1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Lee, Rowland

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LEE (or Legh), ROWLAND (d. 1543), English bishop, belonged to a Northumberland family and was educated at Cambridge. Having entered the Church he obtained several livings owing to the favour of Cardinal Wolsey; after Wolsey’s fall he rose high in the esteem of Henry VIII. and of Thomas Cromwell, serving both king and minister in the business of suppressing the monasteries, and he is said to have celebrated Henry’s secret marriage with Anne Boleyn in January 1533. Whether this be so or not, Lee took part in preparing for the divorce proceedings against Catherine of Aragon, and in January 1534 he was elected bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, or Chester as the see was often called, taking at his consecration the new oath to the king as head of the English Church and not seeking confirmation from the pope. As bishop he remained in Henry’s personal service, endeavouring to establish the legality of his marriage with Anne, until May 1534, when he was appointed lord president of the council in the marches of Wales. At this time the Welsh marches were in a very disorderly condition. Lee acted in a stern and energetic fashion, holding courts, sentencing many offenders to death and overcoming the hostility of the English border lords. After some years of hard and successful work in this capacity, “the last survivor of the old martial prelates, fitter for harness than for bishops' robes, for a court of justice than a court of theology,” died at Shrewsbury in June 1543. Many letters from Lee to Cromwell are preserved in the Record Office, London; these throw much light on the bishop’s career and on the lawless condition of the Welsh marches in his time.

One of his contemporaries was Edward Lee (c. 1482–1544) archbishop of York, famous for his attack on Erasmus, who replied to him in his Epistolae aliquot eruditorum virorum. Like Rowland, Edward was useful to Henry VIII. in the matter of the divorce of Catherine of Aragon, and was sent by the king on embassies to the emperor Charles V. and to Pope Clement VII. In 1531 he became archbishop of York, but he came under suspicion as one who disliked the king’s new position as head of the English Church. At Pontefract in 1536, during the Pilgrimage of Grace, the archbishop was compelled to join the rebels, but he did not sympathize with the rising and in 1539 he spoke in parliament in favour of the six articles of religion. Lee, who was the last archbishop of York to coin money, died on the 13th of September 1544.