westminster in the autumn for the debates on the miscarriages of the war. He defended his own conduct on 14 Nov.

We lay on the French coast six weeks, and I believe for the most part not three leagues from Ushant. We lay there as long as the weather would permit. ... Unless we should pull the French out of ports by the ears, I know not how to have fought.

Four days later he defended one of his officers, Capt. George Churchill, who was accused of demanding money for convoying merchant ships. ‘If these merchants will run presently and make subscriptions, indeed I do not think Capt. Churchill so much to blame.’ He supported the disabling clause in the bill to restore corporations; but early in December he hoisted his flag again, and during the debates he was at sea, carrying the Queen of Spain from Flushing to Corunna, though he was forced to put into Portsmouth on 16 Jan. by unfavourable weather.5

Russell commanded the allied fleet at La Hogue, and continued to serve at sea until 1696. Thereafter he pursued an even more important career as one of the leaders of the Junto Whigs, and was impeached after the partition treaty of 1699. He died on 26 Nov. 1727, in his 75th year, and was buried at Chenies.

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. The Ancestor, xi. 21.
  • 2. CSP Dom. July-Sept. 1683, p. 245; 1689-90, p. 29.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1689-90, p. 181; 1700-2, p. 225; S. Wells, Drainage of the Bedford Level, i. 469-71; S. Dale, Harwich and Dovercourt, 224.
  • 4. J. H. Wiffen, Hist. Mems. House of Russell, 291-3; Tangier Pprs. (Navy Rec. Soc. lxxiii), 226; Browning, Danby, i. 384-5, 389; Macaulay, Hist. 1047-8, 1126; Dalrymple, Mems. ii. bk. 5, pp. 107, 118-19; Nicholson and Turbeville, Shrewsbury, 26-27; Burnet Supp. ed. Foxcroft, 289.
  • 5. HMC Finch, ii. 226, 244, 247, 267; Grey, ix. 418, 431; Luttrell, i. 620; ii. 8, 22, 26.