RUSSELL, John (1796-1835), of Upton House, nr. Kineton, Warws.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press



1826 - 1832

Family and Education

b. 10 July 1796, 3rd s. of Lord William Russell* and Lady Charlotte Anne Villiers, da. of George Bussy Villiers†, 4th earl of Jersey; bro. of Francis Russell*. educ. Westminster 1806-8. m. 21 Aug. 1822, Sophia, da. of Col. George Kein Hayward Coussmaker of Marylebone, Mdx. (s.j. Baroness de Clifford, 1833), 1s. 2da. surv. d.v.p. 27 Apr. 1835.

Offices Held

Lt. RN 1815, cdr. 1822.


Russell, one of the four sons of the eccentric and impecunious Lord William Russell and a nephew of the 6th duke of Bedford, was commissioned a lieutenant in the navy a month after Waterloo. Little is known of his professional career, though he was supposed to have ‘served many years’ in the Mediterranean and other parts of the world.1 In 1822 he made a financially rewarding marriage to Sophia Coussmaker, the eldest niece and co-heiress of the 21st Lord de Clifford.2 By about this time he had a Warwickshire residence at Upton, where his maternal uncle, the 5th earl of Jersey, was lord of the manor.3 On 16 Feb. 1823 he was admitted to Brooks’s, sponsored by his cousin, Lord Tavistock*, and his brother-in-law, Henry Grey Bennet*. At the general election of 1826 de Clifford put him up for his Irish proprietary borough of Kinsale. There was no opposition to his return, but on the hustings one John Cranmer lectured him, as ‘quite a stranger’ who had only shown his face there the previous day, on the views of his constituents, which included hostility to any alteration of the corn laws and support for Catholic relief. In reply, Russell dealt in the contemporary cant of independence:

He would not give any pledge as to his future conduct in Parliament, thinking he would best maintain the interests of his constituents by keeping his mind free and unshackled ... he would be happy to meet them again in due time, to give an account of his conduct, and he should always prize as his best reward, their approbation.4

In the House Russell, who presented constituency petitions for agricultural protection, 22 Feb., and Catholic relief, 4 May 1827,5 took his family’s Whig line; but before the reform crisis he was a markedly poor attender. He did not vote in the divisions on Catholic relief, to which de Clifford was opposed, 6 Mar. 1827, 12 May 1828. He voted to postpone going into committee of supply until the ministerial uncertainty was resolved, 30 Mar., and for the disfranchisement of Penryn, 28 May 1827. He was at Woburn Abbey with his father in early April 1828.6 He voted with opposition on civil list pensions, 20 May, the grant for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospels in the colonies, 6 June, the archbishop of Canterbury’s bill, 16 June, the spending of public money on Buckingham House, 23 June, the salary of the lieutenant-general of the ordnance, 4 July, and the grant for Canadian fortifications, 7 July 1828. As Planta, the Wellington ministry’s patronage secretary, had anticipated, he was absent from the divisions on Catholic emancipation in 1829, when de Clifford opposed it by proxy in the Lords. His only other known vote in the 1826 Parliament was for Lord Blandford’s parliamentary reform scheme, 18 Feb. 1830. He was returned without fuss for Kinsale at the general election of 1830.7 Ministers of course listed him among their ‘foes’, but he was an absentee from the division on the civil list which brought them down, 15 Nov. 1830. On 7 Mar. 1831, in his only known Commons speech, he defended his cousin Lord John Russell* and the other framers of the ministerial reform bill against charges of unjustly and corruptly sparing Bedford’s nomination borough of Tavistock from disfranchisement. He argued that the measure, which could not have been ‘fairer’ in its treatment of the electoral interests of the aristocracy of Ireland, and than which ‘a better plan could not be devised’, was not directed against ‘just and proper influence’ such as that exercised by Bedford at Tavistock on the strength of property ownership. The following day he was given ten days’ leave of absence, but he was present to vote for the second reading of the bill, 22 Mar., and against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. On the dissolution, he offered again for Kinsale, issuing an address to the current electors (the freemen) urging them to sanction his ‘honest vote’ for reform, even though it would eventually destroy their own ‘exclusive privilege’. As de Clifford himself favoured reform, there was no difficulty over his re-election.8 He voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, and was a steady supporter of its details in committee until the second week of August, though he was in the minority against the total disfranchisement of Saltash, 26 July 1831. His attendance subsequently fell away. He voted for the passage of the bill, 21 Sept., and the motion of confidence in the Grey ministry, 10 Oct. His only known votes on the revised bill were for the second reading, 17 Dec. 1831, the second borough disfranchisement schedule, 23 Jan., and the third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He voted for the address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry the bill unimpaired, 10 May, and for the Irish, 25 May, and Scottish reform bills, 1 June. He divided with ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 12, 16, 20 July 1832. He retired from the House at the dissolution in December.

Russell was master of the Warwickshire Hunt from December 1830 until poor health forced him to stand down at the end of the 1833 season. It was later written that he

united the sound judgement and energy of the first rate sportsman with the conciliatory and polished manners of a gentleman, and ... was much beloved for his gentleness of deportment and excellent temper, which, though often tried in the field, was never ruffled.

One observer, however, carped that while he was ‘a good judge of hunting, and particularly gentlemanlike in his demeanour’, ‘his men might have been better mounted, or at all events on horses better suited to the country’.9 On 4 Mar. 1833 the barony of de Clifford, in abeyance since the death without issue of Russell’s electoral patron the previous year, and in dispute between the children of his deceased sisters, was deemed by the Lords to have devolved on Russell’s wife. Russell followed his two elder brothers to the grave in his father’s lifetime, dying, after ‘a short illness’ in April 1835, aged 38. Raikes noted the tragic irony of the death, ‘in the very prime of his existence’ and only just embarked on ‘his career of worldly prosperity’, of the only one of Lord William’s sons who was ‘in affluent circumstances’.10 Administration of his estate, which was sworn under £30,000, was granted to his widow, 8 Aug. 1835.11 On her death, worth about £100,000, in 1874, the barony of de Clifford passed to their only surviving son, Edward Southwell Russell† (1824-77).

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. C. Mordaunt and W.R. Verney, Annals of Warws. Hunt, i. 107.
  • 2. Blakiston, Lord William Russell, 67.
  • 3. VCH Warws. v. 145; Mordaunt and Verney, i. 70.
  • 4. Southern Reporter, 8, 17, 22, 24 June 1826; Cent. Kent. Stud. Stanhope mss U1590 C191/1, Stanhope to Cranmer, 4 Apr. 1827.
  • 5. The Times, 23 Feb., 5 May 1827.
  • 6. Blakiston, 159.
  • 7. Constitution, 17 July 1830.
  • 8. Southern Reporter, 30 Apr., 7 May 1831.
  • 9. Mordaunt and Verney, i. 97-107; ‘Venator’ [John Cooper], Warws. Hunt, 210- 53; Nimrod’s Hunting Reminiscences ed. A. Shaw Sparrow (1926), 141.
  • 10. Gent. Mag. (1835), i. 669; Raikes Jnl. ii. 92.
  • 11. PROB 6/211/152.