Sir Henry LEE, Knight

Born: ABT 1532, Quarendon, Buckinghamshire, England

Died: 12 Feb 1611, Spelsbury, England

Notes: Knight of the Garter.

Father: Anthony LEE (Sir)

Mother: Margaret WYATT

Married: Anne PAGET


1. John LEE

2. Henry LEE

3. Mary LEE

Associated with: Anne VAVASOUR


4. Thomas LEE

Lee,Henry(Sir).jpg (95095 bytes)

Sir Henry Lee

by Antonis Mor
oil on panel, 1568

National Portrait Gallery

The details in this biography come from the History of Parliament, a biographical dictionary of Members of the House of Commons.

First son of Sir Anthony Lee of Quarendon by Margaret, dau. of Sir Henry Wyatt of Allington Castle, Kent; brother of Robert and half-brother of Richard Lee. Educ. New Coll. Oxf. Married by 1554, Anne, dau. of William Paget, 1st Baron Paget, by whom he had two sons and one dau.; all d.v.p. Suc. family 24 Nov 1549. Kntd. 2 Oct 1553; KG 23 Apr 1597. ?In King's household c.1545; clerk of armoury by 1550; capt. of Berwick 1558; on embassy to France May 1559; royal champion Nov. 1559-90; regent marshal against Scots 1573; master of the leash by 1574, of the armoury Jun 1580 to at least 1602; constable of Harlech castle to 1600. J.p. Bucks. from c.1559, rem. for a short time 1564, commr. musters by 1573, enclosure Bucks. and Oxon.; j.p. Oxon by 1575; lt., steward and keeper of Woodstock park 1573; high steward Woodstock by 1580.

As royal champion Lee took part in many tournaments and other court functions, and between 1569 and 1573 fought against the northern rebels and the Scots. He is probably best known as lieutenant of Woodstock, a position he gained through Sir Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Elizabeth visited him there after the Kenilworth entertainment of 1575, and again in 1592. Lee quarrelled with George Whitton over their respective positions at Woodstock, and in 1581, following a lawsuit, Whitton was imprisoned for a short time. Lee used his position at Woodstock to gain parliamentary seats for his half-brother Richard, and his more distant relative John Lee. He was himself four times knight of the shire for Buckinghamshire. He is not known to have spoken in the House, but was appointed to committees on the subsidy (10 Feb. 1576, 25 Jan 1581), the seditious practices bill (1 Feb 1581), the bill against slanderous libelling (3 Feb), and one to fortify the frontier with Scotland (25 Feb). On 4 Feb he was one of those given a general commission to inquire into the Arthur Hall privilege case.

Lee,Henry(Sir)02.jpg (39050 bytes)

Vavasour,Anne.jpg (29416 bytes)

Anne Vavasour

c. 1605
Collection of the Armourers and Brasiers of the City of London

Lee had considerable estates in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. He lost as many as 3,000 sheep in the great storm of 1570, and was reported to be building four goodly mansions in the county. By 1580 he was in financial difficulties and the Queen made him a loan. Typically for an Elizabethan enclosure commissioner he was himself in trouble for enclosure, in 1596. At court he appears as a peacemaker, attempting to reconcile George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury with his son, and in 1598 trying to persuade Robert Devereaux, 2nd Earl of Essex to ask the Queen's forgiveness. Your wrongs may be greater than you can well digest, but consider how great she is, and how willing to be conquered. He continued in favour under James I, who in Sep 1603 dined with him at Ditchley, near Woodstock, and later the same year granted him a pension of 200 p.a. Lee died at Spelsbury 12 Feb 1611, aged 80. His last years were spent with his mistress, Anne Vavasour, sister of Thomas, with whom Lee had contended at the tilt as long ago as 1584, when Anne was a gentlewoman of the bedchamber to Queen Elizabeth. The Queen apparently approved of their liaison, as the couple entertained her at Ditchley House in Sep 1592. In 1605, Lee pensioned off Capt. John Finch, the husband who Anne had married BEF 1590; and left Anne an income of 700 per year in his will, some property, and instructions for their joint burial in the tomb he had had erected for them in Quarrendon, Buckinghamshire.

John Aubrey wrote:

He erected a noble altar monument of marble, whereon his effigies in armour lay. At the feet was [that] of his mistress, Anne Vavasour. Which occasioned these verses:

Here lies the good old knight Sir Harry,

Who loved well but would not marry;

While he lived and had his feeling,

She did lie and he was kneeling.

Now he's dead and cannot feel,

He doth lie and she doth kneel.

The heir was Lee's cousin Henry, created baronet in 1611.


E. K. Chambers: Sir Henry Lee.
to Bios Page

to Family Page

to Peerage Page to Home Page