John Russell (Bishop) - Encyclopedia

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JOHN RUSSELL (d. 1 494), English bishop and chancellor, was admitted to Winchester College in 1443, and in 1449 went to Oxford as fellow of New College. He resigned his fellowship in 1462, and appears to have entered the royal service. In April 1467 and January 1468 he was employed on missions to Charles the Bold at Bruges. He was there again in February 1470 as one of the envoys to invest Charles with the Garter: the Latin speech which Russell delivered on this last occasion was one of Caxton's earliest publications, probably printed for him at Bruges by Colard Mansion (see Blades, Life of Caxton, i. p. vii, ii. 29-31). In May 1474 he was promoted to be keeper of the privy seal, and retained his office even after his consecration as bishop of Rochester on the 22nd of September 1476, and translation to Lincoln on the 9th of September 1480. As a trusted minister of Edward IV., he was one of the executors of the king's will; but on the 13th of May 1483 he accepted the office of chancellor in the interest of Richard of Gloucester, apparently with great reluctance. He retained the great seal till the 29th of July 1485. Russell was above all things an official, and was sometimes employed by Henry VII. in public affairs. But his last years were occupied chiefly with the business of his diocese, and of the university of Oxford, of which he had been elected chancellor in 1483. He died at Nettleham on the 30th of December 1494, and was buried at Lincoln Cathedral.

Sir Thomas More calls Russell "a wise manne and a good,. and of much experience, and one of the best-learned men, undoubtedly, that England had in hys time." Two English speeches composed by Russell, for the intended parliament of Edward V., and the first parliament of Richard III., are printed in Nichols's Grants of Edward V. (Camden Soc.). Some other writings of less interest remain in manuscript.

For contemporary notices see especially More's Life of Richard III., the Continuation of the Croyland Chronicle, ap. Freeman Scriptores, and Bentley's Excerpta Historica, pp. 16-17. See also Wood's History and Antiquities of the University of Oxford, and T. Kirby, Winchester Scholars, and Annals of Winchester College. There are modern biographies in Campbell's Lives of the Chancellors, and Foss's Judges of England. (C. L. K.)

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