LEE, Sir Henry (c.1532-1611), of Quarrendon, Bucks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Family and Education

b. c.1532, 1st s. of Sir Anthony Lee of Quarrendon by Margaret, da. of Sir Henry Wyatt of Allington Castle, Kent; bro. of Robert 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 23 Apr. 1597.

Offices Held

?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 June 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 1580.1


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.2

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 the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury with his son, and in 1598 trying to persuade the 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 September 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. In his will Lee asked that she should be buried near his family in the chancel of Quarrendon church. 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 1611.3

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N. M. Fuidge


This biography is based upon E. K. Chambers, Sir Henry Lee.

  • 1. G. Lipscomb, Bucks. ii. 407 seq.; Add. 5756, f. 243; APC, ii. 412; Cam. Misc. ix (3), p. 32; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 652; Add. 1547-65, p 474; Lansd. 47, f. 41; 56, f. 168; PRO Index 6743; E101/64/11; HMC Hatfield, iv. 529; x. 180; CPR, 1572-5, p. 291; Woodstock boro. mss.
  • 2. Wards 7/5/137, 7/35/144; CPR, 1558-60, pp. 6-7; 1560-3, p. 132 Cal. Bucks. Recs. (Bucks. Arch. Soc. v), 50; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 646; J. Leland, Itinerary ed. Hearne, iv (2), p. 191; viii(2), p. 114 seq.; Holinshed, Chrons. iv. 257; APC, vii. 99; ix. 323; xxvi. 364; D’Ewes, 247, 288; CJ, i. 121, 122, 129.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 691; 1581-90, p. 691; 1598-1601, p. 88; 1603-10, p. 58; Lodge, Illus. iii. 26; PCC 41 Wood; Add. 14417, f. 22; Wards 7/35/144; GEC Baronetage, i. 78; C142/322/139.