Patrick Bermingham

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Patrick Bermingham (c. 1460–1532) was an Irish judge and statesman who held the offices of Lord Chief Justice of Ireland and Chancellor of the Exchequer of Ireland. He was a firm supporter of English rule in Ireland and enjoyed the confidence of Henry VIII.


He was born in Corbally, County Meath, to the Meath branch of the leading Anglo-Irish dynasty of Bermingham which was founded by Meyler de Bermingham about 1270.[1] Patrick's grandfather, a member of the Carbury branch of the family, settled in Meath where the family acquired estates at Dardistown; the family also held lands at Johnstown, County Kildare. Patrick, as a younger son, chose the law as a profession, following in the steps of his cousin Philip Bermingham, who was Lord Chief Justice of Ireland in the 1480s. He entered Lincoln's Inn in 1478.[2] On the death of his elder brother John in 1483, he inherited the family estates. He resided in England for some years but returned to Ireland before 1503.


He became a clerk in the Court of Exchequer (Ireland); from this rather humble position he rose quickly to the office of Lord Chief Justice in 1513.[3] For the next twenty years Irish politics was dominated by the struggle between the Earl of Kildare and his opponents; but Elrington Ball argues that Bermingham was one of the few public figures who remained above partisan politics, his sole aim being to maintain good order.[4] This is borne out by the favourable account of Bermingham's conduct given by the Lord Deputy of Ireland, the Duke of Norfolk, who spent 1520–21 putting down an insurrection which he suspected, probably with good reason, had been instigated by Kildare. Norfolk praised Bermingham and Patrick Finglas, the Chief Baron, as "the best willed and most diligent to do the King's Grace true and faithful service of all the learned men of this land".[5] Bermingham was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer, and, apparently as a mark of favour, given a fresh patent as Chief Justice under the Great Seal of England.

After Norfolk's recall, Bermingham worked closely with the Archbishop of Dublin, Hugh Inge and his successor John Alen; for a time Bermingham, Archbishop Alen and the Prior of Kilmainham, John Rawson, were said to form an inner "council of three". Despite Kildare's rather dubious loyalties, Bermingham was sensible enough to see that his great power and influence made him impossible to replace, and that English rule in Ireland had been weakened by his four-year detention in England. In 1528 he and Inge wrote to Norfolk lamenting the chaos in Ireland "since the Earl of Kildare's departing from hence", and severely criticising the misrule of Kildare's deputy Richard Nugent, 4th Lord Delvin.[6] Perhaps in part due to Bermingham's pleas, Kildare did return, only to quarrel bitterly with Archbishop Alen and Norfolk's successor as Lord Deputy, Sir William Skeffington. When Bermingham died in 1532 Ireland was as unsettled as ever.

Marriage and children[edit]

He married Katherine Preston, daughter of Robert Preston, 1st Viscount Gormanston. They had several daughters, and one son William, who married Margaret St Lawrence, daughter and heiress of Thomas St. Lawrence, Attorney General for Ireland, by whom he had eight children, including Patrick, the eldest son and heir.[7]


Ball praises him as a man of integrity and moderation, who was dedicated to the maintenance of good order in Ireland.


  1. ^ Ball, p.116
  2. ^ Kenny, Colum King's Inns and the Kingdom of Ireland Irish Academic Press Dublin 1992 p.19
  3. ^ Ball, p.192
  4. ^ Ball, p.119
  5. ^ Ball, p.116
  6. ^ Ball, p.119
  7. ^ Lodge, John and Archdall, Mervyn Peerage of Ireland Dublin 1789 Vol.4 p. 52


Legal offices
Preceded by
John Topcliffe
Lord Chief Justice of Ireland
Succeeded by
Sir Bartholomew Dillon