Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lee, Rowland

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
1423231Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 32 — Lee, Rowland1892James Tait

LEE or LEGH, ROWLAND (d. 1543), bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, and lord president of the council in the marches of Wales, was the son of William Lee of Morpeth, Northumberland, receiver-general of Berwick in 1509, who seems to have died in 1511. His mother Isabel was daughter and heiress of Sir Andrew Trollope of Thornley, co. Durham (Wood, Fasti Oxonienses, i. 68-69 ; Letters and Papers of the Reign of Henry VIII, i. 186, 1845). Lee was educated in St. Nicholas Hostel, Cambridge (a 'hospitium luristarum,' since merged in Emmanuel College), and became LL.B. (1510?) and doctor of decrees (1520) ; in 1524 he supplicated for incorporation at Oxford, but with what success is unknown (Wood). On 8 Oct. 1520 he was admitted an advocate. He was ordained priest and invested with a prebend in the collegiate church of Norton by Smyth, bishop of Lincoln, on 18 Dec. He was presented to the rectories of Banham, Norfolk, on 26 Oct. 1520, of Ashdon, Essex, on 24 July 1522 (Newcourt, Repertorivm, ii. 16), and Fenny Compton, Warwickshire, on 1 Oct. 1526. By virtue of bulls from three successive popes he held all three livings until 1533 (Dugdale, Warwickshire, i. 520). Lee also became prebendary of Curborough in Lichfield Cathedral on 7 April and according to a statement of Wood (confirmed by Letters and Papers, vii. 967) chancellor to Bishop Blythe (cf. Kennett in Lansdowne MS. 980, f. 24, in British Museum), archdeacon of Cornwall on 8 Sept. 1528, and apparently archdeacon of Taunton, though he is not in Le Neve's list. He may be the Dr. Lee who held the prebend of Wetwang in the cathedral of York (Letters and Papers Henry VIII, vi. 735). He had a small prebend at Ripon (ib. 6 Oct. 1533).

Lee first appears in public life in 1528, under the patronage of Wolsey, to whom he no doubt owed his many preferments. As Wolsey's commissary with Stephen Gardiner, and accompanied by Thomas Cromwell, he suppressed in September 1528 Felixstowe and other monasteries appropriated to Cardinal's College, Ipswich, which he visited 'for the induction of certain priests, clerks, and children' (ib.) On 1 April 1529 Lee suppressed the priory of Mountjoy, Norfolk, for Wolsey, with Cromwell as witness; took the fealty of the new abbot of SS. Peter and Paul, Shrewsbury, on 30 July; and was summoned personaliter to convocation in November (ib.) He visited Wolsey in 1530, and at his desire wrote to his 'loving friend,' Cromwell, for news of his 'good speed concerning the cardinal's pardon' (ib. iv. 6212). After Wolsey's death he shared in the rise of Cromwell, who placed his son Gregory under Lee's care (ib. v. 479; Ellis, Letters, 3rd ser. i. 338), and became a chief agent of the king and his minister both in their dealings with the monks and the clergy and in the divorce proceedings. He was rewarded with the posts of royal chaplain and master in chancery, and (19 Aug. 1532) the living of St. Sepulchre's, Newgate, London. The last preferment he resigned on 18 Dec. of the same year.

