DONNE LEE, alias DOWNLEE, DOUNLEY, Edward (d.1598), of Abercynfor, Llandydfaelog, Carm.
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Family and Education
s. of Ralph Lee of Saunderton, Bucks. by Frances, da. and coh. of Sir Thomas Jones† of Abermarlais by Elizabeth, da. and h. of Sir Edward Donne or Dwnn. m. Anne, da. of Richard Haywood, at least 3s.
J.p. Carm. by 1580, rem. 1589, rest. by 1592, dep. lt. 1587, sheriff 1587-8, 1593-4; v.-adm. N. and W. Wales 1595-7.1
The Dwnns of Kidwelly were an ancient family, members of which took a prominent and turbulent part in the events of the later middle ages and became local officials after the union. The Lees came from Buckinghamshire, dying out in that county after Donne Lee’s removal to Carmarthenshire. Here the family used both names, sometimes separately, sometimes combined in various forms. Of Donne Lee’s twin sons, one, also named Edward, is described on entering Magdalen College, Oxford in 1589 as of Buckinghamshire, but on entering Lincoln’s Inn in 1592 as of Carmarthenshire, while the other, Henry, at Jesus College, Oxford in 1589 is entered as of Carmarthenshire. Henry carried on the line at Pibwr, near Carmarthen.2
In Carmarthenshire the Donne Lees soon became prominent in local government. Donne Lee himself first sat in Parliament in 1584 after Serjeant Puckering, returned for both Carmarthen and Bedford, had opted for the latter. He was one of the puritans so prominent in the Parliament of 1586-7. It was he who began the debate of 25 Feb. 1587 on the state of the church. He introduced a ‘supplication’ from John Penry, the Breconshire-born preacher, exposing the ills of the church in Wales and pleading for a preaching ministry there, and went on, in a supporting speech, to denounce the prevalence of superstitions, idolatry, ignorance and immorality in Wales ‘for lack of learned and honest ministers’.3
Donne Lee’s boldness led to his removal from the commission of the peace; but in a letter to Hatton in 1589 he protested his loyalty, declaring that he was solely concerned over the spiritual starvation of his own and the neighbouring county, which he and ‘others of like affections’ were striving, with episcopal consent, to remedy by their own efforts. Whether or not in consequence, the Privy Council in 1592 directed seven gentlemen of Carmarthenshire to proceed against precisely the abuses denounced in Donne Lee’s speech, and in another letter appointed him, with seven others, to extend the operation to Pembrokeshire, where Donne Lee also had property and interests.4
On as Jan. 1598 Donne Lee made his will in his own hand. He commended his soul to
the Almighty, my creator, believing steadfastly with a true and undoubted faith that he hath redeemed me by the bloody passion of his son Jesus Christ and my alone and only Saviour by whose merit and death only I hope to be saved.
He asked to be buried in Carmarthen beside his wife, and left legacies to the poor of the town and for the maintenance of the free school there. His son ‘Harry Donne Lee’ was the executor and residuary legatee, and bequests (land, money, a ‘young grey mare’ and other horses) went to Edward. Another son, Thomas, is also mentioned in the will, which was proved 13 Mar. 1598.5
Ref Volumes: 1558-1603
- 1. G. Owen, Desc. Pemb. ed. H. Owen, iv. 390 and n.; Dwnn, Vis. Wales, i. 20, 199; Trans. W. Wales Hist. Soc. ii. 19; Flenley, Cal. Reg. Council, Marches of Wales, 213; HMC Foljambe, 2, 6; EHR, xxiii. 756-7.
- 2. Trans Cymmrod. Soc. 1941, pp. 115-49; Hist. Carm. ed Lloyd, i. 237, 258-60, 375; ii. 453, 456; Vis. Bucks. (Harl. Soc. lviii), 81; Trans. W. Wales Hist. Soc. loc. cit.
- 3. Neale, Parlts. ii. 153.
- 4. Add. 48064, ff. 144-5; APC, xxii. 544-5; Arch Camb. (ser. 3), xii. 353-4.
- 5. PCC 22 Lewyn.