Rowland LEE

(Bishop of Conventry and Lichfield)

Died: 1543

English Bishop. Educated at Cambridge, he received preferments under the patronage of Cardinal Wolsey, who employed him in the suppression of the monasteries (152829). He was greatly esteemed by Henry VIII and is believed to have performed the ceremony of Henry's marriage to Anne Boleyn (1533). He was one of the first bishops to take the oath of supremacy recognizing Henry as Head of the Church.

In 1534 he was made Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, and President of the Council of the Marches in Wales, where he proved to be an efficient administrator. The two acts of union - in 1536 and 1543 - are considered by many as the point at which Wales ceased to be a separate entity and became assimilated as part of England. Henry VIII (perhaps at the instigation of his Chief Administrator, Thomas Cromwell) was eager to see uniformity throughout his relm. In Ireland the Earl of Kildare was dismissed as governor and replaced by a military captain, Sir William Skeffington; in the north, Lord Dacre was removed from the wardenship of the west marches towards Scotland and replaced by the Earl of Cumberland; and in Wales Bishop Rowland Lee replaced Bishop Veysey of Exeter as president - all in the same month. Dacre and Kildare indeed found themselves charged with treason, allegedly because of their contacts with the King's Scottish and Irish enemies.

Bringing the Welsh into the Union would require strong measures. Rowland Lee was given the task of taming the Welsh, something he proceded to do with great energy and enthusiasm. During the period between the two Acts he conducted a reign of terror in Wales.

His entusiasm for hanging was legendary. He acted according to the principle that its better to hang a hundred too many than one too few. The number he hung is a matter of dispute, but according to one contemporary account it was five thousand. There is even one account of him hanging a dead body, such was his anger at the opportunity missed.

He died in the same year as the that the second of the Acts was passed, marking a new and more peaceful period for Wales.

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