John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford

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The Duke of Bedford

The Duke of Bedford
The Duke of Bedford by Thomas Gainsborough
Lord President of the Council
In office
9 September 1763 – 12 July 1765
MonarchGeorge III
Prime MinisterGeorge Grenville
Preceded byThe Earl Granville
Succeeded byThe Earl of Winchilsea
British Ambassador to France
In office
4 April 1762 – 1 June 1763
Preceded byVacant
The Earl of Albemarle recalled due to the Seven Years' War
Succeeded byThe Earl of Hertford
Lord Privy Seal
In office
25 November 1761 – 22 April 1763
MonarchGeorge III
Prime MinisterThe Duke of Newcastle
The Earl of Bute
George Grenville
Preceded byIn Commission
The Earl Temple, 5 October 1761
Succeeded byThe Duke of Marlborough
Lord Lieutenant of Ireland
In office
3 January 1757 – 3 April 1761
MonarchGeorge II
George III
Preceded byThe Duke of Devonshire
Succeeded byThe Earl of Halifax
Secretary of State for the Southern Department
In office
12 February 1748 – 13 June 1751
MonarchGeorge II
Prime MinisterHenry Pelham
Preceded byThe Duke of Newcastle
Succeeded byThe Earl of Holderness
First Lord of the Admiralty
In office
27 December 1744 – 26 February 1748
MonarchGeorge II
Prime MinisterHenry Pelham
Preceded byThe Earl of Winchilsea
Succeeded byThe Earl of Sandwich
Personal details
John Russell

30 September 1710
Streatham, Surrey, England
Died5 January 1771(1771-01-05) (aged 60)
Woburn, Bedfordshire, England
Resting placeChenies, Buckinghamshire
(m. 1731; died 1735)
(m. 1737)
ChildrenJohn Russell, Marquess of Tavistock
Francis Russell, Marquess of Tavistock
Caroline Spencer, Duchess of Marlborough
ParentsWriothesley Russell, 2nd Duke of Bedford
Elizabeth Howland
Coat of arms of John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford, KG, PC, FRS

John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford, KG, PC, FRS (30 September 1710 – 5 January 1771) was an 18th-century British statesman.[1][2][3] Bedford was leading Whig political figure around the time of the Seven Years' War, and negotiated the Treaty of Paris which ended the conflict in 1763. He was also an early promoter of cricket and a patron of the arts who commissioned many works from artists, most notably Canaletto.

Early life[edit]

He was the fourth son of Wriothesley Russell, 2nd Duke of Bedford, by his wife, Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of John Howland of Streatham, Surrey. Known as Lord John Russell, he married in October 1731 Diana Spencer, daughter of Charles Spencer, 3rd Earl of Sunderland; became Duke of Bedford on his brother's death a year later; and having lost his first wife in 1735, married in April 1737 Lady Gertrude Leveson-Gower (died 1794), daughter of John Leveson-Gower, 1st Earl Gower.

Early political career[edit]

In the House of Lords he joined the Patriot Whig opposition hostile to the Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole, took a fairly prominent part in public business, and earned the dislike of George II. When Carteret, now Earl Granville, resigned office in November 1744, Bedford became First Lord of the Admiralty in the administration of Henry Pelham, and was made a privy councillor. He was very successful at the admiralty, but was not equally fortunate after he became Secretary of State for the Southern Department in February 1748. Pelham accused him of idleness and he was constantly at variance with his colleague The Duke of Newcastle.

Newcastle, who had previously admired The Earl of Sandwich, Bedford's successor as First Lord of the Admiralty, for his forthright and hardline views, had increasingly begun to distrust him and his relationship with Bedford. Newcastle engineered the dismissal of both of them, by sacking Sandwich in June 1751. Bedford resigned in protest, as Newcastle had calculated, allowing him to replace them with men he considered more loyal personally to him. During his time in the post he was accused of spending far too much time at his country estate playing cricket and shooting pheasants.


Bedford was very keen on cricket. The earliest surviving record of his involvement in the sport comes from 1741 when he hosted Bedfordshire v Northamptonshire & Huntingdonshire at Woburn Park. The combined Northamptonshire & Huntingdonshire team won. Bedford arranged the match with his friends George Montagu-Dunk, 2nd Earl of Halifax (Northants) and John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich (Hunts).[4] A few days later, there was a return match at Cow Meadow, Northampton, and the combined team won again.[5][6]

By 1743, Bedford had developed Woburn Cricket Club into a leading team that was able to compete against London. The team was prominent in 1743 and 1744 but, after that, there is no further mention of it in the surviving sources.[7]

Seven Years' War[edit]

Lord Lieutenant of Ireland[edit]

Instigated by his friends, he was active in opposition to the government, becoming the leader of a faction named after him, the Bedford Whigs. After Newcastle's resignation in November 1756, Bedford became Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in the new government led by William Pitt and the Duke of Devonshire. He retained this office after Newcastle, in alliance with Pitt, returned to power in June 1757. In Ireland he favoured a relaxation of the penal laws against Roman Catholics, but did not keep his promises to observe neutrality between the rival parties, and to abstain from securing pensions for his friends. His own courtly manners and generosity, and his wife's good qualities, however, seem to have gained for him some popularity, although Horace Walpole says he disgusted everybody (the word "disgusting" then had a much wider range of meanings than it has today, and at its mildest meant simply "reserved").

He oversaw the Irish response to the threatened French invasion in 1759, and the landing of a small French force in northern Ireland. In March 1761 he resigned this office.

