Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bingham, Richard (1528-1599)

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BINGHAM or BYNGHAM, Sir RICHARD (1528–1599), governor of Connaught, was the third son of Richard Bingham, of Melcombe-Bingham, Dorsetshire, by his wife Alice, daughter of Thomas Coker. Born in 1528, he was trained as a soldier from youth, and apparently took part in the Protector Somerset's expedition to Scotland in 1547. He was one of the Englishmen serving with the Spaniards against the French at the battle of St. Quentin in 1557, and in October 1558, just before the death of Queen Mary, was engaged in a naval expedition against the 'Out-isles' of Scotland. In the early years of Elizabeth's reign he fought with the Spaniards and Venetians, under Don John of Austria, against the Turks, and seems to have taken part in the conquest of Cyprus and the battle of Lepanto (7 Oct. 1572). In 1573 and the following year Bingham was in the Low Counties, communicating to Burghley the details of the struggle with Spain. In 1576 he accompanied Sir Edward Horsey on an abortive mission to Don John of Austria to effect a peace between between Spain and the States-General of Holland. On 17 March 1577–8 Elizabeth granted Bingham an annuity of fifty marks in recognition of his military and diplomatic services, and later in 1578 he fought with exceptional valour as a volunteer under the Dutch flag against the Spaniards. In 1579 he was sent to Ireland to aid in the repression of the Desmond insurrection. In September 1580 he was captain of the Swiftsure in the expedition sent under the command of Admiral Winter to dislodge the Spaniards and Italians from Smerwick, where they had landed to support the Irish rebels, and Bingham took part in the massacre of the invaders which followed the attack upon them by sea and land. A full account of the action, sent by Bingham to Walsingham, is now in the Public Record Office. On 30 Sept. 1583 a commission was issued to Bingham to apprehend pirates in the narrow seas, and the queen directed Burghley to instruct Bingham to seize Dutch ships for debts due to her, under colour of looking for pirates.

In the following year (1584) Bingham was appointed governor of Connaught, and knighted at Dublin Castle by Lord-deputy Perrot on 12 July. He was from the first resolved to make the Irish conform to English customs, but he administered the province in the early days of his government with sufficient fairness to satisfy most of his subjects as well as the home government. But during the Connaught rebellion of 1586 Bingham knew no mercy. At Galway early in 1586 he presided at the assizes, when seventy persons were condemned to death for disloyalty. In the same year he laid siege to Cluain-Dubhain or Cloonoon, in Clare, the strongest castle in Ireland, and had the owner, a reputed rebel (Mahon O'Briain) shot, and the garrison put to the sword. Later in 1586 the Bourkes of Mayo broke into open revolt, and Bingham reduced their castle of Lough Mask and hanged its occupants. He confiscated the greater part of the Bourkes' property, and defeated in August, with terrible slaughter, by the river Moy, a party of 3,000 Highlanders who had come over to the aid of the rebels. Sir John Perrot, the lord-deputy, visited Connaught after the suppression of the rebellion and was dissatisfied with Bingham's rigorous action. For the ten following years Perrot and Bingham were repeatedly in personal conflict, and appeal was frequently made to Walsingham to settle the various matters in dispute between them. Bingham was perpetually complaining to Walsingham of the smallness of his salary, and asserted that most of the expenses of government were defrayed out of his own purse. The lord-deputy represented that Bingham was in receipt of an official income of 1,941l. 12s. 4d. but Bingham, in a detailed examination of his sources of revenue, showed that he never received more than 505l. a year. In 1587 Bingham was temporarily recalled from Ireland to take part in the war in the Netherlands, and Lord Willoughby, who highly respected Bingham, was anxious that he should take the command of the army at the close of 1587, when Leicester was ordered home (Lady G. Bertie's Account of Bertie, 132, 138, 143). In 1588 Bingham was frequently in consultation with Burghley and the other ministers as to the defence of the country against the Spaniards. But before the close of 1588 he had resumed his post in Connaught, and in September he issued orders that all Spanish refugees landing on the coast of his province should be brought to Galway and there put to death. He afterwards claimed to have thus rid his country of 1,000 of the enemy. In 1590–1 Bingham was engaged in repressing the revolt of Sir Bryan O'Rourke, of Leitrim, who was captured, sent to England, and hanged at Tyburn on 28 Oct. 1591. Bingham's account of his proceedings against Rourke is printed in the 'Egerton Papers' (Camden Soc., pp. 144–57). In the following year Perrot formally complained to the queen of Bingham's habitual severity and insubordination, and in September 1596 Bingham, fearful that his adversaries would do him serious injury, hurriedly came to England to appeal (as he said) for justice. He left Ireland without leave, and on arriving in London was sent to the Fleet prison. On 2 Oct. 1596 he addressed a piteous letter to Burghley, praying for release. This petition was apparently granted soon afterwards, but Bingham was suspended from his office. The outbreak of O'Neill's rebellion in 1598 induced the authorities to reinstate him. His knowledge of Irish affairs was judged to be without parallel in England, and when the Cecils first suggested that Essex should command the expedition against the Irish rebels Bacon strongly urged Essex to take Bingham's advice (Spedding's Bacon, ii. 95–6). In September 1598 Bingham left England with five thousand men to assume the office of marshal of Ireland, vacated by the death in the battle at Blackwater of Sir Henry Bagnall. But Bingham had scarcely entered on his new duties when he died at Dublin on 19 Jan. 1598–9.

