(Lord Deputy of Ireland)

Born: ABT 1502, Lyminster, Sussex, England

Died: 10 Mar 1549/50

Father: Edward BELLINGHAM of Erringham

Mother: Jane SHELLEY

Son of Edward Bellingham of Erringham, Sussex, his mother being a member of the Shelley family. Gentlemen of the Privy chamber to King Edward VI. After the Dissolution, the grant of Bradford to Sir Edward Bellingham in 1546 included appurtenances in Winsley. As a soldier he fought in France and elsewhere, then became an English Member of Parliament and a member of the privy council, and in 1547 took part in some military operations in Ireland.

Ireland was then in a very disturbed condition, but the new governor crushed a rebellion of the O'Connors in Leinster, freed the Pale from rebels, built forts, and made the English power respected in Munster and Connaught. Gaelic Irish disturbances in the midlands erupted in 1546 and 1547 into open warfare under the leadership of the O'Connors and O'Mores. William Brabazon, Lord Justice of Ireland, suppressed the rebellions and established forts at Daingean, in Offaly, and at Ballyadams, in Leix. The privy council, in Mar 1547, authorized the establishment of English garrisons "in most meet places of service without the English Pale". Around these garrisons, Lord Deputy Sir Edward Bellingham, one of those courtiers who had secured patronage in Ireland, superseded Sir Anthony St. Leger in Sep 1548, and constructed a plantation to secure the Pale against further Gaelic unrest. By confiscating the land surrounding the garrisons and populating it with soldiers, by driving the indigenous Gaelic cultivators west toward the River Shannon, and by organizing the remaining Gaelic population under a seneschal system, the Plantation of Leix and Offaly attempted to provide a self-financing system of defense for the English settlement in Ireland. Bellingham, one of the new advocates of a military conquest of Ireland, had first imposed the seneschal system in Wicklow to suppress the Byrnes, O'Tooles, and Kavanaghs. Under this system, an English captain ruled as a seneschal, or bailiff, in the place of the dismissed Gaelic chieftain, enforced martial law, and financed himself and his retinues by the rents and dues of the subdued Gaelic Irish.

During his government James Fitzgerald, 14th Earl of Desmond, was suspected of treasonable designs, and having refused a peremptory order to appear in dublin, the Deputy swooped down upon him unexpectedly in the dead of winter, 1548, and carried him off prisoner.

During the year 1549 Bellingham found himself in a position to push forward with the religious campaign. From inquiries made he learned that in all Munster, Thomond, Connaught, and Ulster the monasteries and other religious establishments remained, and that they followed still the old religious practices. He wrote to the secretary of the Protector Somerset asking him to inform his master of the lack of good shepherds in Ireland to illuminate the hearts of the flock of Christ with His most true and infallible word, taking care at the same time to recommend the Protector to appoint the clergymen who had been brought over from England to vacant bishoprics, so that the public funds might be relieved by the withdrawal of their pensions. The mayor and corporation of Kilkenny were ordered to see that the priests of the city should assemble to meet the Deputy and members of the council. They promised that all the clergy should be present without fail, but the instructions of Sir Edward Bellingham and his colleagues produced but little effect even in the very stronghold of the Ormonds.

In Nov 1548 Sir Francis Bryan had arrived in Dublin to take up the office of lord marshal; a year later he was made lord justice pending the arrival of a new lord deputy to replace Sir Edward Bellingham, who had resented his appointment. Bellingham was a headstrong man and was constantly quarrelling with his council; but one of his opponents admitted that he was the best man of war that ever he had seen in Ireland.

His short but successful term of office was ended by his recall in 1549. Bellingham departed in the winter of 1549 from Howth.


R. Bagwell, Ireland Under the Tudors, vol. i. (1885).
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