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The Barons Ampthill

The First Baron Ampthill

The first Baron Ampthill was Odo William Leopold Russell. As might be expected with that surname, he was a relative of the Dukes of Bedford. He was born at Casa Bianca in Florence on 20th February 1829. He was the third and youngest son of Major-General Lord George William Russell, who was a brother of Francis Charles Hastings, 9th Duke of Bedford. His mother was Elizabeth Anne, only daughter of John Theophilus Rawdon, brother of Francis, 1st Marquess of Hastings.

Odo went to Westminster School and in 1849 was an attaché in Vienna. He joined the Foreign Office in 1851 and in 1852 was attaché in Paris, followed by Constantinople in 1854, WashingtonDC in 1857, the city of his birth in 1858 and Naples in 1860. For ten years from 1860 he was in Rome serving as unofficial but de facto British Ambassador to the Vatican.

He married Emily Theresa, third daughter of George Villiers, 4th earl of Clarendon at Watford [Hertfordshire] on 5th May 1868. In 1870 he was created Assistant Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs before a thirteen year stint as Ambassador to Berlin from 1871, due to his good personal relationship with the German Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck. In 1872 he became a privy councillor.

He was created Baron Ampthill on 11th March 1881 and died of peritonitis whilst still ambassador to Berlin on 25th August 1884 at his villa at Potsdam. His body was brought home and he was buried in the Dukes of Bedford's vault at Chenies [Buckinghamshire] on 3rd September. He left over £75,000 in his will. His widow was Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Victoria from 1885 until 1901 and lived well into the 20th century.

2nd Baron Ampthill as Colonel of the Bedfordshire Hertfordshire Regiment
2nd Baron Ampthill as Colonel of the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment

The Second Baron Ampthill

Odo’s eldest son and successor as 2nd Baron Ampthill was Arthur Oliver Villiers Russell. He was born on 19th February 1869 (the day before his father’s fortieth birthday) at Palazzo Chigi in Rome and was educated at Eton College. He gained a 3rd class degree in History from New College, Oxford. He was better at rowing, taking part in the Boat Race against Cambridge University three times and being on the winning side twice. He was a member of the original International Olympic Committee from 1894 to 1898.

Vanity Fair described him thus: “He is a very tall, very agreeable, and good-looking young man, with a long, strong back, which is worth much in a boat. He is a Freemason and a Liberal Unionist, though he has not yet become famous in the House of Lords. He intends to devote himself to the management of Foreign Affairs. He can shoot. He has many friends who call him Dick”.

He married Margaret, third daughter of Frederick Lygon, 6th Earl Beauchamp at Madresfield in Worcestershire in 1894. He was Private Secretary to the Colonial Secretary, Joseph Chamberlain, in 1897 and was appointed Governor of Madras in 1900 at the age of 31, serving until 1905. He was interim Viceroy of India in 1904 during which time he refused a petition to create a separate state of Orissa from part of the Madras Presidency. Lord Ampthill championed the cause of the Indians in South Africa and wrote an introduction to a biography of the young Gandhi in 1909.

During the First World War Lord Ampthill commanded units in the field, specifically the 13th Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment and 8th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment. He was mentioned in despatches three times and retired in 1919 with the rank of Colonel. The previous year he had bought the Oakley House estate from his cousin the Duke of Bedford. He was a keen free mason and a member of the Magic Circle. He died of pneumonia on 7th July 1935.

Plaque to the 2nd Baron Ampthill on the north wall of the north aisle March 2011
Plaque to the 2nd Baron Ampthill in Oakley Church March 2011

The Third Baron Ampthill

The third Baron Ampthill was John Hugo Russell. He was born on 4th October 1896 and served in the Royal Navy in both World Wars.

In 1918 he married Christabel Hulme Hart but they divorced. Lord Ampthill then married Sibell Faithfull Lumley in 1937 and Adeline Mary Constance Hone in 1948. He had one child by his first wife, the later 4th Baron Ampthill and two children by his third wife – John Hugo Trenchard Russell and Georgina Adeline Villiers Russell.

The Fourth Baron Ampthill

The 3rd Baron Ampthill died on 3rd June 1970. At this point his son by his first marriage, Geoffrey Dennis Erskine Russell became 4th Baron Ampthill, despite a claim by his son from his third marriage. The 4th Baron was born on 15th October 1921. He served with the Irish Guards in World War Two and was general manager of London department store Fortnum and Mason from 1947 until 1951, then chairman of the New Providence Hotel until 1965. He was also a theatrical impresario, director of United Newspapers and Express Newspapers. He was Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords and was one of the ninety hereditary peers to continue to sit after the House of Lords Act 1999.

He married Susan Winn in 1946 and had three children by her. They divorced in 1971. He then married Elisabeth Mallon the following year but they also divorced in 1987. He died on 23rd April 2011.

The Fifth Baron Ampthill

The current [2011] Baron Ampthill, the 5th, is David Whitney Erskine Russell who was born on 27th May 1947. His career was in publishing. He has two daughters by his first wife April McKenzie Arbon. He then married to Christia Ipsen, the widow of a prince of Russia, Rostislav Rostislavovich.