Lady Rachel Russell
BirthDaughter of Thomas Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton
ReligionChurch of England
DeathAfter two children die, first husband, Lord Vaughn, and her father die of plague
- 20 August 1669
MarriageSecond marriage, to William Russell, who gained inheritance and title in 1678
VocationSecretary and advocate for William, on trial (eventually beheaded) for treason
RecognitionPosthumous publication of her letters
Lady Rachel Russell, Defender of England against Catholic MonarchsRead more...
In the Pop Chart, sampling the unspecialized collections of women’s biographies in three periods, Lady Rachel Russell is one of the most prominent subjects in the category “role in revolution.” Whereas Madame de Staël and Madame Roland contend with male leaders and mobs during the French Revolution, Lady Rachel plays a role in the civil and religious conflicts in England. Many biographies of Lady Russell emphasize her talent as a writer, her piety, and her exemplary performance as wife. For Lydia Maria Child, Sarah Hale, Mrs. Newton Crosland, and other presenters, Lady Russell figures prominently in the cohort of patriotic wives, historic actors in national events with their husbands. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography emphasizes her achievements in sustaining Whig political power after her husband's execution and the "bloodless" revolution that put William and Mary on the throne in 1688. Russell remained a prominent figure because her letters were published in 1773, Mary Berry edited her life and letters in 1819, and again John Martin produced an edition of her letters in 1854. These collections confirm the intricacies of political intrigue that led to her husband's death, but also her effective role in politics and her enviable social and family life in spite of many occasions for grief.