Burke, Richard (c.1569–1635), 4th earl of Clanricard, nobleman, was the second, but eldest surviving, son of the six sons and two daughters of Ulick Burke, 3rd earl of Clanricard, and his wife, Honora, daughter of John Burke of Clogheroka, Co. Galway. His date of birth is uncertain, though he later claimed that his parents were married in November 1564 and that he was born five or six years later. He matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford, on 18 February 1584. By the 1590s he was using the title Lord Dunkellin, and in that decade he served militarily against the Dublin government's foes in Connacht, interspersed with trips to England. He was admitted to Gray's Inn on 17 March 1598, and graduated MA at Oxford on 10 July 1598. He was given joint interim military command in Connacht by Robert Devereux, earl of Essex (qv), on 10 August 1599 and was named chief commander in the province in January 1600; a commission followed on 12 March 1600. He balked at limitations on his power, being denied control of key garrisons, and civil powers, and sought to resign, but continued to take a prominent part in military affairs and served with distinction at Kinsale on 24 December 1601; he is recorded as having been knighted on the field by Lord Deputy Mountjoy (qv), though an earlier knighthood is sometimes recorded, for 1584. Despite his catholicism, James I named him chief commander in Connacht and a privy councillor on 12 November 1603, and lord president of the province on 22 June 1604, a patent being issued on 1 September.
Burke had succeeded as 4th earl of Clanricard on 20 May 1601, and by 1603 he had married Frances, daughter of secretary of state Sir Francis Walsingham and the widow first of Sir Philip Sidney and then of the earl of Essex; they had one son, Ulick (qv), later 5th earl of Clanricard, and one daughter. By 3 March 1616 he had sought to cede his presidency and to obtain a grant of presidential powers, civil and military, limited to the county and town of Galway, a request acceded to by privy seal on 2 June 1616 (patent of 16 July 1616). He was the dominant landowner in the county, and, though he was increasingly resident in England, he retained a close interest in arrangements on his Galway estates and in the rebuilding of his principal residence, at Portumna, in the 1610s. He also acquired property in Kent, and built a distinguished residence at Somerhill. Charles I renewed his patent for the governorship of Galway, for his life and that of his heir, on 20 May 1625 and continued a grant of freedom from prosecution for recusancy.
He received an English peerage as Viscount Tunbridge and baron of Somerhill on 3 April 1624, and was created earl of St Albans , Viscount Galway and baron of Imany on 23 August 1628. He strove to ensure the security of his title to his Irish properties, a concern that broadened into efforts to secure land titles in Connacht generally and to resist plans to promote plantation there. Such schemes came to a head under Lord Deputy Wentworth (qv) in 1634–5, with Co. Galway included within the scope of his proposals for the first time. Clanricard's vigorous opposition at court was bolstered by the efforts of his kin and lawyer associates in Galway. His death, at Somerhill, on 12 November 1635 was regarded as not unconnected with his struggle, and Wentworth incurred a degree of blame in some quarters.