From 1531 to 1534 Lee was constantly employed in the king's service. He was at York at the end of April 1531. On 17 June he visited Athelney, Somerset, and on 5 July Malmesbury, 'signifying the king's pleasure in the election of new abbots' (Letters and Papers Henry VIII). On 24 Feb. 1532 he and Dr. Oliver received the surrender of the Austin Priory of the Holy Trinity, London, in July he visited the priory of Montacute, Somerset, and the abbey of Michelney, Somerset, to direct the election of a new prior and abbot (ib.) It has often been asserted that the crowning service by which Lee earned his bishopric was the celebration of the secret marriage between Henry and Anne Boleyn 'on or about the 25 Jan. 1538.' This rests on the somewhat circumstantial narrative of the catholic Nicholas Harpsfield [q. v.], in his treatise on the 'Pretended Divorce of Henry VIII' (Camden Soc. ed. pp. 234–5). Harpsfield reports an alleged conversation, in which the king only allayed Lee's fears and scruples by asserting his possession of a license from the pope. Burnet accepted the fact of his officiating, but rejected the story of his scruples, 'since he did afterwards turn over to the popish party' (Hist. of Reformation, vol. i. pt. i. p. 255, pt. ii. p. 430, Oxford edit. 1829). Rumour at the time pointed not to Lee, but to Cranmer, as the officiating minister. Cranmer, however, denied the allegation (Spanish Calendar, vol. iv. pt. i. p. 609: cf. Letters and Papers, vi. 333). During April 1538 Lee's services were in constant request in the critical stage of the divorce proceedings; documents were drafted and transcribed under his superintendence, and he had meetings with Cranmer. On 21 April he requested Cromwell to assure the king that he 'shall not be found oblivious in his great matter.' The convocation of Canterbury having recognised the illegality of the king's first marriage, Lee was despatched on 24 April to secure a similar declaration from the convocation of York, where more resistance was expected. Arriving at York on 29 April, he went next day to Auckland, where he found the Bishop of Durham 'not tractable,' and after a more successful visit to the Abbot of Fountains returned to York, where convocation on 14 May, wrote Edward Leighton, 'answered the king's questions with as much towardness as ever I saw in my life, thanks to the labours of Dr. Lee' (ib. vi. 398–400, 437, 451, 491). He was at Tuxford in Nottinghamshire, on his way back on 16 May, at Stamford on the 17th, and reached London on the 20th (ib. pp. 493,494).

From the middle of June to the middle of July he went to and fro between Malmesbury and Burton-on-Trent, at both of which places there were troubles about monastic elections. In August he was at Ashdon and at Bromehill in Norfolk, where he and Gregory Cromwell 'killed a great buck,' and he sent partridges to Thomas Cromwell (ib.) Lee was granted custody of the temporalities of the see of Coventry and Lichfield, or Chester as it was colloquially called, for which he had been designated as early as December 1532, on 18 Dec 1533, was elected bishop on 10 Jan. 1534, and was consecrated by Cranmer at Croydon 19 April (Fœdera, xiv. 481, 485, 486, 528, original ed.; Le Neve; Kennett). He and two other bishops were the first to take the new oath on consecration, recognising the king as supreme head of the church of England, &c. (Burnet, vol. iii. pt. ii. p. 268). No confirmation of their appointment was obtained from the pope. One of Cromwell's correspondents welcomed Lee's appointment, 'for I shall reckon you bishop there yourself;' another, Vaughan, one of his agents abroad, wrote on 1 Nov. 1533: 'You have lately holpen an earthly beast, a mole and an enemy to all godly learning, into the office of his damnation — a papist, an idolator, and a fleshly priest into a bishop of Chester' (Letters and Papers). It was not until the summer of 1534 that Lee was released from his old employments. In December 1533 he and Thomas Bed^U were at Canterbury investigating the doings of the Nun of Kent. Towards the end of the month he wrote to Cromwell : 'I have nearly perfected your book, and it shall be clear written to-morrow' (ib. vi. 1567). The reference may be to the book of nine articles upon the validity of the king's second marriage, made by the council which is mentioned by Chapuys on 27 Dec. (ib.)

Early in 1534 he made vain efforts to obtain acknowledgments of the validity of the marriage with Anne Boleyn from Stokesley, bishop of London, and from Fisher, bishop of Rochester, who was in the Tower (ib.) In May he accompanied Archbishop Lee and Tunstall in their futile interview with Catherine (State Papers, Henry VIII, i. 421), and with Bedyll administered the, oath of allegiance to Anne Boleyn and to the Carthusians of Shene, and the Charterhouse (Letters and Papers, vii. 728 ; Fœdera, xiv. 491). His name appears among those who attested the conclusion of the convocation of York, 5 May, that the Bishop of Borne has no authority in England (Letters and Papers) . In June he and Bedyll vainly attempted to 'drive reason into the obstinate heads' of the Friars Observants of Richmond and Greenwich (ib. vii. 841 ; Gasquet, Henry VIII and the Monasteries, i. 183-5, 208).

