Oliver Russell, 2nd Baron Ampthill


Oliver Russell, 2nd Baron Ampthill : biography

19 February 1869 – 7 July 1935

Lord Ampthill was elected a Steward of Henley Royal Regatta in 1896, a role he performed until 1900 then again from 1910 until 1927.

Henley wins

  • 1890 – Silver Goblets (rowing as New College Oxford, with Guy Nickalls)
  • 1891 – Grand Challenge Cup (rowing as Leander Club)
  • 1891 – Silver Goblets (rowing as Leander Club, with Guy Nickalls)

Later life

On returning to England in 1906, Russell took up the cause of Indians in South Africa. He chaired an advisory committee on Indian students in the United Kingdom but disagreed with the Secretary of State for India John Morley on the issue of constitutional reforms. In 1909, Russell wrote an introduction to Joseph Doke’s book M. K. Gandhi: an Indian Patriot in South Africa.

On 13 July 1909, Lord Ampthill was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of Bedfordshire. He then went on to fight in the First World War, during which he was twice mentioned in despatches, and was one of the founders of the National Party in 1917. He retired from the service in 1926 with the rank of colonel. Lord Ampthill was President of the Magic Circle. Russell co-founded the National Party in 1917.

Lord Ampthill died of pneumonia 7 July 1935, a day before Nickalls, prompting the following anonymous epigram among the various tributes in the Times:

Oarsmen they lived, and silver goblets mark The well-timed prowess of their trusty blades: In death their rhythm kept, they now embark To row their long last course among the Shades

Early life

Oliver Russell, was born 19 February 1869 in Rome, the eldest son of the 1st Baron Ampthill and Lady Emily Theresa (née Villiers) – Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Victoria and daughter of the 4th Earl of Clarendon.

Russell was educated at Chignell’s and Eton and graduated from New College, Oxford in 1898 with a third-class honours’ in modern history. His entry in Vanity Fair magazine noted of him


In 1895, Russell was appointed Assistant Secretary to Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain and elevated to Private Secretary in 1897.

That last position never became permanent, as he found himself increasingly allied with Indian nationals both in South and East Africa as well as their native country, and at odds with the British Government. During the 1914-18 war, Lord Ampthill commanded a battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment and two of the Bedfordshire Regiment in France.

Masonic connections

Ampthill was initiated into the Apollo University Lodge, No. 357, Oxford in 1890. He went on to fill the chief office in several lodges, including the Bard of Avon Lodge, No. 778, Hampton Court; The Royal Alpha Lodge, No. 16, London; and the Grand Master’s Lodge, No. 1. He was made Provincial Grand Master of Bedfordshire in 1900; was District Grand Master of Madras from 1901 to 1906 and was made Pro Grand Master of England in 1908.


After his appointment as Governor of Madras, Russell was appointed a Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire (GCIE) on 28 December 1900, shortly before his departure for India. He was later appointed a Knight Grand Commander of the Star of India (GCSI) on 2 September 1904.

Personal life

On 6 October 1894, Ampthill married Lady Margaret Lygon, the daughter of the 6th Earl Beauchamp in Madresfield, Worcestershire and they had five children:

  • John Russell, 3rd Baron Ampthill (1896–1973)
  • Adm Hon. Sir Guy Russell (1898–1977)
  • Hon. Phyllis Margaret Russell, OBE (3 June 1900 – c. 24 May 1998)
  • Wg Cdr Hon. Edward Wriothesley Curzon Russell, OBE (2 June 1901 – 1982). married Baroness Barbara Korff and had issue
  • Brig Hon. Leopold Oliver Russell, CBE, TD (26 January 1907 – 1988)

He was succeeded in the barony by his eldest son, John Russell.