BINGHAM, George Charles, Lord Bingham (1800-1888).
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Family and Educationb. 16 Apr. 1800, 1st s. of Richard Bingham†, 2nd earl of Lucan [I], and Lady Elizabeth Belayse, da. and coh. of Henry, 3rd Earl Fauconberg, div. w. of Bernard Edward Howard, 12th duke of Norfolk. educ. Westminster 1812-14. m. 21 Feb. 1829, Lady Anne Brudenell, da. and coh. of Robert, 6th earl of Cardigan, 2s. 4da. d.v.p. suc. fa. as 3rd earl of Lucan [I] 30 June 1839; KCB 5 July 1855; GCB 2 June 1869. d. 10 Nov. 1888.
Ensign 6 Ft. 1816; ensign and lt. 8 Ft. 1818, half-pay 1818; lt. 8 Ft. 1820; capt. 74 Ft. 1822; capt. 1 Life Gds. 1822; maj. 17 Drag. 1825, lt.-col. 1826, half-pay 1837, brevet col. 1841; maj.-gen. 1851; col. 8 Drag. 1855; col. 1 Life Gds. 1865-d.; lt.-gen. 1858; gen. 1865; f.m. 1887.
Rep. peer [I] 1840-d.; gold stick in waiting 1886.
Ld. lt. and custos rot. co. Mayo 1845-d.
The Binghams, descendants of the sixteenth century military marshal of Ireland Sir Richard Bingham, had intermittently represented county Mayo in the Irish Parliament since settling at Castlebar House in the early 1600s. Bingham’s Whig grandfather Charles had sat for Mayo, 1761-76, and Northampton, 1782-4, before being created earl of Lucan in 1795. His father represented St. Albans, 1790-1800, succeeded as 2nd earl in 1799 and was elected an Irish representative peer the following year, when the Castlebar estate was estimated to provide an annual income of £10,000.1 Bingham entered the army at the age of 16 and Captain Gronow recalled him as one of ‘the English persons of note who usually met at Tortoni’s’ in Paris during the 1820s.2 In September 1822 the 2nd marquess of Sligo, whose family had dominated the politics of county Mayo since the Union, was warned by his uncle Denis Browne* that the offer to become patron of a savings bank in Mayo in ‘conjunction’ with Bingham, an ‘honorary member’, and his cousin Thomas Spencer Lindsey of Hollymount, the ‘secretary’, was an attempt ‘to separate our interests’ and ‘weaken and destroy us’.3 Bingham and his father signed a requisition for a county meeting in support of Catholic claims in February 1825, when Lindsey informed Daniel O’Connell* that his cousin would ‘certainly give the electors of this county an opportunity at the next election of exercising their franchises’.4 In 1826 Bingham allegedly paid £20,000 for his lieutenant-colonelcy of the 17th Lancers, who under his command were known as ‘Bingham’s Dandies’.5
At the 1826 general election he duly came forward for Mayo as an opponent of the ‘coalition’ which had ‘taken deep root’ there, citing his support for Catholic emancipation and willingness to back ministers, though he claimed to be ‘bound to no party’. Following the withdrawal of one of the sitting Members he was returned unopposed.6 He presented and endorsed two petitions for Catholic relief, 5 Dec. 1826, but criticized its ‘leading advocates’ for their ‘intemperate language’ and refusal to support the Liverpool ministry until emancipation became a cabinet question, explaining that ‘he would not pledge himself to oppose any man or set of men’.7 He voted for relief, 6 Mar. 1827, 12 May 1828, and brought up favourable petitions, 4 May 1827, 27 Feb., 2 May 1828.8 He divided for inquiry into Leicester corporation’s electoral activities, 15 Mar. 1827. Next day he was granted ten days’ leave on urgent private business. He presented a petition for repeal of the Test Acts and voted thus, 26 Feb. 1828. In August Goulburn, chancellor of the exchequer, advised the Wellington administration against giving an ‘inveterate Whig’ command of the North Mayo militia, saying, ‘if Lord Bingham supports government, his friend Colonel Jackson is a very fit man’. Jackson was appointed the following month.9 That year Bingham served with the Russian army in Diebitsch in Bulgaria, where, according to Princess Lieven, he ‘greatly distinguished himself during a sortie made by the Turkish garrison in Varna’.10 On 21 Nov. Lord Aberdeen, the foreign secretary, advised Wellington, the premier, that Bingham had returned ‘last night’, convinced that the Russians
