He was the son of James Russell and his wife Alice Wyse, and was born about 1485 at Kingston Russell, Dorset.
In 1506 he was of service to Philip of Austria and Juana his wife (King and Queen of Castile) when they were shipwrecked off Weymouth, and was introduced to the Court by them. He became Gentleman of the Privy Chamber to Henry VII in 1507 and Henry VIII in 1509. He was at the taking of Therouenne and Tournay, the taking of Morlaix in Brittany, and the battle of Pavia.
In the spring of 1526, he married Anne Sapcote, widow of John Broughton and of Sir Richard Jerningham, and daughter of Sir Guy Sapcote and his wife Margaret Wolston.
He was made Sheriff of Dorset and Somerset in 1528 and a Member of Parliament for Buckinghamshire 1529-1536. On 9 March 1538/9 he was created Baron Russell. In July 1539 he was made High Steward of Cornwall, and Warden of the Stannaries. He became Lord High Admiral in 1540-42, and Lord Privy Seal Oct 1542-1555. He was High Steward of the University of Oxford from 1543 till his death. He was Captain General of the Vanguard of the army for the attack on Boulogne in 1545 and one of the executors of the will of Henry VIII and one of sixteen counsellors during the minority of Edward VI. On the dissolution of the greater monasteries he obtained for himself the Cistercian Abbey at Dunkeswell, Devon, the Abbey of Tavistock, Devon, the town of Tavistock and other rich holdings. On 4 May 1552 he obtained seven acres called "Long Acre", the garden of a suppressed convent, which is now the site of "Covent Garden". He was Lord High Steward for Edward's coronation 20 February 1547. He was created Earl of Bedford on 19 January 1549/50 for his assistance in carrying out the order of the Council against "images" and for promoting the new religion. On 16 June 1553 he was one of the twenty-six Peers who signed the settlement of the crown on Lady Jane Grey. He was sent to attend Philip II into England on his coming from Spain to wed the Queen.
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