Charles Russell, Baron Russell of Killowen

For his grandson (1908–1986), see Charles Ritchie Russell, Baron Russell of Killowen.
The Right Honourable
The Lord Russell of Killowen

The Lord Russell of Killowen

Portrait of Sir Charles Russell by John Singer Sargent, 1900
3rd Lord Chief Justice of England
In office
11 July 1894  10 August 1900
Monarch Victoria
Preceded by The Lord Coleridge
Succeeded by The Viscount Alverstone
Attorney General for England
In office
20 August 1892  3 May 1894
Monarch Victoria
Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone
The Earl of Rosebury
Preceded by Sir Richard Webster
Succeeded by Sir John Rigby
In office
9 February 1886  20 July 1886
Monarch Victoria
Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone
Preceded by Sir Richard Webster
Succeeded by Sir Richard Webster
Member of Parliament
for Dundalk
In office
2 April 1880  1885
Preceded by Philip Callan
Succeeded by constituency abolished
Member of Parliament
for Hackney South
In office
1885  10 July 1894
Preceded by new constituency
Succeeded by John Fletcher Moulton
Personal details
Born Charles Arthur Russell
10 November 1832
Newry, County Down
Died 10 August 1900(1900-08-10) (aged 67)
Westminster, London
Nationality Irish
Political party Liberal
Spouse(s) Ellen Mulholland (1858–1900)
Children Frank Russell
4 other sons
4 daughters
Alma mater St. Malachy's College Castleknock College
Occupation Solicitor, Barrister, Judge
Religion Roman Catholic

Charles Arthur Russell, Baron Russell of Killowen, GCMG, PC, QC, DL (10 November 1832 – 10 August 1900), was an Irish statesman of the 19th century, and Lord Chief Justice of England.

Early life

Russell was the elder son of Arthur Russell of Killowen, County Down, and Margaret Mullin of Belfast, born at 50 Queen Street (now Dominic Street) in Newry, County Down. The family was in moderate circumstances, their ancestors having suffered much for the Roman Catholic faith in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Arthur Russell having died in 1845, the care of his large family devolved upon their talented mother and their paternal uncle, the celebrated Dr. Russell of Maynooth. Charles was one of five children, his three sisters all becoming nuns and his brother was ordained as a Jesuit priest. He studied at the diocesan seminary, St Malachy's College, Belfast, at a private school in Newry, and Castleknock College, in Castleknock, Dublin. He then entered the law offices of Messrs Denvir, Newry, in 1849, and of O'Rourke, McDonald & Tweed, Belfast, in 1852. Admitted a solicitor in 1854, he practised in the county courts of Down and Antrim, and became at once the champion of the Catholics who had resisted organised attempts at proselytising by Protestants in these counties.


His success was so striking that his legal friends urged him to become a barrister in London, and in 1856 he entered Lincoln's Inn. Having followed an extensive course by close private study under the direction of Maine, Broom, and Birkbeck, he was called to the Bar in 1859. His success on the northern circuit soon recalled him to London, where he took silk in 1872,[1] and divided the mercantile business of the circuit with Lord Herschell. The increasing demand for his services may be judged by his fees which averaged £3000 a year from 1862–1872, £10,000 in the next decade, £16,000 in the third, and in 1893–1894, his last year of practice (while Attorney-General), reached £32,826. His knowledge of law, business, and human character, a flexible and often passionate eloquence which derived its force from intense earnestness rather than oratorical device, marvellous dexterity in extracting the truth from witnesses, and a manifest honesty of purpose gave him a power over judge and jury which made him universally regarded as the first advocate of his age. He was a strong supporter of the cause of Mrs Florence Maybrick, whom he believed to have been wrongly convicted.[2]

Home Rule advocate

In his first years in London he had been weekly correspondent of the Dublin paper "The Nation", an advanced Nationalist organ, and entered Parliament as a Liberal being elected, after two defeats, member for Dundalk in 1880. He generally acted with the Nationalists on Irish, and always on Catholic, questions, and, when he visited the United States of America in 1883, bore a flattering introduction from Charles Stewart Parnell. Elected member of parliament for Hackney South (1885–1894), he was knighted and appointed Attorney General by Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone in 1886,[3] and again became Attorney General in 1892[4] on the return of the Liberals to power. He was a strenuous advocate of Irish Home Rule in Parliament and on public platforms, and was leading advocate for Parnell at the Parnell Commission hearings in 1888–89.[5] His cross-examination of the witnesses of the "Times", and especially his exposure of Richard Pigott, the author of the forgeries, made a favourable verdict inevitable. His famous eight-day speech for the defence was his greatest forensic effort.

