Earlier Barons Earls and Dukes Of Bedford
John Russell was created Earl of Bedford by King Edward VI (1547-1553) in 1550. However, he was not the first man to hold the title. The very first Earl of Bedford was Hugh de Beaumont. He was created Earl of Bedford in 1138 by King Stephen (1135-1154). A previous Hugh de Beauchamp had been created Baron of Bedford, probably by William II (1087-1100). He had been succeeded by his son Simon by 1114; he died about 1137 leaving a daughter as his heir. Simon de Beauchamp, probably son of Simon’s younger brother Robert seems to have taken possession of Bedford Castle. He was ejected in favour of Hugh de Beaumont who had married Simon’s daughter. Hugh de Beaumont was nicknamed the pauper and seems to have been degraded from his earldom on account of his poverty a few years after receiving it.
The next Earl of Bedford was Sir Enguerrand de Coucy, son of Enguarrand de Coucy and Katherine Hapsburg, daughter and heir of Leopold, Duke of Austria. He was created earl by Edward III (1327-1377) on 11th May 1366 having married Edward’s eldest daughter Isabel. When Richard II (1377-1399) became king Enguerrand resigned all his English honours and returned to France as Sire to Coucy, la Fère and Oisy. His wife remained in England as Countess of Bedford until her death in 1379. Enguerrand was captured by the Turks at the Battle of Nicopolis in 1396 and died of plague early the next year.
On 16th May 1414 John of Lancaster, younger brother of Henry V (1413-1422) was created Duke of Bedford. He governed English lands in France for Henry VI (1422-1461 and 1471) until his death. He was a very capable soldier defeating the French fleet off Harfleur in 1415, fighting with his brother the king at Agincourt and defeating the French army at Verneuil in 1424. He married Anne, daughter of the Duke of Burgundy in 1423 but she died in childbirth. His second wife was Jacquette, daughter of Pierre de Luxembourg, Count of Saint-Pol. John died at Rouen on 15th September 1535, aged just 46. His widow married Sir Richard Woodville, Earl Rivers and died in 1472, three years after her husband was executed for treason. Her daughter became queen to Edward IV (1461-1471 and 1471-1483). John left no legitimate heirs and the dukedom became extinct.
On 5th January 1470 George Nevill, eldest son of John, Earl of Northumberland, was created Duke of Bedford by Edward IV who intended that he should marry his daughter Elizabeth. Unfortunately his father revolted against Edward and was killed fighting against him at the Battle of Barnet in 1471. This ended all hopes of a royal marriage and he was degraded from his title in 1477 as having no means of sustaining it. Elizabeth later married Henry VII (1485-1509). Nevill died on 4th May 1483 when only about 26.
Jasper Tudor was half brother of Henry VI, his mother having been Queen Dowager Katherine, widow of Henry V, who had married Sir Owain Tudor. He was also uncle of Henry Tudor who usurped the throne in 1485, defeating and killing Richard III (1483-1485) at Bosworth Field. The new king made his uncle Duke of Bedford on 27th October 1485 (he had been made Earl of Pembroke by Henry VI in 1453). He served as Lord Deputy or Ireland from 1486 to 1494. He married Katherine, widow of the Duke of Buckingham in 1485. She was daughter of Earl Rivers and John of Lancaster, Duke of Bedford’s widow Jacquette. Tudor died on 21st December 1495 at the age of about 65 and was buried at Keynsham Abbey. Having no heirs the title became extinct. His widow married Sir Richard Wingfield of Kimbolton [Huntingdonshire] and died in Toldeo, Spain, in 1525. It is noticeable that the title seems to have been used as a royal title in the 15th century.