Bellings (Bealing), Richard (c.1603–1677), lawyer, politician, and historian, was eldest son of Sir Henry Bellings (of an Old English catholic family with properties in Dublin and Kildare) and his wife Maud, about whom nothing else is known. Richard gained admittance to Lincoln's Inn on 4 September 1619. Other students at this time included Phelim O'Neill (qv) and his younger brother Turlough, both of whom worked closely with Bellings during the 1640s. In 1625, having qualified as a lawyer, Bellings married Margaret Butler (d. by 1635), daughter of Richard Butler (qv), 3rd Viscount Mountgarret, and Margaret O'Neill, daughter of Hugh O'Neill (qv), 2nd earl of Tyrone. This marriage produced at least four children: Richard, Henry, Mary, and Joan.
Prior to the 1641 revolt Bellings lived in Wicklow, and was involved with the lord-deputy, Thomas Wentworth (qv), in appropriating O'Byrne lands in that county during the late 1630s. In March 1641 Bellings replaced Sir Thomas Wharton, a protestant supporter of Wentworth, as MP for the Kilkenny borough of Callan. His election was undoubtedly due to the influence of James Butler (qv), 12th earl of Ormond, with whom Bellings developed a close friendship. The Irish parliament, summoned by Wentworth in 1640 to raise money for the king, witnessed the emergence of a broad coalition of catholics and protestants seeking to remove the controversial lord deputy from office. Unlike his legal colleagues Patrick Darcy (qv), Nicholas Plunkett (qv), and Richard Martin (qv), Bellings does not appear to have played a major role in parliamentary proceedings, although he did attend a number of crucial meetings after the outbreak of the revolt in Ulster in October 1641. Initially, Bellings condemned those rising in arms as rebels, but the violently anti-catholic policies of the lords justices, coupled with fears of major social upheaval as the uprising spread throughout the country, brought about a radical change in his position. Throughout 1642 he worked closely with the leading catholic nobleman, Nicholas Preston (qv), 6th Viscount Gormanston, in establishing an alternative government to the Dublin administration. On 22 June 1642 Bellings and forty other catholic MPs were indicted for treason and expelled from the house of commons, bringing to an abrupt end his short parliamentary career.
For the next seven years he was a central figure in the government established by the confederate catholics in Kilkenny, serving as secretary to the executive supreme council (1642–6, 1648), under the presidency of his father-in-law, Viscount Mountgarret. As secretary, Bellings controlled all official correspondence, and he used his influence to assist those who favoured an early peace settlement with the royalists. This clique dominated confederate affairs for much of the 1640s, although opposition (centred on the clergy and the legislative general assembly) began to emerge as early as 1643. In 1644 Waterford granted Bellings the freedom of the city, but in July he was forced to make a humiliating apology to the general assembly, having overstepped his authority regarding the appointment of Randal MacDonnell (qv), earl of Antrim, as confederate military commander. After the dispersal of the assembly, Bellings accepted the post of roving ambassador, charged with the task of raising desperately needed supplies for the confederate war effort. In the company of Patrick Darcy, he visited Ulick Burke (qv), 5th earl of Clanricarde, a catholic royalist and pivotal figure in the province of Connacht, before departing for the Continent on 1 January 1645.
After a brief stay in Paris, Bellings travelled to Genoa, Venice, and Tuscany, as well as Rome, his primary destination. The new pope, Innocent X, promised little material assistance but none the less appointed a papal nuncio, GianBattista Rinuccini (qv), to Ireland. Bellings was horrified by this development, believing Rome's direct involvement in Irish affairs would present a serious obstacle to a peace settlement with the royalists. A deep and mutual animosity marked the relationship between Rinuccini and Bellings throughout the nuncio's mission to Ireland. The two men departed from Rome together in the spring of 1645, and spent a number of months at the French court negotiating with Cardinal Mazarin, before finally sailing for Ireland at the end of October. Rinuccini's arrival proved a catalyst in confederate affairs, with the nuncio providing dynamic leadership for those who opposed the terms on offer from the royalists. Although not directly involved in the Dublin peace negotiations, Bellings enthusiastically supported the Ormond treaty signed in great secrecy on 28 March 1646.
