Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lee, Richard (1513?-1575)

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LEE, Sir RICHARD (1513?–1575), military engineer, eldest son of Richard Lee and of Elizabeth, daughter of Robert Hall, belonged to a Hertfordshire family called indiscriminately Lee, à Lee, and à Leigh. In 1528 Lee was page of the king's cups, and on 20 Aug. of that year a grant was made to him by the king of an annuity of 6l. In 1533 he was serving with the army at Calais. In July 1540 he was sent by the council of Calais to carry a letter dated 27 July to the king, explaining the progress made with the defences. Lee was sent back to superintend the destruction of a roadway near Calais which belonged to the English but was used by evil-disposed persons on the border of both the English and French pales. The French retaliated by building a strong castle on their boundaries at Arde, and a bridge from it into the English pale, which, although demolished by Lee and his companions, was rebuilt, and formed the subject of much official correspondence. One result was the making of a map of the neighbourhood of Calais for the information of the king ; it is now in the British Museum.

In the autumn of 1540 (Cotton MS.) Lee was appointed surveyor of the king's works. On 8 Sept. 1541 he and seven others, one of them being Lord Maltravers (deputy of Calais), were appointed a commission for surveying and letting the marches of Calais. In July 1543 Lee was instructed to aid Sir John Wallop [q. v.], lieutenant of the castle of Guisnes, in an invasion of the neighbouring French territory. Wallop, in a letter to the privy council, narrates that with the attack on the castle of Fiennes Lee 'toke very gret payne.' He appears to have returned to England when the expedition was over. On 7 Jan. 1544 the manor of Hexton, Hertfordshire, was granted him, and the same year a lease for eighty-one years of the manor of Newland Squillers, Hertfordshire.

In February 1544 Lee spent some weeks in inspecting the fortifications of Tynemouth, and in May he was present at the attack on Leith and Edinburgh. From the chapel of Holyrood he carried off a massive brazen font, which he presented to the abbey church of St. Albans in Hertfordshire, inscribing on it in Latin a statement of its recent history. The font disappeared during the great civil war. Sir Walter Scott ridiculed the incident in his 'Border Antiquities' (1814). Lee also brought from Scotland a brass eagle lectern, which he presented to St. Stephen's Church, St. Albans. Lee, who, according to Hertford, the commander-in-chief, served in this (Scottish) journey both honestly and willingly, presented to the king in May 1544 a plan of Leith and Edinburgh, to enable Henry to 'perceyve the scituacions of the same, which is undoubtedly set fourth as well as possible.'

Lee accompanied the main body of the northern army from Newcastle-on-Tyne to Calais in 1 544. From Calais he went to Boulogne, where he had charge of the defences during the siege in September, and when the siege was raised in October, Lee was left there with only three thousand men and some pioneers. On learning his situation, the king ordered the immediate return of the chief part of the English force to Boulogne, but before the direction could be obeyed the enemy, five thousand strong, were between Calais and Boulogne. Boulogne, although nearly taken managed to repulse the attack owing to the strength of the defences and the gallantry with which they were held. Lee had already been knighted for his services in Scotland, and now for his brilliant services at Boulogne the king presented him, among other property, with the greater part of the monastery domains of St. Albans and with the nunnery of Sopewell, to the south-west of St. Albans. A patent, dated 4 Oct. 1544, also granted to him a new coat of arms.

Late in 1644 Lee came to consult Henry VIII about the further fortification of Calais, and in the early part of 1546 he was busy restoring the defence works both at Calais and Boulogne. In April he was in England, and was sent to examine the defences of the Isle of Thanet in May. At Hertford's request the king sent Lee to advise him about the defence of Yarmouth and the adjoining coast, and in August about the fortifications round Kelso. In August the Duke of Suffolk asked for Lee's assistance at Portsmouth. In May 1646 Lee was sent to Calais to prepare plans showing the boundaries proposed by the French commissioners for the treaty of peace, with orders to bring them when ready personally to the king. In February 1547 Lee was at Boulogne. On 18 May the rectory and right of patronage of the vicarage of Hexton, Hertfordshire, was granted by letters patent to him and his heirs.

Lee accompanied the protector Somerset in his expedition into Scotland in the summer and autumn of 1547, when the pioneers under his orders had hard work in putting the roads in order and in undermining the castle of Dunglas. Lee was present at the assault on the forts of Thornton and Anderwyke, at the action near Hayes Castle 7 Sept., and at the battle of Pinkie or Musselburgh on the 10th. On the 12th he rode with the protector and the council over the position in front of Leith, and it was decided to cut a deep ditch on the east side of that town. In 154e Edward VI granted to Lee the priory of Newent in Gloucestershire. During the next ten years Lee seems to have led a retired life in Hertfordshire, where he demolished the monastic buildings of St. Albans and used the materials for the repair and enlargement of Sopewell Nunnery, which he renamed Lee's Place.