At the end of June he set out for his diocese, taking Gregory Cromwell and his tutor with him, was very heartily welcomed, being 'beloved for his gentle dealing during his chancellorship there' (Letters and Papers, vii. 967). He assured Cromwell that though they were separated 'he was still his own' (ib. 10 July). He had as early as May been appointed president of the king's (until recently Princess [Mary]'s) council or commissioners in the marches ot Wales, in place of John Voysey, bishop of Exeter [q. v.], under whom the lawlessness of the marches had become intolerable (ib. vi. 946 ; cf. Froude, Hist. of England, iii. 419-23). Lee at once caused stringent articles to be made for the better preservation of order in the marches, an act of parliament ordered felonies committed in Wales to be tried in the next English county, and the new council was given a more summary jurisdiction. Lee was empowered to put down crime by capital punishment, which had been regarded as unbefitting the spiritual office of his predecessors, who were also bishops, and he acted upon his statement to Cromwell that 'if we should do nothing but as the common law will, these things so far out of order will never be redressed' (MS. Letter to Cromwell, 18 July 1538, Record Office).

Lee devoted his whole energies to the rooting out of Welsh disorder. It was rarely that he could 'steal home' to Lichfield, and his visits to London were rarer still. His presence was constantly required at different points in the marches, while he held his courts in all the adjoining English counties. He was constantly moving between the head-quarters of the council at Ludlow, and Shrewsbury, near which at Shotton he had a manor, to which the tradition of 'Bishop Rowland's' summary justice long clung (Owen and Blakeway, Hist. of Shrewsbury, i. 311). He kept up as before a constant correspondence with Cromwell, which gives a graphic picture of his difficulties and the iron will with which he grappled with them. The Earl of Worcester and other lords marchers attempted to evade his authority, 'shire-gentlemen' disdained his inferior court, he was sometimes disavowed by Cromwell, and recovered with difficulty the expenses he incurred in the repair of the royal castles. He was often ill, but he carried out his policy without faltering. At one sessions he hanged 'four of the best blood in the county of Shropshire;' in January 1536 he reports the execution of an outlaw who was 'brought in in a sack, trussed on a horse, and hanged on a gallows for a sign on market day m the presence of three hundred people' (Ellis, Letters, 3rd ser. iii. 13). ' Daily, he wrote to Cromwell, 'the outlaws submit themselves or be taken. If he be taken he playeth his pageant. If he submit himself I take him to God's mercy and the king's grace upon his fine' (Letters and Papers, viii. 584). Church robbers were hunted down (cf. Letters and Papers, x. 130). But whenever he was absent there was a fresh outbreak of felonies (ib. xii. 1237). Lee is credited with having first compelled the Welsh gentry to abridge their long names, making them drop all out the last (Ellis, Letters, 3rd series, ii. 364). It was long believed that it was by Lord-president Lee's advice that Henry VlII completed the division of Wales into shires, and incorporated it with England (Anglia Sacra, i. 45o ; Godwin, De Præsulibus, p. 342, ed. 1743). The reverse was the case. He protested vigorously against the statute of 1536, making Wales shire-ground and giving it justices of the peace and gaol delivery as in England. ' If one thief shall try another, all we have here begun is foredone' (State Papers, i. 454). Whether at his instance, or for other reasons, the 'shiring' of the marches seems to have been postponed for some years, for in 1539 and 1540 Lee commended petitions urging that the country was better as it was than as shire-ground. On 11 April 1540 he writes that he has been asked to head the commis- sion for translating Denbighland into shire- ground, but being asked his opinion, thinks it unwise (letters to Cromwell in Record Office). This is the last of Lee's extant letters to Cromwell, who was arrested two months later, and we hear little or nothing of the last three years of his presidency. Lee rarely found time to visit the eastern parts of his vast diocese, nor was he well fitted for pastoral oversight. From 24 June 1537 he had a suffragan bishop of Shrewsbury, Lewis Thomas, late abbot of Cwmhir (Owen and Blakeway, i. 316). When the clergy were required in 1535 to preach against the usurped power of the bishop of Rome, he declared himself ready to ride to his diocese and in his own person, 'though I was never hitherto in pulpit.' execute the order (Letters and Papers, viii. 839). He signed by proxy as a member of convocation the articles of religion of 1536 (Burnet, vol. i. pt, ii. p. 473), and in 1537 the preface to 'The Institution of a Christian Man' (Wilkins, Concilia, iii. 830). In June 1538 he was taken to task for not paying due heed to the 'Injunctions' of that year, but blamed his chancellor, and had them printed for his visitation (letter in Record Office ; Burnet, vol. iii. pt. i. p. 258, pt. ii. pp. 191-5). The catholics afterwards elievea that he disapproved of the separation from Home (ib. vol. 1. pt. ii. p. 430). He was on good terms with the abbots of his diocese, but received the surrender of the abbot and convent of Wigmore in November 1538 (letters to Cromwell). His intercession rescued the shrine of St. Chad in Lichfield Cathedral from the general confiscation in 1538, but he failed to save the great church of Coventry, which he begged (12 Jan. 1539) should be left standing for his own honour and the benefit of the town (Anglia Sacra, i. 457; Letters to Cromwell).

