Bingham (Byngham), Sir Richard (1528–99), soldier and administrator, was third son among eight sons and two daughters of Richard Bingham of Melcombe Bingham (or the nearby Bingham's Melcombe), Dorset, and Alice Bingham (née Coker) of Mappowder, about three miles away. He served against the Scots (1547, 1558) and in Spanish service against the French (1557) and the Turks at Lepanto (1572) and other actions. He was in the Netherlands (1573–8) as observer, peace envoy, and, finally, volunteer on the rebel side; Queen Elizabeth I rewarded him with an annuity. In 1579 he went to Ireland to assist in repressing the Desmond rebellion, and commanded the Swiftsure in the Smerwick campaign (1580) and in operations against piracy. On the death (1584) of Nicholas Malby (qv), Bingham was made chief commissioner of Connacht and Thomond; he was knighted (21 June 1584) by the new lord deputy, Sir John Perrot (qv), and was empowered to command forces in the field in the lord deputy's absence.
Perrot and Bingham, with the ‘composition of Connacht’ (1585), reorganised the province's revenue system and distribution of power, encouraging further use of English law and custom. Bingham took continued concern to improve crown revenue (making the administration of Connacht practically self-supporting) and – though the earls of Thomond and Clanricard supported him – was known among leading gentry as ‘captain of the churls’ because the policy curtailed the powers of the lords. He also became known, however, as ‘the flail of Connacht’ for his ruthless repression of successive uprisings (mainly by the MacWilliam Burkes of north and west Connacht, aided later from west Ulster). Bingham showed conspicuous military skill, defeating in the summer and autumn of 1586 both the Burkes and their Scots allies, and by 1594 he had destroyed previously impregnable O'Brien and Burke strongholds, driven Brian Ó Ruairc (Ó Rourke) (qv) to flight and execution, taken the MacWilliam Burkes in the rear by sea, and completed the encirclement of Ulster by capturing Sligo and Enniskillen. During the retreat of the Spanish armada (1588) he had also carefully recorded its wrecks and supervised the slaughter of survivors.
However, his severity was increasingly criticised from within government as counter-productive. Formal complaints against him by Theobald Dillon (qv) (1587) and the Burkes (1589) were examined; Bingham, though exonerated, was urged to restraint, and his relations with Perrot deteriorated so far that for several months (1587–8) he was transferred to the Netherlands. Sir Francis Walsingham in London held him throughout in high regard, and some criticisms from Bingham's colleagues can be ascribed to personal animosity. However, in 1595 intervention by Red Hugh O'Donnell (qv) and Hugh O'Neill (qv) ended Bingham's record of military success; supplied with raw troops, he lost Sligo and the control of north Connacht outside his forts, and when further complaints against him arose he was suspended (September 1596), left Ireland without authorisation, and was briefly imprisoned in London.
His experience was still highly valued, and he was admitted (17 March 1598) to Gray's Inn, London, perhaps through Walsingham's support. In the crisis after the defeat and death of Henry Bagenal (qv), Bingham was sent with 5,000 men to succeed him as marshal of Ireland; however, after one brief campaign he died in Dublin (19 January 1599). His body was buried in Westminster abbey, where Sir John Bingley (qv) erected a memorial to him. A portrait (c.1564; artist unknown) is held in the National Portrait Gallery, London.
He married (1588) Sarah Heigham (c.1565–1634) of Wickhambrook, Suffolk. They had one daughter; the earls of Lucan are descended from Bingham's younger brother George, who fostered the young Teabóid na Long Burke (qv) and was killed at Sligo (1595).