Henry Lee, MP and Queen's Champion (c.1536 - 1611)

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Death: Died in Buckinghamshire, UK
Managed by: Oliver Marcus Stedall
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Henry Lee, MP and Queen's Champion

Family and Education

b. 1530/31, 1st s. of Sir Anthony Lee of Quarrendon by Margaret, da. of Sir Henry Wyatt of Arlington Castle, Kent; bro. of Robert Lee† and half-bro. of Richard Lee†. educ. New Coll. Oxf. m. by 1554, Anne, da. of William Paget, 1st Baron Paget, 2s. 1da. all d.v.p. suc. fa. 24 Nov. 1549. Kntd. 2 Oct. 1553; KG nom. 23. Apr. inst. 24 May 1597.1

Offices Held

Clerk, the armoury by 1550, master June 1580-1602 or later; j.p. Bucks. by 1558/59-77 or later, q. by 1579-96 or later, Oxon. by 1577-96 or later; royal champion Nov. 1559-60; commr. musters, Oxon. 1573; steward, Woodstock, Oxon. 1573; master of the leash by 1574; constable, Harlech castle, Merion. by 1600.2

Biography

Henry Lee was in his late ’teens when his father died, but according to his monumental inscription, composed by a Kentish relative, he owed his childhood to Kent and Sir Thomas Wyatt I, and his youth to the court of Henry VIII, into whose service he was sworn at the age of 14. It was perhaps these circumstances which gave rise to the supposition that he was the King’s son. In 1537 his grandfather Sir Henry Wyatt left him £10 for his schooling, and this may have included a spell at Oxford where, on his own testimony in old age, he was once at New College. His name does not appear on the list of household officers and others drawn up for Henry VIII’s funeral, but within three years, and while still under age, he appears to have obtained a clerkship in the armoury; in March 1550 he accounted for the wages of the armourers for the previous nine months. By then he had succeeded to the family seat at Quarrendon and a string of Buckinghamshire manors.3

It is not known whether Lee took any part in the succession crisis of 1553, but if he joined his neighbours in Buckinghamshire who rallied to Mary his knighting at her coronation could have been the reward for that service. He may also have been sponsored by the 1st Baron Paget, to whose daughter he was probably already affianced if not married: Paget’s disgrace in the autumn of 1551 could have delayed the marriage but on Mary’s accession he was restored to favour and a settlement in May 1554 sealed the alliance. If Paget had maintained his early ascendancy Lee might have come to the fore sooner, but apart from an assignment to attend the burning of Latimer and Ridley at Oxford in October 1555, probably as an aide to Sir John Williams, Lord Williams of Thame, who was sent there to preserve order, he was given no public duties until the last year of the reign. His election as knight of the shire was then followed by his despatch, on the day before the opening of Parliament, to conduct a levy of 300 men from Staffordshire to Berwick. In April 1558 he took part in a raid into Scotland and was not recalled until 17 Oct.; he therefore probably missed the first session of the Parliament but could have attended the brief second one which ended with the Queen’s death.4

The reign of Elizabeth was to bring Lee renown for the tournaments which he staged as the Queen’s champion. He died on 12 Feb. 1611.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: M. K. Dale

Notes 1. Aged 80 at death according to MI. E. K. Chambers, Sir Henry Lee, app. A; HMC Hatfield, iv. 529; C142/90/2; Wards 7/5/137; DNB.

2. Lipscomb, Bucks. ii. 407-8; APC, ii. 412; CSP Dom. 1601-3, Add. 1547-65, p. 474; Cam. Misc. ix(3), 32; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 652; Lansd. 47, f. 41; 56, f. 168; Chambers, 43, 47, 82, 109; Index 6743 ex. inf. C. Blair; E101/64/11; HMC Hatfield, x. 180, CPR, 1572-5, p. 291.
3. Chambers, 11-23, 27, 304-5; HMC Hatfield, iv. 529; Aubrey, Brief Lives, ed. Clark, ii. 32; LC2/2; The Gen. n.s.; xii. 191-2; PCC 23 Coode.
4. Chambers, 30, 31; Wm. Salt. Arch. Soc. xii. 194-5; Foxe, Acts and Mons. vii. 547; APC, vi. 244, 396, 415.
5.

Sir Henry Lee KG (1533 – 12 February 1611), of Ditchley, was Queen's Champion and Master of the Armoury under Queen Elizabeth I of England.

