LEE, George (?1700-58).
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Family and Education
b. ?1700, 5th s. of Sir Thomas Lee, 2nd Bt., M.P., of Hartwell House, Bucks. by Alice, da. and h. of Thomas Hopkins, London merchant; bro. of John, Sir Thomas, 3rd Bt., and William Lee. educ. Clare, Camb. 1716; Ch. Ch. Oxf. 4 Apr. 1720, aged 19; D.C.L. 1729; M. Temple 1719, Doctors’ Commons 1729. m. 5 June 1742, Judith, da. of Humphry Morice of Werrington Park, Devon, s.p. Kntd. 12 Feb. 1752.
Chairman of the committee of elections and privileges 1741-7; ld. of Admiralty 1742-4; treasurer of the household to the Princess of Wales 1751-7; dean of Arches and judge of the P.C.C. Dec. 1751-8; P.C. 13 Feb. 1752.
Lee, a lawyer like his elder brother William, specialized as a ‘civilian’, rising to be head of his profession. Returned as a Whig for Brackley by the Duke of Bridgwater, with whom the Lees were politically connected in Buckingharnshire, he acted with the Opposition. His election as chairman of the elections committee in December 1741, when he defeated the government candidate by four votes, was the beginning of the end of Walpole’s Government.
In the new Government Lee accepted a seat on the Admiralty board, though the Duke of Bridgwater warned him that if he did so ‘he would never choose him again into Parliament’.1 After the Prince of Wales had tried unsuccessfully to secure a nomination for him at Truro from Lord Falmouth, arrangements were made for Francis Eyles to vacate a seat for him at Devizes. He remained in the Government till December 1744, when he went out with Granville. On 18 Feb. 1745 he attacked the ministry for masking their retention of the Hanoverian troops by transferring them to the Queen of Hungary, paying her an increased subsidy.2 In April 1746 he spoke for the Hanoverians, attacking Pitt for his volte-face on them in a speech of which Horace Walpole wrote that ‘no criminal at the Place de Grève was ever so racked as he by Dr. Lee, a friend of Lord Granville, who gave him the question both ordinary and extraordinary’.3
At the beginning of 1747 Lee joined the Prince of Wales’s new opposition. He approved Frederick’s invitation to the Tories to ‘coalesce and unite with him’ on the eve of the general election.4 Returned for a Cornish borough on the Prince’s recommendation, he became one of the leaders of the Leicester House party. He was destined by Frederick to be his first chancellor of the Exchequer, a post for which Horace Walpole thought
he was little qualified; for though he was a speaker of great weight in Parliament, which was set off with a solemn harmonious voice, and something severe in his style, his business of civilian had confined him to too narrow a sphere for the extensive knowledge of men that is requisite to a Prime Minister.5
On Frederick’s death in 1751 Lee advised the Princess to place herself unconditionally in the hands of the King.6 He conducted the negotiations with the Pelhams as to the composition of her new household, in which he was appointed treasurer. Thereafter, like most of the Leicester House party, he supported the Administration till 1755, when he followed the Princess back into opposition. He resigned his appointment with her in 1757, ‘finding himself