International arbitrations

Lord Russell, Lord Chief Justice

In 1893 he represented Britain in the Bering Sea Arbitration, his speech against the United States' contentions lasting eleven days, and was appointed to the Order of St Michael and St George as a Knight Grand Cross (GCMG) "in recognition of services rendered in connection with the recent Behring Sea Arbitration" that year.[6] Having been sworn of the Privy Council in April 1894,[7][8] he was made a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary in May[9][10] and was raised to the peerage for life as Baron Russell of Killowen, of Killowen in the County of Down,[9][10] from his native village of Killowen. In July that year, he was appointed to be the Lord Chief Justice of England,[11][12] the first Catholic to attain that office for centuries. He won speedily the public confidence and is ranked with the most illustrious of his predecessors. Lord Russell of Killowen revisited the United States in 1896 as the guest of the American Bar Association and delivered a notable address on arbitration. In 1899 he represented Britain during the Venezuelan boundary dispute arbitration hearings which followed from the Venezuela Crisis of 1895, and displayed all his old power of separating vital points from obscuring details. The following year he was attacked while on circuit by an internal malady, and, after a few weeks' illness, died in London, after receiving the sacraments of the Catholic Church, of which he had been always a faithful and devoted member.


He married in 1858 was Ellen Mulholland, daughter of Dr. Mulholland, of Belfast, who succeeded him. They had five sons and four daughters, including:[13]


The unanimous tribute paid him by the English and American Bar and by the people and journals of the most diverse political and religious views attested that, despite his masterful character as lawyer, judge, and parliamentarian, and his stalwart loyalty to his faith and country, he had attained a rare and widespread popularity. In him were blended many qualities not usually found together. With a keen and orderly mind, a resolute will, great capacity for work, and severe official dignity, he combined sensibility of temperament, a spirit of helpfulness and comradeship, and a dreamer's devotion to ideals. He was always ready to write and speak for educational, religious, and benevolent purposes, though such action was not calculated to forward his political ambitions. Devoted to his family, he crossed the continent on his first American trip to visit Mother Mary Baptist Russell of San Francisco (who, with two others of his sisters, had entered the Order of Mercy), and found time to write for his children and send them day by day an admirable account of his experiences.

Styles of address


He was caricatured twice by "Spy".


  1. The London Gazette: no. 23825. p. 466. 6 February 1872.
  2. Irving, Henry B. "Mrs. Maybrick", in James H. Hodge (ed.), Famous Trials III (Penguin, 1950) pp.131–133
  3. The London Gazette: no. 25558. p. 683. 12 February 1886.
  4. The London Gazette: no. 26319. p. 4818. 23 August 1892.
  5. Russell C. "The Parnell Commission: The Opening Speech for the Defence Delivered" (Macmillan and Co., London, 1889)
  6. The London Gazette: no. 26465. p. 7183. 8 December 1893.
  7. The London Gazette: no. 26509. p. 2576. 4 May 1894.
  8. The Edinburgh Gazette: no. 10568. p. 534. 8 May 1894.
  9. 1 2 The London Gazette: no. 26511. p. 2783. 11 May 1894.
  10. 1 2 The Edinburgh Gazette: no. 10570. p. 566. 15 May 1894.
  11. The London Gazette: no. 26528. p. 3808. 3 July 1894.
  12. The Edinburgh Gazette: no. 10585. p. 761. 6 July 1894.
  13. Whitaker´s Almanach, 1918


External links

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Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Philip Callan
Member of Parliament for Dundalk
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Hackney South
Succeeded by
John Fletcher Moulton
Legal offices
Preceded by
Sir Richard Webster
Attorney General
Succeeded by
Sir Richard Webster
Preceded by
Sir Richard Webster
Attorney General
Succeeded by
Sir John Rigby
Preceded by
The Lord Coleridge
Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales
Succeeded by
The Lord Alverstone
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