Peace negotiator[edit]

Having allied himself with the Earl of Bute and the party anxious to bring the Seven Years' War to a close, Bedford was noticed as the strongest opponent of Pitt, and became Lord Privy Seal under Bute after Pitt resigned in October 1761. The cabinet of Bute was divided over the policy to be pursued with regard to the war, but the peace faction prevailed, and in September 1762 Bedford went to France to open formal negations for peace.

He was considerably annoyed because some of the peace negotiations were conducted through other channels, but he signed the Peace of Paris in February 1763. Amongst other gains Britain received Canada from France and Florida from Spain. Resigning his office as Lord Privy Seal soon afterwards, various causes of estrangement arose between Bute and Bedford, and the subsequent relations of the two men were somewhat virulent.

Grenville ministry[edit]

Bedford was a patron of Canaletto and commissioned a number of works from him including this view of Venice.

The duke refused to take office under George Grenville on Bute's resignation in April 1763, and sought to induce Pitt to return to power. A report, however, that Pitt would only take office on condition that Bedford was excluded, incensed him and, smarting under this rebuff, he joined the cabinet of Grenville as Lord President of the Council in September 1763. His haughty manner, his somewhat insulting language, and his attitude with regard to the regency bill in 1765 offended George III, who sought in vain to supplant him, and after this failure was obliged to make humiliating concessions to the ministry. In July 1765, however, he was able to dispense with the services of Bedford and his colleagues, and the duke became the leader of a political party, distinguished for rapacity, and known as the Bedford party, or the Bloomsbury gang.

During his term of office he had opposed a bill to place high import duties on Italian silks. He was consequently assaulted and his London residence attacked by a mob. He took some part in subsequent political intrigues, and although he did not return to office, his friends, with his consent, joined the ministry of the Duke of Grafton in December 1767. This proceeding led "Junius" to write his "Letter to the Duke of Bedford," one of especial violence. Bedford was hostile to John Wilkes, and narrowly escaped from a mob favourable to the agitator at Honiton in July 1769.


Bedford by Joshua Reynolds during the Seven Years' War.

Child of John Russell and his first wife Lady Diana Spencer:

  • John Russell, Marquess of Tavistock (died at birth 6 November 1732)

Children of John Russell and his second wife Hon. Gertrude Leveson-Gower:


His health had been declining for some years, and in 1770 he became partially paralysed. He died at Woburn on 5 January 1771, and was buried in the 'Bedford Chapel' at St. Michael's Church, Chenies, Buckinghamshire. His sons all predeceased him, and he was succeeded in the title by his grandson, Francis. Francis suffered heavy financial losses, and began the development of Bloomsbury on the old Bedford Estate.

The duke held many public offices: lord-lieutenant of Bedfordshire and Devon, Colonel of the East Devon Militia, and chancellor of Dublin University among others, and was a Knight of the Garter. Bedford was a proud and conceited man, but possessed both ability and common-sense. The important part which he took in public life, however, was due rather to his wealth and position than to his personal taste or ambition. He was neither above nor below the standard of political morality of the time, and was influenced by his duchess, who was very ambitious, and by followers who were singularly unscrupulous.

He served as the twelfth Chancellor of Trinity College, Dublin from 1765 to 1770.


  1. ^ "Russell, John (1710–1771)" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  2. ^ G.E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors, The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, new ed., 13 volumes in 14 (1910–1959; reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume II, page 82-84, volume VIII, page 500.
  3. ^ Charles Mosley, editor, Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 106th edition, 2 volumes (Crans, Switzerland: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 1999), volume 2, page 1871.
  4. ^ Maun, pp. 106–107.
  5. ^ Maun, p. 106.
  6. ^ Waghorn, Cricket Scores, p. 27.
  7. ^ Leach, John (2008). "Classification of cricket matches from 1697 to 1825". Stumpsite. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011.


  • Brown, Peter Douglas. William Pitt, Earl of Chatham: The Great Commoner. George Allen & Unwin, 1978.
  • Maun, Ian (2009). From Commons to Lord's, Volume One: 1700 to 1750. Roger Heavens. ISBN 978-1-900592-52-9.
  • Waghorn, H. T. (1899). Cricket Scores, Notes, etc. (1730–1773). Blackwood.

External links[edit]

Media related to John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford at Wikimedia Commons

Honorary titles
Preceded by
New Creation
President of the Foundling Hospital
Succeeded by
Lord North
Title last held by
The Duke of Kent
Lord Lieutenant of Bedfordshire
Succeeded by
The Earl of Upper Ossory
Preceded by
The Earl of Orford
Lord Lieutenant of Devon
Succeeded by
The Earl Poulett
Title last held by
Theophilus Fortescue
Vice-Admiral of Devon
Title next held by
The Earl Fortescue
Political offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Winchilsea and Nottingham
First Lord of the Admiralty
Succeeded by
The Earl of Sandwich
Preceded by
The Duke of Newcastle
Secretary of State for the Southern Department
Succeeded by
The Earl of Holdernesse
Preceded by
The Duke of Devonshire
Lord Lieutenant of Ireland
Succeeded by
The Earl of Halifax
Preceded by
The Earl Temple
Lord Privy Seal
Succeeded by
The Duke of Marlborough
Preceded by
The Earl Granville
Lord President of the Council
Succeeded by
The Earl of Winchilsea and Nottingham
Diplomatic posts
None due to Seven Years' War
Title last held by
The Earl of Albemarle
British Ambassador to France
Succeeded by
The Earl of Hertford
Academic offices
Preceded by
The Duke of Cumberland
Chancellor of the University of Dublin
Succeeded by
The Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh
Peerage of England
Preceded by
Wriothesley Russell
Duke of Bedford
Succeeded by
Francis Russell