Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lee, George Henry

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LEE, GEORGE HENRY, third Earl of Lichfield (1718–1772), chancellor of Oxford University, was descended from Sir Henry Lee, who was created a baronet in 1611, and inherited the estate of Quarrendon, Buckinghamshire, from a cousin, Sir Henry Lee, K.G. [q. v.] The first baronet's great-grandson, Sir Edward Henry Lee, fifth bart., of Ditchley Park, near Spelsbury, Oxfordshire, was on his marriage with Lady Charlotte Fitzroy, natural daughter of Charles II, by Barbara Villiers, created on 5 June 1674 Baron of Spelsbury, Viscount Quarendon, and Earl of Lichfield. He held various offices connected with Woodstock Park and town, and was lord-lieutenant of Oxfordshire for 1687 and 1688, but retired from public life on refusing to take the oaths to William III. His son George Henry, succeeded him in 1716, and took his seat in the House of Lords. He was made custos brevium in the court of common pleas. He died on 13 Feb. 1742-3. By his wife, Frances, daughter of Sir John Hales, bart., he had three sons and five daughters.

The heir, George Henry, was born on 21 May 1718, matriculated at St. John's College, Oxford, 1736, and was created M.A. 1787. He was elected M.P. for the county of Oxford in 1740, was re-elected in 1741, and sat till 1743, when he succeeded his father as third Earl of Lichfield and custos brevium. In 1759 he stood for the chancellorship of Oxford University in the tory interest, against John Fane, seventh earl of Westmorland [q. v.], and Trevor, bishop of Durham; but he was not considered to have come up to the promise of his youth, and though popular as a jovial companion and a Jacobite, he was defeated by Westmorland, whom, however, he succeeded as high steward. He was made lord of the bed-chamber in 1760, and a privy councillor in 1762. In the same year Westmorland died, and Lichfield was at length elected chancellor of the university in his place, and was created D.C.L. by diploma, 27 Sept. 1762 (Cat. of Oxford Graduates, p. 401 ). He filled the office with 'graceful dignity and polite condescension' (Gent. Mag. xxxiii. 349). He was also a vice-president of the Society of Arts. He died on 19 Sept. 1772, and was buried at Spelsbury, where there is a monument to his memory, with a laudatory epitaph, perhaps by Thomas Warton (Skelton, Engraved Illustrations of the Principal Antiquities of Oxfordshire).

Lichfield married Diana, daughter of Sir Thomas Frankland, bart., of Thirkleby, Yorkshire, and it was remarked that the husband and wife were fourth in descent from Charles II and Cromwell respectively. There was no issue of the marriage, and the title and estates reverted to Lee's surviving uncle, Robert Henry Lee, M.P. for Oxfordshire, at whose death in 1776 the honours became extinct, and the estates passed to a sister of the third earl, Charlotte, the wife of Henry, eleventh viscount Dillon, whose descendants, the present Dillon-Lees, still own Ditchley Park.

The Lichfield clinical professorship at Oxford was founded by a bequest from the third earl, which took effect in 1780, when the trustees (the chancellor, the Bishop of Oxford, and the president of St. John's) became possessed of 7,000l. in consols. John Parsons was the first professor. The conditions of tenure were altered in 1883.

There is a full-length portrait of Lichfield, painted by George Huddesford [q. v.] in 1777, in the Bodleian Gallery.

[Doyle's Official Baronage of England; Burke's Extinct Peerage and Baronetage; Walpole's Memoirs of the Reign of George II; Statutes of the Univ. of Oxford, passim.]

H. E. D. B.