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Francis Russell, 4th Earl of Bedford

Francis Russell, The 4th Earl of Bedford
Born 1593
Died 9 May 1641
Spouse(s) Catherine Brydges
Parent(s) Baron Russell of Thornhaugh and Elizabeth Long

Francis Russell, 4th Earl of Bedford PC (1593 – 9 May 1641) was an English politician. About 1631 he built the square of Covent Garden, with the piazza and church of St. Paul's, employing Inigo Jones as his architect.[1] He is also known for his pioneering project to drain The Fens of Cambridgeshire.


  • Early life 1
  • Politician of the parliamentary crisis 2
  • Estate development 3
  • Children 4
  • References 5

Early life

He was the only son of William Russell, 1st Baron Russell of Thornhaugh and his wife Elizabeth Long, to which barony he succeeded in August 1613. For a short time previously he had been Member of Parliament for the borough of Lyme Regis. In 1623 he was made Lord Lieutenant of Devon and in May 1627 became Earl of Bedford on the death of his cousin Edward Russell, 3rd Earl of Bedford.

In 1621 Russell was one of the thirty-three peers who petitioned James I on the prejudice caused to the English peerage by the lavish grant of Irish and Scottish titles of nobility. In 1628, during the debates on the Petition of Right, he supported the demands of the House of Commons, and was a member of the committee which reported against the king's right to imprison. In May he was sent down to Devon, ostensibly to assist in refitting the fleet returned from Rochelle, but according to report, on account of his opposition in the House of Lords. Bedford was one of the three peers implicated in the circulation of Sir Robert Dudley's Proposition for His Majesty s Service (the others being William Seymour, Earl of Hertford and John Holles, 1st Earl of Clare),[2] was arrested on 5 November 1629, and was brought before the Star-chamber. The prosecution, however, was dropped when the real nature of the paper was discovered, and Bedford was quickly released.[3]

Politician of the parliamentary crisis

The Thomas, Viscount Savile, in order to encourage the Scots to invade England. In the following September he was among those peers who urged Charles to call a parliament, to make peace with the Scots, and to dismiss his obnoxious ministers; and was one of the English commissioners appointed to conclude the Treaty of Ripon.

When the Long Parliament met in November 1640, Bedford was generally regarded as the leader of the parliamentarians. In February 1641 he was made a privy councillor, and during the course of some negotiations was promised the office of Lord High Treasurer. He was essentially a moderate man, and seemed anxious to settle the question of the royal revenue in a satisfactory manner. He did not wish to alter the government of the church, was on good terms with Archbishop Laud, and, although convinced of the guilt of Strafford, was anxious to save his life. In the midst of the parliamentary struggle Bedford died of smallpox on 9 May 1641.

Clarendon described him as "a wise man, and of too great and plentiful a fortune to wish the subversion of the government," and again referring to his death, said that "many who knew him well thought his death not unseasonable as well to his fame as his fortune, and that it rescued him as well from some possible guilt as from those visible misfortunes which men of all conditions have since undergone."

Estate development

In about 1631 with architect Inigo Jones he built the square of Covent Garden, with the piazza and church of St. Paul's. He was threatened with a Star-chamber suit for contravening the proclamation against new buildings, but the matter seems to have been resolved by compromise.[3]

Bedford was the head of those who undertook to drain the great level of The Fens of Cambridgeshire, which were renamed the "Bedford Level" in his honour. He and the other undertakers were to receive ninety-five thousand acres of land, of which twelve thousand were to be set apart for the king, and the profits of forty thousand were to serve as a security for keeping up the drainage works. He spent a large sum of money over this work, and received 43,000 acres (174 km²) of land; but the project involved him in great difficulties. By 1637 he had spent £100,000 on the undertaking but after various jealousies and difficulties the king took the work into his own hands in 1638, making a further grant of land to the Earl. The work was not declared finished till March 1653, twelve years after Bedford's death.[3]

The 4th Earl is buried in the 'Bedford Chapel' at St. Michael’s Church, Chenies.


Bedford married Catherine Brydges (d. 1657), daughter of Giles Brydges, 3rd Baron Chandos. They had eight children:


  1. ^ "Survey of London: volume 36 - Covent Garden". British History Online. Retrieved 2010-07-27. 
  2. ^ Dictionary of National Biography, article on Cotton, Robert Bruce.
  3. ^ a b c Russell, Francis (1593-1641) (DNB00)

Political offices
Preceded by
The 3rd Earl of Bedford
Custos Rotulorum of Devon
With: Lord Russell 1637–1641
Succeeded by
The 5th Earl of Bedford
Preceded by
The Earl of Bath
Lord Lieutenant of Devon
With: Lord Russell 1637–1641
Peerage of England
Preceded by
Edward Russell
Earl of Bedford
Succeeded by
William Russell
Preceded by
William Russell
Baron Russell of Thornhaugh


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