By the charter of 12 May 1563, which incorporated St. Albans, the king granted the abbey church, which had been excepted out of Lee's grant, to the inhabitants for 400l. and a fee farm-rent of 10l., which was to be paid by them to Lee, 'to whom his majesty of his liberalyte hath given the same for his goode and acceptable syrvyse.' Queen Mary's proposal, made in 1556, to re-establish the monastery of St. Albans was not, happily for Lee, carried out at the time of her death. In 1657 Lee was trenchmaster with the English army under the Earl of Pembroke, sent to join the Spaniards under the Duke of Savoy in the Netherlands, and he was present at the siege and capture of St. Quentin.

In December Lee was employed in improving the fortification of Berwick and the Scottish border, and in January 1558 Queen Mary directed him to reside in Berwick as surveyor of fortifications. For more than a year he was busy with the defences, not only of Berwick, but of Tynemouth and Norham; in 1559 he surveyed Leith, Edinburgh, and Inchkeith, and corresponded as an agent of the English court with the Scottish protestants. Lee returned to St. Albans at the end of August, and on 2 Nov. 1559 he was sent on secret service to Antwerp, where he won the good graces of Sir Thomas Chaloner [q. v.] Early in 1560 Lee prepared designs for the building of Upnor Castle on the Med way. At the request of the Duke of Norfolk Lee was sent in March to complete the defence of Berwick.

When late in March the English army had moved forward from Berwick under Lord Grey and was lying within a mile of Leith, Lee was sent by Norfolk to advise on the mode of attacking the place, and to urge Grey to hasten the attack. After making a plan of Leith, which was forwarded to Elizabeth, he returned to Berwick, and on 5 July Leith was demolished. During the next few months Lee was still occupied in surveying and fortifying Berwick.

On 12 Oct. 1562, on instructions from Cecil, Lee went to Dieppe and thence to Havre, which an English force under the Earl of Warwick had undertaken to hold for the French protectants against the army of the Guises. In December Lee's plans for the defence of Havre were in course of execution. On 20 Feb. 1564, Lee and others were appointed a commission on the state of Berwick, n April Lee arrived at Berwick, and in July submitted plans to the queen in London. Although he had leave of absence in the winter of 1564-5, he was vigorously prosecuting the works of defence at Berwick in May 1565. On 26 June Lee reported to the council a visit that he paid to Holy Island in connection with the defence of Berwick. On 2 Nov. 1573 the Earl of Essex requested that Lee might go to Ireland to construct a fort near Belfast.

Lee died in 1575. An epitaph in Latin commemorating Lee and his family is in the chancel of St. Peter's Church, St. Albans, in which parish Sopewell lay. In the drama of ' Sir Jonn Oldcastle' (part i. 1600) is introduced a character called 'Sir Richard Lee of St. Albans.'

Lee married Margaret, daughter of Sir R. Greenfield, a fellow-commander with him at Calais, and had two daughters, coheiresses : the elder, Anne, married Edward Sadler, esq., of Temple Dinsley, Hertfordshire, and of Apsley, Bedfordshire, second son of Sir Ralph Sadler; the younger daughter, Mary or Maud, married Sir Humphrey Coningsby, knt., second son of John Coningsby, esq., of North Mimms, and afterwards Ralph Pemberton, esq.; she died without issue. Lee's Place and the Sopewell property went to Anne, and were settled on her second son, Richard, who married Joyce, daughter of Robert Honywood of Charing, Kent, and had a numerous family. The rest of the property, settled on Maud, passed on her death without issue also to Anne. Langleybury, which formed part of the possessions of the monastery of St. Albans granted to Lee, was sold by him to Queen Elizabeth.

Nicholas Stone, sen., the statuary, had a portrait of Lee, whom he much esteemed. It was painted on board about a foot high, his sword by his side; it went afterwards to Charles Straker, a kinsman of Stone, by whom it was given to Ben Jackson, master-mason, who died 10 May 1719.

[Chauncy's Antiquities of Hertfordshire, 1700; Clutterbuck's History and Antiquities of County of Hertford, 1815; Scott's Border Antiquities, 1814; Patten's Expedition into Scotland, 1548; State Papers and Letters of Sir Ralph Sadler, 1809; Stevenson's Calendar of State Papers, 1863-7-9; Palgrave's Ancient Kalendars and Inventories of the Treasury of the Exchequer, 1836; Ridpath's Border History, 1776; Fragments of Scottish History, 1798; Hayne's State Papers of Burghley, 1740; Calendars of State Papers, Henry VIII, 1836, Scottish Series, 1858, Lemon's, 1856, Turnbull's, 1861; Original Documents, Naval and Military Affairs, 16th and 17th Centuries, Brit. Museum; Original Documents relating to the Affairs of France, &c, 16th and 17th Centuries, Addit. MSS. Brit. Museum; Nichols's Chronicle of Calais, 1846 (Camd. Soc.); Camden's Britannia, by Gibson, 1772; Fuller's Worthies of England, ed. Nichols, 1811; Lodge's Illustrated British Hist. 1791; Nichols's Diary of Henry Machyn, 1848; Grose's Military Antiquities, 1801; Cott MSS. Faustina, Caligula; Weever's Funerall Monuments, 1767; Walpole's Anecdotes of Painting, 1782; Gent. Mag. vol. lii. 1782; Edinburgh Review, August 1810.]

R. H. V.