The Earl of Lucan is a title in the Peerage of Ireland bestowed upon the Bingham family in 1795 and held by them ever since, although there is some doubt as to the identity of the current holder as explained below.
However the title has a history prior to the Bingham creation, as it had previously been adopted by the Sarsfields of Lucan Castle in County Dublin. The Sarsfields were an Anglo-Norman family long established in Ireland; a William Sarsfield, born 1520, being knighted in 1566 by Sir Henry Sidney "for having rescued Lady Sidney from the Irish". In the following century one of William's descendants, Patrick Sarsfield, soldier, Roman Catholic, and a keen supporter of James II, helped the king defeat Monmouth's rebellion, and later joined him in exile when the Glorious Revolution led him to flee to France in 1688. In 1689 Patrick returned to Ireland with the king in an attempt to recover at least one of James's former kingdoms. Defeat at the battle of the Boyne doomed the Jacobite cause to failure, and having arranged the surrender of Limerick, Patrick sailed to France on the 22nd December 1691 and entered the service of the French king. He was later mortally wounded at the battle of Neerwinden on the 29th August 1693, and died at Huy two or three days later.
Prior to his death James II had, in January 1691, granted this Patrick Sarsfield the title of Earl of Lucan, but since James was regarded as having relinquished his throne in 1688, this is not regarded in peerage law as a valid creation. Rather it is one of a number of titles in the Jacobite Peerage bestowed by the exiled Stuart claimants to the throne.
Patrick was succeeded by his only son James Francis Edward Sarsfield, born 30th March 1693 and thus only six months old at his father's death. James Francis also styled himself as the Earl of Lucan but died unmarried on the 12th May 1719, thus bringing an end to the line of Sarsfield claimants to the title.
The Binghams were a family from Dorset who can trace their origins back to the twelfth century. As was common at the time, in the sixteenth century one of the younger sons made his way to Ireland to seek his fortune, and thus we find one of his descendants, a Henry Bingham of Castlebar in County Mayo being created a baronet on the 7th June 1634. It was John Bingham (1696-1749) the 5th baronet who in 1730 married Anne the grand-daughter and heir of a William Sarsfield, the elder brother of the aforementioned Patrick Sarsfield.
Their son Charles Bingham, the 7th Baronet, sat in the Irish Parliament for County Mayo between 1761 and 1776 and in the British Parliament for Northampton from 1782 to 1784. As a reward for his political services he was created the Baron Lucan of Castlebar on the 24th July 1776 and further awarded the title of Earl of Lucan on the 1st October 1795.
The 1st Earl died on the 29th March 1799 and was succeeded by his son Richard Bingham as the 2nd Earl who was an Irish representative peer from 1801 until his death on the 30th June 1839. The 2nd Earl was followed by his son George Charles Bingham, born in London on the 16th April 1800. The 3rd Earl married Anne, one of the daughters of Robert Brudenell, 6th Earl of Cardigan and after succeeded to the title in 1840 became an Irish representative peer. Having seen service in the British Army and risen to the rank of Major-General, with the outbreak of Crimean War in 1854 George was given command of the cavalry division, where the Light Brigade of that division was lead by his brother-in-law, James Thomas Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan. Despite the family connection, the two men hated one another and their mutual animosity appears to be one of the factors that led to the confusion that resulted in the Light Brigade famously charging into the 'valley of death'. George Charles was blamed for the debacle and recalled from the Crimea, but this did not appear to effect his career and he ended his life as a Field Marshall.
George Charles died on the 10th November 1888 and was succeeded by his son Charles George who had earlier served as ADC to his father in the Crimea and was also an Irish representative peer between 1889 and 1914.
His son George Charles who became the 5th Earl on the 5th June 1914, maintained the military tradition of the family and served on the Bechunaland expedition of 1884-85 and was mentioned in despatches in World War I. The 5th Earl was created the Baron Bingham of Melcome Bingham in Dorset on the 26th June 1934, which being a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom, allowed the Earl to sit in the House of Lords. (Holders of Irish peerages lost the right to sit in the House as representative peers following Irish independence.)
His son George Charles Patrick, the 6th Earl, was a colonel in the Coldstream Guards, and was wounded during World War I. He commanded the 1st Batallion during World War II and was Deputy Director for Ground Defence in the Air ministry from 1942 to 1945. On succeeding to the title in 1949 he sat in the House of Lords on the Labour benches and was Opposition Chief Whip in that House from 1954 until his death on the 21st January 1964.
Which brings us to the 7th Earl, Richard John Bingham, otherwise known as 'Lucky Lucan', who entered the public conciousness as the 'Lord Lucan' after famously disappearing without trace on the 8th November 1974.
It is generally accepted that the 7th Earl was responsible for the murder of the family's nanny Sandra Rivett on the 7th November 1974, whom he killed in the mistaken belief that she was his estranged wife. The car that he was driving was later found abandoned at Newhaven on the south coast, and at the time many believed that his wealthy friends had helped him escape to the continent. There have been many alleged sightings of the missing earl since that date, but no substantive evidence of his whereabouts. Many have concurred with the opinion of John Aspinall that the 7th Earl committed suicide by scuttling his speedboat in the English Channel sometime in the early hours of the 8th November.
The 7th Earl was declared legally dead on the 11th December 1992, and probate was granted on his estate on 11th August 1999. He is formally regarded as thus having "died on or since the 8th day of November 1974"
Although the late Earl's son George Bingham is thus regarded as the 8th Earl of Lucan in some quarters, this was not sufficient for the Lord Chancellor who rejected George's claim for a writ of summons (as the Baron Bingham) in July 1999, on the grounds that there was insufficent proof of the 7th Earl's death.
THE EARLS OF LUCAN
As Baron Lucan
- Charles Bingham, 1st Baron Lucan (1776-1795)
As Earl of Lucan
- Marjie Bloy, George Charles Bingham, third Earl of Lucan
- The 1911 Encyclopedia Brittanica entry for SARSFIELD, PATRICK
- Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 106th Edition
- A genealogical survey of the peerage of Britain at www.thepeerage.com
- Stirnet Genealogy at
- The Peerages of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom at http://www.angeltowns.com/town/peerage/Peers.htm