Bingham (Byngham), Sir George (d. 1599), soldier, was fourth son of Robert Bingham of Melcombe Bingham, Dorset, and his wife Alice, daughter of Thomas Coker. A military man, he went to Connacht after the appointment of his brother Richard (qv) as governor of the province in 1584, becoming a captain in the royal army there and serving as sheriff of Clare during 1584–5. He was then transferred to the strategically important county of Sligo, which was the gateway into Connacht for Scottish mercenaries and Ulster forces wishing to link up with the rebellious clans in Mayo. Installed (December 1585) as commander of the castle of Ballymote, Co. Sligo, he was sheriff of Co. Sligo during 1585–7. In summer 1586 a large army of Scottish mercenaries passed through Sligo en route to assist rebels in Mayo, but was outmanoeuvred and routed by the royal forces under Richard. George distinguished himself under his brother's command and later led the hunt for fleeing Scots in Co. Sligo. At Ballymote, which became his residence and administrative centre for the county, he built a jail and gallows and restored the medieval castle. He also attempted to develop a town and market around the castle, but his efforts in this regard were undermined by the continued political turbulence: the embryonic settlement was burned to the ground at least twice by rebel forces, in 1588 and again in 1590.
On 12 September 1587, his brother having departed Connacht temporarily, he was made acting governor of the province, serving as such until Richard returned in May 1588. At this time, the Binghams were at loggerheads with the lord deputy of Ireland, Sir John Perrot (qv), leading the English privy council to enjoin Perrot to cooperate with George. Although George protested at Perrot's withholding of certain allowances from him, relations between the two were relatively tranquil during his term as acting governor. Following the death of the pre-eminent Gaelic lord in Sligo, Sir Donal O'Connor Sligo (qv), in early 1588, he moved to seize the O'Connor Sligo estate by authorising an inquisition, which quickly ruled that Sir Donal's designated heir and nephew, Donough O'Connor Sligo (qv), was illegitimate and as such was disinherited. This judgment was overturned, but the initial ruling was eventually upheld decisively that autumn. Bingham was granted custody of the O'Connor Sligo estate, which he administered on behalf of the crown, in the process going from being merely the most powerful royal official in Sligo to holding the county as a personal fiefdom, albeit at the queen's pleasure.
In Co. Sligo, George was responsible for collecting taxes due to the crown, the private rents of the O'Connor Sligo estate then vested in the crown, and rents due on former monastic estates granted to various English officials. His execution of these duties on the already financially hard-pressed locals earned him a justified reputation for being a martinet. If rents or taxes were not paid on time, he was authorised to seize goods or cattle, a right he exercised with great regularity. Moreover, he also quartered royal soldiers on the country and often traversed the county with his men demanding food and lodgings in different areas, despite the 1585 composition of Connacht, which had abolished such practices. Although he occasionally arranged judicial sessions at Ballymote, he administered the law in an arbitrary if not capricious fashion. Summary executions were common, but prisoners who had the means could buy their freedom.
On his arrival in the county, his power had been moderated by the influence of Sir Donal O'Connor Sligo. Lesser families in Sligo such as the O'Dowds and O'Harts sought to free themselves from O'Connor Sligo's overlordship and cultivated good relations with Bingham. However, Sir Donal's death in 1588, and Bingham's emergence as custodian of the O'Connor Sligo estate, exposed these families to a far more oppressive overlordship.
The wrecking of a number of ships from the Spanish armada off the coast of Sligo and Mayo served to intensify the bitterness in the region. During September–October, Bingham was preoccupied with dealing with the surviving Spanish soldiers, overseeing the executions of at least 700 of them. For his efforts, the new lord deputy, Sir William Fitzwilliam (qv), knighted him at some point in November–December. Once that threat had passed, he turned upon the O'Hart family in north Co. Sligo, who he believed had salvaged goods washed ashore from the armada ships. Furious at being denied the booty and possibly convinced that the O'Harts were hoarding Spanish gold, he arrested and tortured members of the family in order to discover its whereabouts.
Thus in spring 1589 a number of Sligo families, having been beggared by Bingham's exactions, rose against the crown in alliance with the Mayo Burkes. Although this uprising was soon quelled, it attracted the attention of Fitzwilliam, who oversaw in person judicial sessions throughout the province during summer 1589 designed to investigate the cause of this revolt, in which the Binghams, particularly George, were denounced for their tyrannical rule. Revealingly, George did not deny the substance of the charges against him, stating that he had acted within the authority granted to him by the crown. Richard was summoned to Dublin to face charges, but was acquitted in December, leaving the Binghams in the clear. For the next three years George tightened his grip on Sligo as Richard, hoping to expand his influence into Ulster, significantly increased the royal military presence in the county.
In March 1590 Sir Brian O'Rourke (qv), lord of Breifne (later Co. Leitrim) and incorrigible foe of the English, raided Sligo, burning Ballymote town in the process. The government authorised George to lead an expedition against O'Rourke, which quickly overran Breifne in April, forcing O'Rourke to flee; he was later apprehended and executed in London. Soon after, Bingham tracked down and killed the McClancy, a noted anti-English lord. His elimination of O'Rourke and McClancy earned him the commendation of the English privy council, although Fitzwilliam was far more grudging in his praise. Meanwhile, in London Donough O'Connor Sligo continued to accuse him of abusing his position, but his military successes enabled him to surmount these charges easily.
Having advanced their quasi-lordship to the borders of Ulster, the Binghams sought to expand into Tyrconnell and Fermanagh, against the O'Donnells and Maguires respectively. George tried to provoke Hugh Maguire (qv), raiding Fermanagh at least three times in order to enforce so-called rents owed to the crown. However, the Binghams had reckoned without the strength of the Ulster lords, the dormant but widespread resentment towards them in north Connacht, and the continued hostility of Fitzwilliam. Assisted by his Ulster allies and by refugees from Connacht, Maguire launched two successful raids on Sligo, which George was powerless to halt. Fitzwilliam then refused to authorise any retaliatory response. By December 1593 George was based further east at Boyle abbey, Co. Roscommon, in order to ward against Maguire, and engaged in frequent skirmishes with rebel forces.
During 1594–6 his military position, and that of the crown generally in north Connacht, declined precipitously. In 1596 the crown concluded that in order to regain the support of the north Connacht Irish against the rebels, it would have to sacrifice George, and indeed all the Binghams, and restore Donough O'Connor Sligo to his ancestral lands. As a result, the charges against George were resurrected in early 1596. Rather than face them he fled to England in September, and the rest of the Bingham clan soon followed suit. The queen ordered him back to Dublin to stand trial, but he pleaded sickness and in the end never went. By late 1598 it had become plain that the crown's changed strategy had failed miserably to halt a rebellion that threatened to consume all of Ireland, and the Binghams were rehabilitated. George almost certainly accompanied Richard, who was appointed marshal of the Irish army, back to Ireland in autumn 1598. He died in Dublin in 1599 and was buried in Christ Church cathedral.
He married (1569) Cicely (Cisely), daughter of Robert Martin, of Athelhampton, Dorset; they had two sons. His elder son, Henry (b. 1573), succeeded his uncle Sir Richard in the family estates in Dorset, and was created a baronet of Nova Scotia in 1634.