Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford

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The Duchess of Bedford
Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford
Anna Maria Stanhope

3 September 1783
Died3 July 1857(1857-07-03) (aged 73)
Burial placeBedford chapel, Chenies, Buckinghamshire
ChildrenWilliam Russell, 8th Duke of Bedford
Parent(s)Charles Stanhope, 3rd Earl of Harrington
Jane Fleming

Anna Maria Russell, Duchess of Bedford (3 September 1783 – 3 July 1857)[1] was a lifelong friend of Queen Victoria,[2] whom she served as a Lady of the Bedchamber between 1837 and 1841.

Anna was the daughter of Charles Stanhope, 3rd Earl of Harrington, and Jane Fleming. She was the wife of Francis Russell, 7th Duke of Bedford (married in 1808), and sister-in-law to the prime minister John Russell. She was also the mother of William Russell, 8th Duke of Bedford. She became Duchess of Bedford in 1839, when her husband acceded to the dukedom.

According to the British Museum, the Duchess invented the custom of taking afternoon tea, in around 1840. Due to increasing urbanisation and industrialisation, wealthy English people were having their evening meal later and later, but still eating lunch at midday. The Duchess became despondent at the void between the two meals, and its consequent 'sinking feeling'. She therefore asked that some tea, bread and butter and cake be delivered to her room late in the afternoon, and "an afternoon ritual was born".[3]

The Duchess and her husband entertained the Queen at their country house Woburn Abbey in 1841. The Duchess was also the chief mourner at the funeral of The Princess Augusta Sophia in 1840.

After inventing the afternoon tea ritual, the Duchess started inviting her friends to join in. As those friends were also royal courtiers, the Queen became aware of the nascent custom, and immediately approved. By the 1880s, her Majesty had adopted the ritual herself, and was holding official tea receptions at her palaces.[4]


The Duchess died in 1857 and is buried in the Bedford chapel at Chenies in Buckinghamshire.


  1. ^ Lodge, Edmund (1861). The Peerage and Baronetage of the British Empire (30th ed.). London: Hurst and Blackett. p. 54 at Google Books.
  2. ^ Bedford, Duke of. The History and Treasures of Woburn Abbey. Pitkin Pictorials; p. 11
  3. ^ Marks, Tasha (14 August 2020). "The tea-rific history of Victorian afternoon tea | British Museum". British Museum. Retrieved 30 December 2023.
  4. ^ Parker, Catherine (8 April 2019). "6 Places to Take Afternoon Tea Across Canada". Wander with Wonder. THOT Information Services LLC. Retrieved 11 March 2022.