3rd Duke of Bedford (1711-1732)
Born 1708 Died 1732
Born on the 25th May 1708, Wriothesley Russell was the eldest surviving son of another Wriothesley Russell and Elizabeth Howland, being baptised at Streatham on the 15th June 1708. His father the 2nd Duke of Bedford died from smallpox on the 26th May 1711 at the age of only thirty, at which point the three year old Wriothesley succeeded to the dukedom as well as to the considerable wealth of the Russell family.
According to Bernard Burke Wriothesley was "so intellectually weak and easily imposed upon that he was the dupe of all the disreputable men about town and the laughing stoke of society". Indeed Wriothesley's only claim to fame appears to have been his ability to lose money gambling, and it is recorded that he once lost the sum of almost £250,000 in one evening to the professional gambler Jansen. (Thus inspired Alexander Pope's line "Or when a duke to Jansen punts at White's".) Left to his own devices the Duke might well have lost the entire Russell fortune had not his wife's grandmother Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough intervened and packed him off to Spain, far away from the temptations of the gaming tables of London.
Wriothesley's wife in this case was the Lady Anne Egerton, daughter of Scroop Egerton, 1st Duke of Bridgewater and his first wife Elizabeth Churchill, daughter of the aforementioned Duchess of Marlborough, whom he had married on the 22nd April 1725. As it happens by this time the Duke of Bridgewater was on his second marriage and since the 4th August 1722 had been married to Rachael Russell, who happened to be Wriothesley's older sister. His sister was thus step-mother to his new bride, although it seems most probable that Anne was in fact some three or four years older than her step-mother.
Wriothesley's marriage does not appear to have been a great success. Mary Wortley Montagu was to record that he was "so much disappointed by his fair bride ... that he already pukes at the very name of her, and determines to let his estate go to his brother rather than go through the filthy drudgery of getting an heir to it". The Lady Mary blamed this on his having "living until sixteen without a competent knowledge either of practical or speculative anatomy" and thus formed the erroneous view that women were "composed of lilies and roses".
As it happens Wriothesley got his wish, as he died without issue on the 23rd October 1732 at Corunna, aged only twenty-four, and his titles and estates did indeed pass to his younger brother
John. His remains were returned to England and he was buried in the family vault at Chenies on the 14th December 1732.
His widow Anne subsequently remarried, taking for her second husband William Villiers, 3rd Earl of Jersey, and seems to have had a much happier time.
- Brian Masters The Dukes: The Origins, Ennoblement and History of 26 Families (Blond and Briggs, 1975)
- E.S. Turner Amazing Grace: The Great Days of Dukes (Sutton Publishing, 2003)
- A genealogical survey of the peerage of Britain at www.thepeerage.com