A cenotaph was erected to his memory in the south aisle of the choir of Westminster Abbey by Sir John Bingley, at one time Bingham's servant. On it was inscribed a highly laudatory account of his military achievements. Sir Henry Docwra, afterwards commander of the forces in Ireland, drew up a 'relation' of Bingham's early services in Connaught, which was published for the first time by the Celtic Society in 1849. The manuscript is in the library of Trinity College, Dublin. Bingham was described by Sir Nicholas Lestrange as 'a man eminent both for spiritt and martiall knowledge, but of a very small stature' (Thom's Anecdotes and Traditions (Camden Society), p. 18).

Sir Richard was aided in his Irish administration by two younger brothers, George and John. Both were assistant commissioners in Connaught. John distinguished himself in the battle with the Highlanders by the Moy, and was granted by his brother Edmund Burke's castle of Castlebarry, near Castlebar. George was for many years sheriff of Sligo, took a leading part in the massacre of the Spaniards in 1588, and was killed by Ulrick O'Rourke in 1595. Bingham's memory was long execrated by the native Irish, but Sir Sir Francis Walsingham and Sir Henry Wallop always held him in high esteem. Sir Richard married Sarah, daughter of John Heigham, of Gifford's Hall, Wickhambrook, Suffolk (by banns), 11 Jan. 1587–8. Lady Bingham survived her husband, and married after his death Edward Waldegrave, of Lawford, Essex. She died at Lawford, and was buried in the church there 9 Sept. 1634, aged 69. Sir Richard left no male issue, and he was succeeded in his of his Dorsetshire estates by Henry, the eldest son of his brother George, who had been killed in 1596. Henry was created a Nova Scotian baronet in 1634. Sir John Bingham, the fifth in descent from George, was governor of county Mayo, and contributed to William III's success in Ireland by deserting from James II at the battle of Aughrim (1691). He married a grand-niece of Patrick Sarsfield, earl of Lucan, and died in 1749. His second son Charles was created baron Lucan of Castlebar 24 July 1776, and earl of Lucan 6 Oct. 1795 [see Bingham, Margaret].

[Froude's History, x. xi. xii.; Chamberlain's Letters, temp. Eliz. (Camd. Soc). pp. 14, 18, 34; Spedding's Bacon, ii. 95–6, 100; Hutchins's Dorset, iv. 203; Cal. State Papers (Irish series), 1509–73. 1574–85, 1586–8; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. iii. 156; Celtic Soc. Miscellany (1849), ed. Hardiman (1846), p. 394; Annals of the Four Masters, ed. Donovan, vol. vi.; Cal. State Papers (Dom.), 1581–90, 1591–4, 1595–7. Several of Bingham's letters to Burghley and to Sir Robert Cecil are at Hatfield.]

S. L. L.