Lee's interests sometimes suffered by his absence from court. In 1537 the king insisted on his surrendering the London house of his see in the Strand 'without Temple-barre' to Viscount Beauchamp, afterwards duke of Somerset, and in spite of his protests he had to agree. He heard that there was some talk of superseding him as lord president in favour of the Bishop of Hereford (Letters and Papers, xii. 986). As a solatium he was granted the church of Hanbury, Staffordshire, on 28 Jan. 1538 (Fœdera, xiv. 585; letters to Cromwell). After pressing his claims for several years he obtained a grant of the estates of the Austin priory of St. Thomas, near Stafford, on 13 Oct. 1539 (Patent Bolls, 31 Henry VHI).

Lee's signature is appended to the document in which on 9 July 1540 the clergy declared the king's marriage with Anne Boleyn void (State Papers, i. 633). The privy council sent an order to him on 18 Sept. 1542 (Acts of Privy Council, p. 38). He died in the college of St. Chad's, Shrewsbury, of which his brother, George Lee, was dean, on 28 Jan. 1543, according to the 'Inquisitio post mortem' in the Record Office; on 24 Jan. according to another account (Anglia Sacra, i . 466); an early seventeenth-century chronicle of Shrewsbury (Owen and Blakeway, i. 340) gives 27 Jan. as the date, and adds that he brought Wales into civility before he died, and had said that 'he would make the white sheep keep the black.'

He was buried in St. Chad's Church, Shrewsbury, under a raised monument of marble without figure or inscription, before the high altar on the south, whence it was removed in 1720 'to make way to come up to the altar' (ib).

Father Forest in 1533 accused Cromwell of being the i maintainer of Dr. Lee against his wife' (Ellis, Letters, 3rd ser. ii. 249). Mr. Gairdner identifies this Dr. Lee with Roland Lee, but there is no other trace of his wife (Letters and Papers, v. 1525). Lee had one brother and a sister. The brother George Lee, LL.B., succeeded him in the benefice at Ashdon, and was by his means preferred to be master of St. John's Hospital, Lichfield, 23 March 1536, prebendary of Bishopshill, 7 May 1537, and of Wellington, 21 Dec. 1538, treasurer of Lichfield, which office he is supposed to have held until 1571, and lastly, dean of St. Chad's 8 Jan. 1542 (Chubton, Lives of Smyth and Sutton, p. 485 ; Owek and Blaxe- way, ii . 20 1 ). He was upwards of fifty years of age at his brother's death. Their sister Isabel married Roger Fowler of Bromehill, Norfolk, of an ancient Buckinghamshire family ; by their early deaths their five sons and three daughters came under the care of Lee, who married the daughters, and divided the St. Thomas estates among his four surviving nephews, descendants of one of whom are still seated in Staffordshire (Inquisitio post mortem of Lee ; letters in Record Office).

[The fullest information about Lee is obtained from his extensive correspondence with Cromwell, extending from 1530 to 1540, and preserved in the Record Office. It is calendared with other documents relating to him down to 1537. Wood, Kennett, and otbers used a short life, in the History of Lichfield, written, it is thought, by William Whitelock, canon of Lichfield about 1585, and printed in Anglia Sacra (i. 456). For his lord

presidency see also Hon. K. H. Olive's Documents connected with the History of Ludlow and the Lords Marchers, 1841; Churton's Lives of Smyth and Sutton; Herald and Genealogist, iii. 226; Cooper's Athenæ Cantabrigienses, i. 81. Other authorities in text.]

J. T-t.