William Russell (New Zealand)

name=Hon. William Russell

order=4th Leader of the Opposition
term_start=26 June 1894
term_end=3 July 1901
predecessor=William Rolleston
successor=William Massey
birth_date=12 November 1838
birth_place=Sandhurst Berkshire ENG
death_date=24 September 1913
death_place=Napier NZL
spouse=married Harriette Julia Hodgkinson1867, eight children.
constituency=Napier, then Hawkes Bay

Sir William Russell (12 November 183824 September 1913) was a New Zealand politician from 1870 to 1905. He was a cabinet minister, and was recognised as Leader of the Opposition from 1894 to 1901.

Early life

He was born in Sandhurst, Berkshire England and educated at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. His father Andrew Russell was in the 58th Regiment of Foot, and Russell came with him to New Zealand in the 1840s. He then joined the 58th Regiment, and came to New Zealand as an ensign in 1857. He transferred to the 14th Regiment of Foot and came out to Auckland in 1861, serving until 1862. In 1862 he sold his Captain’s commission and settled in Hawkes Bay as a sheepfarmer.


Russell was a member of the Hawkes Bay Provincial Council from 1870 until the abolition of the provinces in 1876. He won the election for the Napier and country districts seat in the New Zealand Parliament in December 1875 and in 1878. In 1881 after an electorate redistribution, he was defeated by Fred Sutton for the Hawkes Bay seat. He won the seat in 1884, and held it until he was defeated by Alfred Dillon in 1905.

He was a Minister (Postmaster-General) in the short-lived Fourth Atkinson ministry of 1884; which lasted only six (or fourteen) days. In 1889 he joined the Fifth (and last) Atkinson ministry of 1887 as Colonial Secretary, Minister of Defence and Minister of Justice.

When the Liberal government of John Balance came to power in 1890, the Opposition had not yet coalesced into a formal party. Russell was recognised as Leader of the Opposition from 1894 to 1901.

He represented the colony at the Federation Conference in Melbourne in 1890, and at the Australian National Convention in Sydney in 1892. He was appointed to the Legislative Council on 26 June 1913. He died at Napier on 24 September 1913.


He married Miss Harriette Julia Hodgkinson of Cawley Priory, Sussex, England in 1867. They had seven children, four daughters and three sons. One son in the 14th Regiment was killed in the South African War.

He lived on his estate Flaxmere near Hastings. He also owned Tunanui Station which he had bought with his brother near Napier. When the partnership expired he retained the Flaxmere and Sherenden estates. A sports lover, he was President of the New Zealand Jockey Club.

He was knighted in 1902. Though he had resigned from the Army in 1862, he seems to have used the title "Captain" until he was knighted. His full name according to electoral rolls and the Cyclopedia of New Zealand was Captain the Hon. William Russell Russell, then Sir William Russell Russell, ie Russell was his middle name and also his surname.


* The Cyclopedia of New Zealand, Volume 1 part 1 (1897); Wellington: pages 105-106 (photo page 106)
* The Cyclopedia of New Zealand, Volume 6 (1908); Taranaki, Hawke’s Bay & Wellington Province: pages 301-302 (photo page 302)

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