The third son of the 5th Duke of Bedford, the sitter was a politician, opponent to the Catholic monarchy and ultimately martyr to the Whig cause. Lord Russell entered Parliament in 1660 and acted prominently with the 'Country' party in opposition to the Court. Having denounced Buckingham (in 1674) and Danby (in 1675), and taken part in the Opposition's clandestine dealings with King Louis XIV, Lord Russell withdrew from the Council in 1680. He avidly supported each of the proposals against James, Duke of York, culminating in the direct attempt to prevent his succession to the throne with the Exclusion Bill in 1681. He was arrested with Essex and Sydney for participation in the Rye House Plot to assassinate King Charles II and the Duke of York, was charged with high treason and, having been found guilty by a packed jury, was beheaded at Lincoln's Inn Fields 21 July 1683. Lord Russell prophesied his own fate at the time of the Exclusion Bill, when he declared: 'should I not have the liberty to live a Protestant, I am resolved to die one'.
This is an important addition to the established portraits of Lord Russell, which include bust-length portraits attributed to Claude Lefevre and Kneller at Woburn Abbey, a miniature attributed to Thomas Flatman in the National Portrait Gallery, London, and a silver medal by George Bower in the British Museum.