Nicole Russell, Duchess of Bedford, was born Nicole Marie Charlotte Pierrette Jeanne Schneider, a daughter of Capt. Paul Schneider, a decorated World War I pilot and his wife Marguerite Durand, descended from an aristocratic French family. She was raised in Chantilly Creil, near Paris, and attended a convent school in the suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine. When she was 17, she made an arranged marriage to Henri Milinaire, a businessman and graphic designer 14 years her senior, with whom she had four children. During World War II, she worked for the French Resistance as a courier. She became one of the first female television producers in France in the 1950s. She served as the associate producer of the popular television series Sherlock Holmes and of the 1951-1954 series Foreign Intrigue. In 1960, following a divorce, she married John Russell, 13th Duchess of Bedford, and helped him open and popularize his home Woburn Abbey to a worldwide public. They converted the unused stables into antique shops, renovated the sculpture gallery, and added a restaurant. Her autobiography, Nicole Nobody (1974) was a bestseller.