He studied at the Royal Naval School at New Cross in London, after which he received his commission as ensign and was posted to the 65th Regiment of the Bengal Native Infantry.
He was part of the Central India Field Force during the troubles of 1857-1859 and led the column which captured Tantya Tope and hanged him. He was the British resident in the state of Hyderabad in 1875-1881. He tutored and protected Maḥbūb ʻAlī Khān, the underage nizam (ruler).
Thomas Henry Thornton, Meade’s biographer and author of General Sir Richard Meade and the Feudatory States of Central and Southern India (1898), regarded this position as one of the most politically challenging in India.
Meade’s successes included "rebuffing" efforts by prime minister Mir Turab Ali Khan, known as Sir Sālār Jang (war leader) to reestablish Hyderabad’s authority over the neighboring province of Berar. He also served in political employment at Gwalior, Indore, Mysore, Baroda and Hyderabad.
After retirement, he functioned as Chairman of the Hyderabad State Railway Company. He died at Hyères in France, aged 73 where he was buried.
His grave bears the inscription: "Born on 25th September 1821 he entered in eternal life on 20th March 1894 at Hyères in the South of France where his mortal remains have been laid".