LEE, Geoffrey (by 1488-1545/52), of Cawood, Yorks.

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



Family and Education

b. by 1488, yr. s. of Richard Lee of Delce Magna, Kent. educ. Magdalen, Oxf. demy 1502, fellow 1506, MA 1511. m. prob. by 1523, Agnes, da. of Christopher Conyers of Pinchingthorpe, Yorks., at least 2s.1

Offices Held

Treasurer to abp. of York by 1532; jt. (with s.) abp.’s steward and receiver, Hexham, Northumb. 1543-5; j.p., liberty of Ripon 1538, Yorks. (E. Riding) 1538-45 or later, Yorks. 1539, northern circuit 1540; commr. sewers, Lincs., Notts. and Yorks. 1545.2


Grandson of a mayor of London and younger son of a gentleman of Kent, Geoffrey Lee followed his elder brother Edward, later archbishop of York, to Magdalen, where unlike his brother who shortly afterwards migrated to Cambridge, he remained until his nomination by Bishop Fox in 1517 to a fellowship at Fox’s new foundation of Corpus Christi. Lee had held various offices and lectureships at Magdalen, and Fox’s tribute to the ability implicit in his translation to the ‘beehive’ of the new learning was to be endorsed two years later by Thomas More, a family friend, who when Lee brought him two letters about Edward Lee’s dispute with Erasmus called the bearer et optimo simul et humanissimo adolescente. Erasmus later cited Geoffrey Lee as a witness to printing arrangements made with Edward.3

In February 1523 Lee witnessed the admission to an honorary fellowship at Corpus of Reginald Pole, formerly of Magdalen. By this date he seems to have surrendered his own fellowship, perhaps by reason of his marriage to Agnes Conyers: if the 15 year-old Richard Lee who was to be admitted to Magdalen in July 1539 was his son, the marriage cannot have taken place later than 1523. As a kinswoman of the baronial house of Conyers, Agnes could claim relationship with the Poles, and Reginald Pole may have had a hand in the match: so too may Margaret, Countess of Salisbury, from whom the Lees received an annuity of £5.4

The Pole connexion may also help to explain Lee’s election to the Parliament of 1529, for the countess’s home at Warblington was only eight miles from the town. He was doubtless also helped by Edward Lee’s increasing favour with the King, while he was himself employed in October 1529, on the eve of the Parliament, to deliver the exhibition of £100 granted by the King to Reginald Pole. In 1531 Edward Lee became archbishop of York and he soon appointed Geoffrey as his treasurer. The office may have involved some interruption of Lee’s attendance in the Commons; the ‘Mr. lee’ whose name appears on one of Cromwell’s lists of Members was almost certainly Nicholas Leigh. If he did give regular attendance throughout the Parliament Lee was probably returned again to its successor of 1536 in accordance with the King’s request for the reelection of the previous Members. He is unlikely to have sat for Portsmouth in 1539, when the patron was Sir William Fitzwilliam I, Earl of Southampton, but both then and in 1542, he could have found a seat in the north.5

During the northern rebellion of 1536, when the archbishop’s sympathies were suspect, the treasurer lost a flock of sheep and 75 oxen to the rebels, but nothing has been learned of any more active part he played. On the death in July 1543 of Sir Reynold Carnaby the archbishop granted his brother and his nephew Richard the stewardship of Hexham, which less than two years later they surrendered in exchange for an annuity, and when the archbishop himself died in September 1544 Geoffrey Lee was instructed to take charge of the Scottish hostages who had been in his brother’s care and to levy the archiepiscopal rents to the King’s use. His disappearance from the commission of the peace after 1545 could be explained either by his death about this time or his loss of standing after his brother’s death: whether his religion entered into it we cannot say, for nothing is known of his attitude, although his younger son Roger was later to be one of ‘the two papist doctors of York’.6

Lee’s eldest brother Richard had died without issue in 1526 and the family estates descended after the death of Richard’s widow in 1552 to Geoffrey’s elder son. In 1576 the younger son, Dr. Roger Lee, then aged 47, inherited the Yorkshire lands of his mother’s family. There may have been a third son since in 1569 a Reginald Lee (perhaps named after Pole) received a lease of tithes in Sherburn, Yorkshire, on the surrender of a lease made in 1539 to Geoffrey Lee, described as of Cawood, an archiepiscopal residence.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Patricia Hyde


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from education, Emden, Biog. Reg. Univ. Oxf. 1501-1540, p. 347. Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. xlii), 55-56 corrected by VCH Yorks. (N. Riding), ii. 360; LP Hen. VIII, xviii-xx.
  • 2. LP Hen. VIII, v, xiii-xvi, xviii, xx.
  • 3. Emden, 347; Corresp. More ed. Rogers, 137, 138n.; S. E. Lehmberg, Ref. Parlt. 30; LP Hen. VIII, iii.
  • 4. Emden, 347-8; LP Hen. VIII, xiv.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, v; vii. 1522(ii) citing SP1/87, f. 106v.
  • 6. Ibid. xii, xviii-xx; Northumb. County Hist. x, ped. bet. pp. 408-9; J. C. H. Aveling, York Recusancy (Cath. Rec. Soc. monograph ser. ii), 35, 70.
  • 7. PCC 15 Porch, 31 Powell; C142/185/44; VCH Yorks. (N. Riding), ii. 360; Yorks. Deeds (Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. xxxix), 208; CPR, 1566-9, p. 397.