Sunday, March 14, 2010

John Russell, Earl of Bedford

John Russell is a man who rose from a relatively prominent non-noble family to become an integral member of King Henry VII's privy chamber.  Russell later served in this role for Henry's son, Henry VIII.  Russell's accession developed from a special circumstance that allowed his talent for speaking foreign languages to reach the appreciation of Henry VII.

The circumstance that allowed Russell to shine occurred in 1506, when three vessels under the command of Austrian Archduke Philip appeared off the shore of Dorset, England.  Philip and his new bride, Juana, the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, King and Queen of Castile and Aragon had been sailing to Spain when a storm overtook them.    They took shelter in Weymouth harbor.  Sir Thomas Trenchard was the Governor of the region, and when he met the travelers, he sent for John Russell to translate and accommodate the foreigners.  Russell had grown up abroad, and had great facility with language.

The grateful Archduke, when he later met with Henry VII, asked that Russell accompany him.  Henry took an immediate liking to Russell, and thus began Russell's rise in society.  Henry VII knighted him.  Edward VI made him Earl of Bedford.  He continued serving the crown under Queen Mary.  John Russell died on March 14, 1556.

Russell had a son, Francis, Second Earl of Beford, that appears in Walter Scott's collection "Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border".  On June 7, 1575, a Scotch-English Border skirmish known as the Raid of Reidswire occurred.  Scott provides a history, and presents a poem of the affair.  The poem includes Francis Russell, who was present at the skirmish.

"Sir Francis Russell ta'en was there,
And hurt, as we hear men rehearse;
Proud Wallinton was wounded sair,
Albeit he be a Fennick fierce..."

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