Lee, Thomas (DNB00)

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LEE, THOMAS (d. 1601), captain in Ireland, and supporter of Robert, earl of Essex, was by birth an Englishman and a protestant. In a letter to Lord Burghley (State Papers, Ireland, Eliz. ci. 47) he represents himself as belonging to the same family as Sir Henry Lee or Leigh (1531–1610) [q. v.] of Quarrendon, Buckinghamshire. Lee came to Ireland shortly before 1576, probably in 1574, as an undertaker under Walter Devereux, earl of Essex [q. v.], for in 1576 he figures as constable of Carrickfergus in the absence of Captain Piers (Cal. Carew, MSS. ii. 45). He advanced himself by a marriage with Elizabeth Eustace, a widow, whose maiden name was Peppard (Cal. of Fiants, Eliz. No. 3972), and through her came into possession of considerable property, including probably Castlemartin in co. Kildare (State Papers, Ireland, Eliz. cii. 57). In 1581 he was employed by the lord deputy, Arthur, lord Grey of Wilton, in suppressing the rebellion of the Eustaces, and took considerable credit to himself for his share in the capture of Thomas Eustace, brother of Viscount Baltinglas (ib. ex. 68). But his activity in this sphere brought him into open conflict with many landowners, including the Earl of Ormonde, who objected to his trespassing in the county of Tipperary (ib. c. 52). On the other hand, Archbishop Loftus admitted he had with his twenty-four horsemen ' done more good service than anyone captain in this land' (ib. lxxxviii. 26). In February 1583 Lee's band was discharged, but it was found that the horses and their equipment were his own 'proper goods' (ib. xcix. 74), and Fenton, when commending him to Walsingham for further employment, did more than hint that he was not so much to blame as Ormonde wished to make out, 'though it may be,' he added, 'he is not without his portion of that common and secret envy which biteth most of us that serve here' (ib. c. 52). He had already greatly added to his possessions in the county by the purchase of custodians and other interests, including the castle of Reban, which he bought outright from the Baron of Reban, Sir Walter Fitzgerald, usually called Sir Walter de St. Michael (ib. Dom. Eliz. ccxxviii. 33), and he petitioned in April 1583 to have a grant of the castle in fee-farm at a reasonable rent (ib. Ireland, Eliz. ci. 47). At the same time he offered, if he might have twenty-five horsemen and fifty footmen, to defend the county 'from the incursions and spoils of the rebels,' &c. (Morrin, Cal. Pat. Rolls, ii. 44). His petition was favourably received. The queen expressed her willingness to grant him the fee-farm of the lands he solicited, and commended his offer to the lords justices. Neither Loftus nor Wallop at first thought much of his plan (State Papers, Ireland, Eliz. cvii. 26), but a few months later the former confessed that Lee had certainly 'deserved what he asked for, having done better service than could have been expected . . . and hath so weeded those parts of that lewd sort of people as the inhabitants of their own report find great quiet and better security of their lives, goods, and cattle than of many years they have had' (ib. cix. 56, 57). In the winter of 1584–5 he served 'chargeably, with loss of horses to his great hindrance' (ib. cxv. 89), under Sir H. Bagenal and Sir W. Stanley, in the north of Ireland against Sorley Boy MacDonnell [q. v.] After a brief visit to England, he was in the autumn of 1585 employed by the lord deputy, Sir John Perrot, to prosecute Cahir Ore Kavanagh, 'a notable traitor.' Following Cahir into county Kilkenny, Lee was met by the sheriff, who 'grew to words, and so to blows, with the said Lee.' In the skirmish Lee managed to capture the sheriff and killed several of his men. Perrot acknowledged that he had only done his duty, but Lee, fearing the consequences of having offended two such powerful noblemen as Ormonde and Kildare, appealed directly to Walsingham for his support, especially against the former, 'of old being mine ancient foe' (ib. cxix. 11, 15). In October 1587 it was reported that a plot of Lee's against Walter Reagh, the head of the bastard Leinster Geraldines, had been frustrated through the treachery of Mrs. Lee, and that Lee had in consequence separated from her (Cal. State Papers, Ireland, iii. 428). There appears to have been little truth in the allegation, for Lee, having for some obscure reason shortly afterwards incurred Perrot's displeasure, and been by him deprived of his company and imprisoned for eight weeks in Dublin Castle (State Papers, Dom. Eliz. ccxxviii. 33), sent his wife over to England to plead his cause at court (Cal. State Papers, Ireland, Eliz. iv. 57, 62). Mrs. Lee's mission appears to have been in some measure successful, for in 1593 Lee, although no favourite of the lord deputy, Sir William Fitzwilliam, was actively employed in the expedition against Hugh Maguire,and was warmly commended for his bravery, not only by Tyrone (ib. v. 166), with whom he was supposed to be suspiciously intimate, but also by Sir H. Bagenal (ib. p. 172). In March 1594, when Archbishop Loftus, Sir Richard Gardiner, and Sir Anthony St. Leger were engaged in negotiating with Tyrone, Lee, owing to his intimacy with him, proved a useful intermediary (ib. pp. 222, 225, 226). At this time he evidently believed in Tyrone's protestations of loyalty, and it was doubtless in consequence of representations made by him to this effect that he was summoned to England. Fitzwilliam, who cordially hated Lee, did his utmost to damage his credit with Burghley, representing him to be 'indigent and desperate,' and desiring that 'he should be barred all access to her royal sacred person, sith her majesty may know otherwise all he can say' (State Papers, Ireland, clxxiv. 88). For the rest Fitzwilliam utterly denied his statement that Tyrone had been driven into rebellious courses by incursions into his country, 'unless haply he mean the service in Fermanagh and Monaghan' (ib. clxxv. 5). It was probably on this occasion that Lee wrote his 'Brief Declaration of the Government of Ireland.' Shortly after his return to Ireland he again, in September 1595, fell into disgrace, for what Sir Henry Harrington described as his 'cruel murder' of Kedagh MacPhelim Reagh and the 'sore wounding' of his brother Dermot, 'who had led the draught for taking' Walter Reagh (Cal. State Papers, Ireland, v. 397). In consequence he was again, for a time, imprisoned in Dublin Castle (ib. p. 432). His detention was apparently of short duration, for in March 1596 he accompanied the lord deputy, Sir W. Russell, against a party of Scots and Connaught rebels in O'Madden's country (ib. pp. 490-1). On 1 April he addressed a letter to Burghley on the situation of affairs in Ulster, urging a conciliatory policy in regard to the Earl of Tyrone, who he declared would go to England if he had a safe-conduct direct from the queen (ib. p. 506, and Sir R. Cecil's reply Cal. Carew MSS. iii. 180). In December the deputy reported that Lee had sent in the heads of seventeen traitors (Cal. Carew MSS. iii. 263), and in April 1597 he was created provost-marshal of Connaught (ib. p. 258 ; Cal. of Hants, Eliz. No. 6072). In the following month he commanded the party that killed Feagh MacHugh O'Byrne among the Wicklow mountains (Cal. Carew MSS. iii. 259). Apparently, however, about the time when when Tyrone defeated Bagenal at the battle of the Yellow Ford (August 1598), Lee was again imprisoned in Dublin Castle, this time on suspicion of holding treasonable communication with Tyrone. Lee denied the charge, and attributed his imprisonment to the malice of Thomas Jones (1550 ?-1619) [q. v.], bishop of Meath (Lee, Apology, Addit. MS. 33743). The situation of the kingdom was, however, so desperate that, after a detention of about twenty weeks, he was liberated, and by his own account did good service in revictualling the castle of Maryborough and in prosecuting Phelim MacFeagh O'Byrne and the rebels who invested the Pale. The allusions in his 'Apology' to his service against Tyrone and his relations with Robert, earl of Essex, are obscure, but it would appear that about the time of Sir Conyers Clifford's defeat (August 1599) he consented, at Tyrone's request and with the cognisance of Sir Christopher Blount, to visit Tyrone. He found the earl 'quite changed from his former disposition, and possessed with insolency ana arrogancy' (ib. f. 181) ; and having vainly endeavoured to induce him to submit, left him and cursed the day that ever he had known him. When Essex left Ireland in September 1599, Lee either accompanied him or followed shortly afterwards. During the interval that elapsed before his arrest he wrote his 'Discovery and Recovery of Ireland, with the Author's Apology.' He was arrested on 12 Feb. 1601 on a charge of attempting to procure the release of the Earls of Essex and Southampton by force. At his trial the following day he denied the construction put upon his words by the attorney-general, but spoke boldly in defence of Essex, who it appears had written to commend him to Lord-deputy Mountjoy. He admitted that 'it was ever my fault to be loose and lavish of my tongue,' but 'he had lived in misery and cared not to live, his enemies were so many and so great.' As a favour he begged that his son 'might have no wrong, and that he might have that little that he had got together and should leave behind him.' He was executed next day at Tyburn, dying 'very Christianly' (Cobbett, State Trials, i. 1403-10 ; Camden, Annales; Cal. Carew MSS. iv. 37).