The publication of the treaty four months later caused a rupture in confederate ranks and the overthrow of the ruling faction. Rinuccini, with the full support of the catholic clergy and the Ulster Irish, assumed control of the supreme council, and imprisoned the advocates of the peace, including his arch-enemy Bellings. Clerical domination proved short-lived, however, and in November 1646, after the failure of the confederate assault on Dublin, a more moderate faction, led by Nicholas Plunkett, assumed control in Kilkenny. After his release from captivity, Bellings attended the general assembly in January 1647, arguing unsuccessfully in favour of resurrecting the peace treaty with Ormond. In the subsequent elections he failed to regain his seat on the supreme council, and throughout 1647 he plotted with the royalist George Digby and others to subvert confederate policy. Two catastrophic military defeats for the confederates (August, November 1647) allowed the peace faction an opportunity to reassert its authority, though this time in close alliance with the moderates. Bellings returned to Kilkenny and was reelected to the post of secretary of the council at the general assembly in December 1647. A truce in Munster the following May with the protestant Murrough O'Brien (qv), Lord Inchiquin, resulted in a second split among the confederates, with Rinuccini and the Ulster forces, led by Owen Roe O'Neill (qv), opposing the authority of the new supreme council. On this occasion the council prevailed, thanks to divisions in the clerical ranks, but also to Bellings who seized the Franciscan printing press in Kilkenny, thus denying Rinuccini and his allies any opportunity to publicise their cause. After lengthy negotiations during the autumn of 1648 Ormond and the confederates finally agreed to a second peace treaty, signed on 17 January 1649. Bellings, however, failed to obtain a position as one of the commissioners who would rule in association with the lord lieutenant – testimony to the opposition his conspiratorial activities in 1647 had aroused within confederate ranks. None the less, his close alliance with Ormond ensured that he continued to play an important political role until 1650, when the relentless advance of the Cromwellian army forced him to flee to the Continent.
Bellings lived in France during the 1650s under the pseudonym ‘Kingston’, and maintained close contact with both the confederate and royalist exiled communities. He travelled to Poland in 1655 with Donough MacCarthy (qv), 2nd Viscount Muskerry, undertook a number of important missions on behalf of Ormond, and challenged Bishop Nicholas French (qv) and others on the question of clerical involvement in confederate affairs. Bellings returned to Ireland after the restoration of Charles II in 1660, but spent much of the subsequent decade at court in London assisting Ormond in his dealings with Irish catholics. He also befriended Edward Hyde, earl of Clarendon, with whom he shared a passion for history. In December 1661 Bellings helped draft a controversial remonstrance, proclaiming catholic loyalty to the Stuart monarchy, and seeking religious toleration from the new regime. The Cromwellians had exempted him from the general pardon granted on 12 August 1652, but Charles II adjudged him worthy of special favour. The act of settlement (1662) restored Bellings to over 4,500 acres of the family estate without obliging him to submit his case to the court of claims. The following year he travelled to Rome to establish an understanding between the papacy, Irish catholics, and the Stuart regime, though without any success.
After his retirement from active political life, Bellings began writing a detailed history of confederate Ireland, drafts of which he sent to the duke of Ormond for his approval. He had already established a reputation as an accomplished writer, adding a sixth book to Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia, published in 1629. Bellings also produced a number of pamphlets during his time in exile, though not Vindicarium catholicorum Hiberniae, a work often ascribed to him but actually written by the cleric John Callaghan (qv). His confederate history, written in the 1670s, unashamedly praised the efforts of the peace faction in Kilkenny, condemned political interference by the clergy in general, and blamed Rinuccini in particular for the disasters that befell catholic Ireland. It remains one of the most authoritative and entertaining contemporary accounts of events in Ireland during the 1640s. Copies of the manuscript still survive both in Ireland and England, and the antiquarian J. T. Gilbert (qv) published (1882–91) a definitive version as part of his seven-volume History of the Irish confederation and the war in Ireland. Unlike the majority of confederates, Bellings died peacefully on his own estate in September 1677, and was buried in Mulhuddart, Co. Dublin. His eldest son, Sir Richard, became secretary and treasurer of the household of Catherine of Braganza, wife of Charles II, and married Frances, heiress of Sir John Arundell.