Thursday, August 18, 2011

Lord John Russell, Future Prime Minister

John Russell, a younger son of John Russell, the 6th Duke of Bedford, was born on 18 August 1792. He would serve twice as Prime Minister during the reign of Queen Victoria, from 30 June 1846 to 23 February 1852 and from 29 October 1865 to 28 June 1866. He was a Whig, as was his father and his father before him. Lord John Russell received the title Earl Russell in 1861--he was the grandfather of Bertrand Russell, Nobel Prize winner and 3rd Earl Russell.

The Russell family estates, which John would not inherit as younger son, include Woburn Abbey, which is on the site of a Cistercian Abbey built in 1145. The last abbot of Woburn Abbey was Robert Hobbes, founded guilty of treason and executed. More about Robert Hobbes here.

The abbey was suppressed in 1538. There had been an Eleanor Cross at Woburn Abbey, built at the command of King Edward I to mark the procession of her body from Lincoln to London after she died in November, 1290--it was destroyed probably as the abbey was. Edward VI granted Woburn Abbey to Sir John Russell in 1547, but it did not become a family home until 1619.

During his first term of office, Lord John Russell had to deal with the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy in 1850 by Pope Pius IX. When Nicholas Wiseman's celebratory letter was distributed, Russell termed the action "Papal Aggression". More about that crisis here.

In the House of Commons before he became Prime Minister, Lord Russell was instrumental in the passage of the great Reform Act of 1832, extending the franchise. He had also been in favor of Catholic Relief in 1829.

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