Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lee, Henry (1530-1610)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

LEE, Sir HENRY (1530–1610), master of the ordnance, born in Kent in 1530, was eldest son of Sir Anthony Lee (d. 1550?), of Borston, Buckinghamshire, who was M.P. for the county in 1648, by Margaret, daughter of Sir Henry Wyatt of Allington Castle, Kent. Sir Anthony Lee was descended from Benedict Lee, who was one of the six sons of John Lee of Lee Hall, Cheshire. Henry Lee was, according to his epitaph, educated for a time by his uncle, Sir Thomas Wyatt, and in 1545 entered the service of Henry VIII. In 1549-50 his name occurs in the proceedings of the privy council (Acts, 1547-50, p. 412) as clerk of the armoury. At some period before 1574 he became master of the leash [cf. art. Hellowes, Edward]. He was knighted in 1553, and was member of Parliament for Buckinghamshire in 1558 and 572. On 17 Nov. 1559 Lee was present at a tournament, and made a vow of chivalry that each year he would maintain Elizabeth's honour against all comers. The queen accepted him as her champion, and a Society of Knights Tilters, of which Lee was president, was formed. In his epitaph it is stated that he was regent-marshal in the wars with Scotland. He accompanied the expedition of 1573 to Scotland, and wrote a letter to Burghley (Brit. Mus. MS. Cotton. Cal. C. iv. 78) describing the siege of Edinburgh. About 1570 he became comptroller of Woodstock through the favour of the Earl of Leicester (cf. 'Leicester's Commonwealth fully Epitomised.' Harl. Misc. iv. 581).

Lee belonged to the new school of landowners, with whom landowning was a business. He was a great sheep-farmer. In the storm of 1570 Holinshed says that he lost three thousand sheep, besides other horned cattle. In 1596 he rendered himself obnoxious in Oxfordshire by enclosing many commons (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1595-7, pp. 317, 345), and he seems to have had a good deal of difficulty with the Woodstock farmers.

In 1587 he was engaged in an attempt to reconcile the Earl of Shrewsbury to his son (cf. Lodge, Illustr. ii. 343-53). On 28 July 1588 he wrote from Sheffield to Walsingham that he felt himself but a cipher, and desired to be set to work, and to be no more a looker-on (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1581-90, p. 515). He became in 1590 master of the ordnance, in succession to Ambrose Dudley [q. v.], earl of Warwick, and constant entries of payments in the state papers show (cf. ib. p. 692) that he was thenceforth busily occupied. On 17 Nov. 1590 he resigned his office of personal champion to the queen, and then probably spoke 'the supplication of the old knight,' which is printed in Nichols's 'Progresses of Queen Elizabeth' (iii. 197). In August 1592 the queen visited him at Quarrendon, Buckinghamshire, and was entertained by a masque, 'The Message of the Damsell of the Queene of Paynes.' which was probably by Henry Ferrers [q. v.] Lee is probably identical with the Sir Henry Lee who took part in Essex's expedition to Cadiz in 1596. On 23 April 1597 he became K.G.

James I and his queen visited Woodstock in September 1608, and dined with Lee at the ranger's house (Lodge, iii. 177). Lee's health, which was then failing from age, is said to have been injured by this visit and a subsequent trip to the court. James, however, continued him in his offices, and on 10 Dec. 1603 granted him 200l. and a pension of 200l. a year. In September 1608 Lee gave the young prince (Henry) a suit of armour. He died at Spelsbury, Oxfordshire, on 12 Feb. 1010, and was buried in the chapel at Quarrendon, which he had restored probably after the storm of 1570. His funeral is described in Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 14417, f. 22. He married Anne, daughter of William, lord Paget, and had a daughter Mary, who died without issue. In his later years he carried on an amour with Anne Vavasour, daughter of Henry Vavasour of Copmanthorpe, Yorkshire; she is said in her epitaph to be buried in the same grave as Lee.

Lee was esteemed a model knight. Sylvester has some enthusiastic lines in his praise (Du Bartas, ed. 1611, p. 107). He was a great builder. His large property passed to his cousin, Henry Lee, who was created a baronet in 1611, and was ancestor of Sir Edward Henry Lee, first earl of Lichfield [see Lee, George Henry]. Scott has confused the cousins in 'Woodstock.'

A portrait ascribed to Janssen is in the possession of Viscount Dillon (cf. Chambers, Book of Days, ii. 590).

[Authorities quoted; Notes and Queries. 5th ser. iii. 87, 294, 374; Lipscomb's Buckinghamshire, ii. 403; Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 24445, f. 33 b, &c.: Chamberlain's Letters, ed. Williams (Camd. Soc), p. 149; Lysons's Magna Brit., 'Bucks,' p. 624; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1547–1611, passim; Chambers's Book of Days, ii. 590; Lodge's Illustrations, ii. 343, &c., 353, iii. 177; Marshall's Early Hist, of Woodstock Manor, with suppl. passim.]

W. A. J. A.