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John Russell, 1st Earl Russell

11 of 249 portraits of John Russell, 1st Earl Russell

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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John Russell, 1st Earl Russell

by Lowes Cato Dickinson
oil on canvas, 1855-1867
31 1/2 in. x 24 3/8 in. (800 mm x 620 mm)
Purchased, 1978
Primary Collection
NPG 5222

Sitterback to top

  • John Russell, 1st Earl Russell (1792-1878), Prime Minister and writer; ex-officio Trustee of the National Portrait Gallery. Sitter associated with 249 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Lowes Cato Dickinson (1819-1908), Portrait painter. Artist or producer associated with 39 portraits.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Foister, Susan, Cardinal Newman 1801-90, 1990 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 2 March - 20 May 1990), p. 56 Read entry

    Russell was a Liberal Prime Minister for the second time during 1850, the year of 'Papal Aggression'. When he first became Prime Minister in 1846 the Irish problem was pressing, and Russell was anxious to establish better relations with the Papacy. It was first necessary to legislate to recognize the Pope's existence, as ancient acts of Parliament prevented the government from contact with the Pope. In 1847 Lord Minto was appointed ambassador to Rome, a necessity in view of Palmerston's foreign policy and the revolutionary church movment in Europe, and in 1848 a bill was passed legalizing the appointment. An amendment stated that the Pope's minister in London must not be an ecclesiastic.

    In 1850 the Catholic hierarchy of bishoprics was restored and in February 1851, a bill was passed making the assumption of ecclesiastical titles by Roman Catholic priests illegal, but it was too late.

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 539

Events of 1855back to top

Current affairs

Palmerston becomes Prime Minister, leading a coalition government after Lord Aberdeen loses a vote of confidence over his handling of the Crimean war. Known by the nickname 'Lord Pumicestone' for his abrasive style, Palmerston is the oldest prime minister in history to take up the post for the first time at the age of 71.
Stamp duty on newspapers is abolished, creating the mass media market in the UK as newspapers became more widely and cheaply available.

Art and science

Following a trip through the Holy Land to the Dead Sea, William Holman Hunt begins his symbolically-laden painting The Scapegoat.
John Millais marries Effie Gray, previously John Ruskin's wife, after their marriage was annulled that year.
The social theorist and sociologist Herbert Spencer and philosopher G. H. Lewes, publishes Principles of Pyschology, exploring a physiological basis to psychology.


The Fall of Sebastopol in the Crimean war, as Russia retreats, and the exhaustion of the Turkish alliance means the war nears its end. Despite being rebuffed by Florence Nightingale's team of nurses, Jamaican-born nurse Mary Seacole travels to the Crimea, opening a 'British Hotel' for sick and injured soldiers. She gains significant attention and praise for her nursing work.

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