LEE, Sir Anthony (1510/11-49), of Quarrendon, Bucks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Constituency

Dates

Family and Education

b. 1510/11, 1st s. of Sir Robert Lee of Quarrendon by one Cope. m. (1) by 1531, Margaret, da. of Sir Henry Wyatt of Allington Castle, Kent, 4s. inc. Sir Henry and Robert 4da.; (2) settlement 23 May 1548, Anne, da. of Richard Hassall of Hankelow, Cheshire, 2s. illegit. bef. m. inc. Richard ?1da. suc. fa. 23 Feb. 1539. Kntd. June/Dec. 1539.2

Offices Held

Esquire of the body by 1532; j.p. Bucks. 1539-d.; commr. benevolence 1544/45, chantries 1548, musters 1548; custos rot. 20 Dec. 1548.3

Biography

There were several branches of the Lee family of Buckinghamshire all descended from Anthony Lee’s great-grandfather Bennet, who had come from Cheshire to establish himself at Quarrendon. The main line was represented two generations later by Sir Robert Lee, courtier, sheepfarmer and enclosing landlord who added four manors to the Quarrendon estate. He may have sat as a knight of the shire in the early Parliaments of Henry VIII, for which the names are lost, and his name occurs with that of Sir Francis Bryan on Cromwell’s list of 1533 thought to contain suggestions for filling vacancies in the House of Commons.4

Sir Robert Lee’s views on his sons’ education may be inferred from the provision in his will of 1537 that the younger, Bennet, was ‘to be brought up in virtue and learning as a knight ought to be’. In Anthony’s case this probably included his early introduction at court, an example which he was to follow with his own son. He would not have been without other friends there: his stepmother, Lettice, who had been brought up with Lady Mary Bryan, sister of the 2nd Lord Berners, was the widow of Robert Knollys, a gentleman usher, and his step-brother Francis Knollys would marry Catherine, daughter of Mary Boleyn. Lee’s own first marriage brought him into the literary circle of his brother-in-law Sir Thomas Wyatt I: although he was to achieve no distinction in this setting, one poem of his is preserved in the British Library.5

Before 1532 Lee had lodgings at Petty Calais in Westminster. He may have been attached to Cromwell’s household: in October 1536 he was attending ‘constantly’ upon Richard Cromwell alias Williams in Lincoln with one of the minister’s servants. Earlier in that year he had been in disgrace for ‘consenting to’ the theft of some of the King’s hawks at Hampton Court: his men were confined in Windsor Castle while he was taken by Sir John Russell to Hampton Court. But by 10 Oct., when Cromwell sent this news to Sir Thomas Wyatt abroad, Lee was once more in favour.6

It was after his father’s death on 23 Feb. 1539 that Lee was put on the Buckinghamshire bench, and probably about the same time he was knighted: he was so styled when, at the end of that year, he was appointed to receive Anne of Cleves. (The conjunction also makes it possible that he was one of the Members for Buckingham in the Parliament of 1539 whose names are lost, the borough being much under court influence at this time.) Disagreement arose between Lee and his stepmother about the apportionment of her income, in which Cromwell’s help was sought on her behalf, especially by Sir Francis Bryan. Before 1540 Lee appears to have befriended his brother-in-law Wyatt in various ways, not only by lending him money but also, in Wyatt’s words, by ‘other infinite [?ways] that makes me weary to think on them’. During 1540 and 1541 the question of the validity of Lee’s title to Quarrendon was brought before the Privy Council and referred to Chancellor Audley.7

Lee was named second among the knights of his county who were to serve in the rearguard of the army in France in 1544, and at the Buckinghamshire muster of 1546 he and his kinsman Richard Greenway were jointly responsible for providing 300 men, one third of the total for the county. Lee’s wealth and position made him a natural choice for the knighthood of the shire in the Parliaments of 1542 and 1547. He doubtless had the support of John Russell, Baron Russell, a previous knight for the shire and now a member of the Privy Council, and of Sir Francis Bryan, royal favourite and diplomatist, who sat with him as first knight in 1542. In the following Parliament he was displaced by Russell’s young heir, Francis, but he and Francis Russell were re-elected in 1547. His parliamentary career, like most of his public life, has gone unrecorded save for its premature ending: on 24 Jan. 1549 he was licensed to be absent on account of illness and his death at the end of the year resulted in a by-election which gave his place to Sir Thomas Windsor.8

During the last years of his life Lee engaged in a number of property transactions, notably in 1546 with John Croke, with whom he bought extensive lands in the county for £775. The fact that Lee was not pricked sheriff on 12 Nov. 1549, although one of those nominated, could have been due to his final illness, for he died 12 days later. His will, drawn up a few months previously, disposed of his estate among four sons (including one named Cromwell) who were all under 21, and four daughters each of whom was to receive £200 on marriage. He left a large flock of sheep to his wife Anne, with plate and household stuff; if she remarried, the plate and goods were to go to Richard and Russell Lee alias Hassall, his two youngest sons whom she had borne him before marriage. The will was not proved until 17 Oct. 1550 by Sir William Paget and other executors.9

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: M. K. Dale

Notes

  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.