Contents [hide] 1 Family 2 Career 3 Marriage and issue 4 Trivia 5 Footnotes 6 References 7 External links


Family [edit] Margaret Wyatt, by Hans HolbeinHenry Lee, born in Kent in March 1533, was the grandson of Sir Robert Lee (d.1539), and the eldest son of Sir Anthony Lee (d.1549) of Quarrendon, Buckinghamshire, by his first wife, Margaret Wyatt, daughter of Sir Henry Wyatt of Allington Castle, Kent by Anne Skinner, the daughter of John Skinner of Reigate, Surrey. Margaret Wyatt was a sister of the poet Sir Thomas Wyatt. Lee had three younger brothers, Robert Lee (died c.1598), Thomas Lee, and Cromwell Lee (d.1601), who compiled an Italian-English dictionary.[1][2]

Career [edit]Lee became Queen Elizabeth I’s champion in 1570 and was appointed Master of the Armoury in 1580, an office which he held until his death. As Queen's Champion, Lee devised the Accession Day tilts held annually on 17 November, the most important Elizabethan court festival from the 1580s. He retired as Queen's Champion in 1590, and the poems "His Golden Locks" by George Peele and "Time's Eldest Son" were set to music by John Dowland and performed at the lavish retirement pageant. He was made a Knight of the Order of the Garter in 1597.

He was a Member (MP) of the Parliament of England for Buckinghamshire in 1558, 1559, 1571 and 1572.[3]


Ditchley Portrait of Elizabeth ISir Henry, like most courtiers of the day, had a portrait painted by a leading artist. In Lee's picture, his sleeves are decorated with armillary spheres, a symbol of wisdom and also his device as queen's champion. His sleeves are also decorated with lovers knots which, combined with the armillary spheres can be seen to represent his love for learning (the wisdom of the armillary spheres) and for the Queen (his symbol as her champion). Lee also wears several rings tied to his arm, and has his finger through a third ring around his neck. This may represent his marriages, and the third ring, which is not quite on his finger, may represent his relationship with Anne Vavasour.


Suit of armour belonging to Sir Henry LeeMarriage and issue [edit]Lee married, on 21 May 1554, Anne Paget (d.1590), the daughter of William Paget, 1st Baron Paget, and his wife Anne Preston, by whom he had two sons, John Lee and Henry Lee, both of whom died young, and a daughter, Mary Lee, who is said to have eloped with one John Worsley in February 1579, but died without issue, likely in 1583.[4]

Lee's wife, Anne, was buried at Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, on 31 December 1590. There is a monument to her in Aylesbury church.[5] After her death, Lee lived openly lived with his mistress, Anne Vavasour, formerly one of the Queen's Ladies in Waiting.

Lee commissioned the famous Ditchley Portrait of Queen Elizabeth, which shows her standing on a map of the British Isles, surveying her dominions. One foot rests near Ditchley in Oxfordshire, to commemorate her visit to Sir Henry Lee there, as sign of particular favour. Sir Henry was later famous for refusing to receive his monarch a second time because of the enormous expense.

Three suits of armour were made for Sir Henry Lee by the renowned Greenwich armoury, and are depicted in the album of drawings left behind by that workshop. Portions of the armour survive to the present day. One of the armours currently stands in the hall of the Armourers and Brasiers company in London.

He was the uncle of Captain Thomas Lee, a troublesome soldier on whose behalf he allowed himself to be bound over and who was put to death in 1601 for an involvement in the treason of the 2nd Earl of Essex.

His heir and cousin, also Sir Henry Lee, became 1st baronet of Quarendon. He died on February 12, 1611.

Trivia [edit] Portrait of Anne Vavasour, attributed to John de Critz, c.1605Anthony Lee was apparently descended from the Lee family of Lee Hall, Staffordshire, England; it is unknown if this family was related to the Lee Family of Coton Hall, Nordley Regis, Shropshire, England from whom the Lee family of Virginia was allegedly descended. A descendant of Henry Lee of Ditchley was Edward Lee, 1st Earl of Lichfield-ancestor of Mary Custis Lee-wife of Robert Edward Lee. Allegedly his 1st cousin seven times over was Charles Lee (general) of the Continental Army. Footnotes [edit]1.^ Richardson IV 2011, p. 382; Burrow 2004; Chambers 1936, pp. 19, 247-8; Fernie 2004. 2.^ Lee, Sir Anthony (1510/11-49), of Quarrendon, Buckinghamshire, History of Parliament Retrieved 9 May 2013. 3.^ http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1558-1603/member/lee-sir-henry-1532-1611 4.^ Banks 1808, p. 414; Chambers 1936, pp. 78-9, 248;Fernie 2004. 5.^ Chambers 1936, p. 77.

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Sir Henry Lee, MP, Queen's Champion's Timeline

1536
1536
1560
1560
Age 24
Quarrendon, Bucks.
1611
February 12, 1611
Age 75
Buckinghamshire, UK
????
????
Aylesbury Vale District, Buckinghamshire, UK