are all heartily sick of the war ... He estimates their losses higher than the accounts we have received, but says they arose from bad management and bad conduct. The Turkish force, as an army, he says is contemptible. No artillery, no bayonets, muskets of every calibre, and altogether a mere rabble.11
He may have been wounded, for Lady Cowper told Lady Holland that he was ‘very thin but has evidently recovered [from] his lameness’, 15 Dec. 1828.12 That month he signed a requisition for a county meeting in support of Lord Anglesey, the recalled Irish viceroy, which he attended, 14 Jan. 1829.13 ‘I am very glad to have such satisfactory accounts of Bingham’s activity and party spirit, and hope it will have a great effect at the meeting of Parliament’, Lady Cowper remarked.14 ‘I do not hear that Bingham has any intention to bury in oblivion the history of this mess’, Charles Baring Wall* informed Ralph Sneyd.15 In February it was predicted by Planta, the patronage secretary, that he would vote ‘with government’ for emancipation, and he divided accordingly, 6 Mar., when he passed on his father’s proxy, and 30 Mar.16 He presented favourable petitions, 11, 24 Mar., when he gave the measure his ‘unqualified approbation’, but expressed ‘regret that it should have been thought necessary, especially at the present time, to disfranchise the 40s. freeholders’. He voted for allowing O’Connnell to take his seat unhindered, 18 May 1829. That year he commanded a cavalry division at Adrianpole and returned to his regiment with the order of a Knight of St. Anne of Russia, 2nd class.17 He presented a petition for repeal of the Irish Vestries Act, 18 Mar. 1830. He divided against Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., but in favour of it, 17 May. He voted against abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 7 June, when he was in the ministerial majority against reducing the grant for South American missions. He presented and endorsed two petitions against Irish stamp duty increases, which would ‘have the effect of nearly annihilating the press of Ireland’, 18 June. On 1 July he asked Peel, the home secretary, for assistance in a ‘threatened’ contest in Mayo, which Peel was disposed to give as ‘he is a fine spirited fellow’ and ‘has much better claims to the county than Dominick Browne*’.18 Leveson Gower, the Irish secretary, concurred, explaining:
The present government has received a steady support, unpurchased by any favours that I know of, from Bingham, and we should therefore depart from the usual principle and practice of all administrations if we should not endeavour to secure his re-election by any legitimate means at our disposal.19
Peel, however, felt unable to assist Bingham with his ‘repeated’ requests to restore Sir William Brabazon, the former sheriff of Mayo, to the commission of the peace.20 At the 1830 general election Bingham offered again with government support, but a fortnight before the nomination he retired without explanation.21
He succeeded his father as 3rd earl of Lucan in 1839 and was elected an Irish representative peer the following year. In 1846 he provided Lord John Russell*, the new premier, with ‘a sad account of the abuses prevailing in the employment on public works’ in Ireland.22 In 1854 he commanded a cavalry division in the Crimea. Acting on orders that were later disputed by his superior Lord Raglan, at Balaclava he ordered the infamous charge of the light brigade, led by his brother-in-law Lord Cardigan, in the aftermath of which he himself was wounded. He was recalled the following year, and after being refused a court martial spoke in the Lords and published his divisional orders in an attempt to clear his name. On 19 Mar. 1855 Lord Carlingford heard him make ‘an angry, manly speech, without any dignity or self-restraint, like a baited bull’, which ‘seemed to improve his case in most men’s minds’.