Bellingham, Sir Edward (a.1507?–1550), soldier and administrator, was the younger son of Sir Edward Bellingham of Erringham, Old Shoreham, Sussex, and Jane Bellingham (née Shelley) of Michelgrove, Sussex. He and his brother spent their early life till 1514 as wards of the 2nd duke of Norfolk. By 1523 Edward had entered the order of St John of Jerusalem, to which an uncle had belonged; he held successive preceptories from 1528 till the order's dissolution (1540). By that time he was a trusted royal servant and a gentleman pensioner; in 1542 he accompanied Sir Thomas Seymour's embassy to Vienna and went on to Hungary; and in 1543–4 he campaigned in France, was captured and released, and became a gentleman of the privy chamber. In 1545, as lieutenant of the Isle of Wight, he organised its defence against the French, later assisted in the defence of Boulogne, and became MP for Gatton through family connection and, possibly, royal favour, from which Bellingham later benefited in grants of land and (under the king's will) 200 marks. After carrying to the emperor Charles V news of Henry's death, he went (May 1547) to Ireland as captain-general with 1,500 foot and 500 horse, beginning a mid-century phase of assertive military action by the government.
His first concern in Ireland was the midlands, where he subdued the O'Connors of Offaly, consolidated the work of Sir William Brabazon (qv) by establishing Fort Governor at Daingean, and earned a knighthood. Appointed (April 1548) to succeed Sir Anthony St Leger (qv) as lord deputy, he took office in May, defeated the O'Mores in Leix, and established Fort Protector (Portlaoise). With further garrisons at Athlone, Nenagh, and Leighlinbridge; three seneschals (military administrators) in the Kavanagh, O'Byrne, and O'Toole countries of east Leinster; and Nicholas Bagenal (qv) established in Newry and Andrew Brereton in Lecale as shields against the O'Neills, Bellingham had secured an enlarged Pale and begun the policy of establishing garrisons and seneschals in Gaelic areas, financed by levying the traditional cess on the Pale as a direct tax. He also sought to improve coast defences and repress piracy. From November 1548 he began enforcing church reform in Ireland, applying the English act of uniformity (1549) without using his power of calling an Irish parliament. Despite a hard demeanour, Bellingham issued pardons readily; paid creditors fully and promptly (he died, consequently, in debt); saw his garrisons as containing, not invading, the Gaelic areas; and favoured closer relations with Gaelic lords and the extension of English liberties to all the Irish. He had, however, laid the foundations for subsequent colonisation policy in the midlands, and in the process increased both government spending and Gaelic apprehensions. Fellow administrators (notably Sir John Alen (qv)) felt he overused royal prerogative. When the earl of Warwick took power in England, Bellingham was recalled (late December 1549). According to Holinshed, he defended himself so well in London that he would have been reinstated in Ireland had he not pleaded illness: a fistula, which probably caused his death (10 April 1550).