RUSSELL, Sir Francis (d.1585), of Alnwick and Berwick, Northumb.
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Family and Education
3rd s. of (Sir) Francis Russell†, 2nd Earl of Bedford, by his 1st w. Margaret, da. of Sir John St. John† of Bletsoe, Beds.; bro. of John I and William. m. 15 July 1571, Juliana, da. and coh. of Sir John Foster of Bamburgh, 1s. Kntd. 28 Aug. 1570; styled Lord Russell from 1584.
Chamberlain, Berwick-upon-Tweed from 1575; j.p. Northumb. from c.1573, q. 1580, sheriff 1577; border commr. 1581; capt. Tynemouth castle from 1583.1
Russell preferred the active, military life of the northern borders to a career at court. His father was at one time warden of the east march and governor of Berwick, and Russell was probably with him, though his name does not appear in the records of these parts until 1570, when he joined the Earl of Sussex’s punitive expedition against the Scots, in Annandale, being knighted by the earl at Carlisle. Three years later he distinguished himself at the siege of Edinburgh castle.
Between campaigns he may have stayed at Alnwick abbey, one of the houses of the warden of the middle marches, his friend Sir John Foster, whose daughter he married. Even to an earl’s son, Foster, a formidable politician with great influence along the borders, could offer valuable patronage. In 1575 Russell was an obvious choice as chamberlain of Berwick, and in the following year, no doubt with Foster’s backing, he secured the lease of part of the forfeited Neville estate in the barony of Baliol, on Tyneside.2
By the ’80s, Russell was well established in Northumberland, and in virtually permanent residence either at Berwick, Alnwick, or, after 1583, at Tynemouth castle, which he gained from Sir Henry Percy’s custody in 1583. He visited the court early in 1582 when he was chosen to escort the Duke of Anjou to Antwerp, and he was elected to two Parliaments as knight of the shire for Northumberland, his recorded activity being his membership of the committee considering the bill for ‘the better and more reverent observing of the Sabbath Day’, 10 Dec. 1584 and the subsidy committee, 24 Feb. 1585. On 15 Feb. 1585 he took part in a conference with the Lords on procedure.3
On his return north, at the session’s close, Russell occupied himself with Tynemouth castle, which he had found badly decayed. He frequently sent the Privy Council requests for ordnance and for his allowances, which had been stopped. On 27 July 1585, Russell accompanied his father-in-law to a meeting with some Scotch officials at Hexpathgate, on Windy Gail, during which he was shot. He died shortly afterwards, and was buried at Alnwick. The English government, prompted by Foster, claimed that the killing was premeditated and used it as a political lever to overthrow the Earl of Arran. Russell died only a few hours before his father, and the earldom passed to his son Edward, who was then only 13. In commending the young earl to the Queen, Foster wrote of the father:
No doubt but your Majesty lost a jewel of him, and the poor inhabitants of Northumberland had as great a loss of him as of any nobleman that ever came among them; and for his time, the like of his calling is not to be found that shall be so well thought of with poor and rich as he was.4
Ref Volumes: 1558-1603
- 1. CP; PRO Index 16774, f. 120v; Border Pprs. i. 35; Hist. Northumb. (Northumb. Co. Hist. Comm.), viii. 165-6.
- 2. DNB (Russell, Francis, 2nd Earl of Bedford); CSP Scot. iv. 568; J. H. Wiffen, House of Russell, i. 484-5; C. Sharpe, Memorials of the Rebellion, p. 26; Hist. Northumb. vi. 94, 150-1, 270.
- 3. Hist. Northumb. viii. 165-6; Camden, Eliz. (4th ed.), 273; D’Ewes, 337, 349-50, 356.
- 4. CSP Dom. Add. 1580-1625, pp. 142, 143, 145, 160-1; Border Pprs. i. 188 passim; Arch. Ael. ii. 289 seq.; D. L. W. Tough, Last Years of a Frontier, 238-40; C142/211/182.