Lee wrote : 1. 'A Brief Declaration of the Government of Ireland. Opening many Corruptions in the same. Discovering the Discontentments of the Irishry, and the Causes moving those expected Troubles, and shewing means how to establish Quietness in that Kingdom honourably, to your Majesty's profit, without any encrease of Charge. This tract was first published by Lodge in 'Desiderata Curiosa Hibernica,' i. 87-150, Dublin, 1772, from a manuscript in Trinity College, Dublin, and was subsequently reprinted in Curry's 'Review of the Civil Wars in Ireland, App. i. 2. 'The Discouerye and Recouerye of Ireland, witli the Author's Apologye.' written in 1599-1600. Several copies of this tract, which has never been printed, are known to be in existence. One is in the possession of Viscount Dillon at Dytchley in Oxfordshire, another in that of Lord Calthorpe, and a third in the British Museum, Additional MS. 33743. Lee professed to be a plain, outspoken soldier, and his writing reflects the character of the man. It is vigorous and often abusive, but there is a substantial substratum of useful matter in it for the historian of Ireland in the latter years of Queen Elizabeth's reign.

[State Papers, Eliz., Ireland, and Domestic; Hamilton's Cal. of Irish State Papers; Brewer's Cal. of Carew MSS.; Morrin's Cal. of Patent Rolls; Cal. of Fiants; Spedding's Letters and Life of Lord Bacon, vol. ii.; Camden's Annals; Cobbett's State Trials; Devereux's Earls of Essex; Hist. MSS. Comm. 2nd Rep. App. pp. 31, 40, and 8th Rep. App. p. 582; Lodge's Desiderata Curiosa Hibernica; Addit. MS. 33743.]

R. D.