Select Lee Miscellany

Here are some Lee stories and accounts over the years:

Lees at Coton Hall in Shropshire

The Lee family of Stanton, Roden and afterwards of Langley and Coton Hall in Shropshire was stated in Burke’s Baronetcies as being one of the oldest in England. 

The pedigree, established in 1623 at the time of Sir Humphrey Lee of Langley, began with Hugo de Lega in the 1100’s.  His son Reginald (also Reyner) de la Lee was Sheriff in 1201 and recorded as knight in 1203.  The Lees were said to have come from Normandy.  

For 500 years, these Lees owned a sizeable chunk of the county in the parish of Alveley, near Bridgnorth in north Shropshire.  The family lived in Coton Hall from the 1300’s onwards.  The tombs of two Lees with effigies are to be found in Acton Burnell church.  

The present-day Coton Hall was built soon after 1800 for Harry Lancelot Lee in the Georgian style.  At the time the estate ran to 5,000 acres.   Coton Hall passed out of the Lee family when Harry Lancelot Lee died in 1821 and the house was immediately sold, ending the Lees' long association with that part of the world.

The Lees of Buckinghamshire

The Lees were an old Buckinghamshire family who had acquired Hartwell in Tudor times by marriage into the family of John Hampden, a local landowner. 

They were Whig landowners in the 18th century, part of a grouping of opposition MPs centered in the 1730’s around Frederick, the Prince of Wales.  The Whig connection in Buckinghamshire at that time included Lord Wharton of Winchendon House and Viscount Cobham of Stowe, as well as the Lees of Hartwell.

John O'Laidaigh/O'Lee, Bishop of Killala

One bishop of Ireland in the 13th century caused quite a stir in his time, according to the information that has come down. 

He was made Bishop of Killala in 1253.  Ten years later
he was fined for failing to attend the Parliament in Castledermot.  A letter from the Vatican, dated 20 February, 1264, gave him permission to resign, owing to the fact that he was born illegitimate and had no dispensation from the Pope to hold an office. As seems to have been common practice with the clergy of the time, he ignored this unwelcome letter, and this gave rise to scandal.  

He died as a bishop, either in 1275 or in 1280.


Thomas Lee, Founder of a Virginia Dynasty

Thomas Lee was the founder of the Virginia Lee dynasty which was later to include the Confederate leader Robert E. Lee.  He was born in 1690, at his father Richard’s plantation on the Machadoc river in Westmoreland county, Virginia.  As a younger son his inheritance would have been small.  But a combination of intelligence, determination and influential connections resulted in him becoming one of the most powerful men in early 18th century Virginia.  

He made his own way in the world of Virginia business at that time.  A somewhat disgruntled contemporary later described him as:  

“A hautily overbearing Virginian, as full of cavil and chicanery as an attorney.  I am persuaded that if there be any room left for dispute he will not fail to lay hold on it, being a man of understanding.”  

He married late, at the age of 32, in 1722.  Hannah Ludwell was reputed to be strong-willed, mischievous, and beautiful, with bright gold hair and a fair complexion.  But she brought her husband wealth, position, and a mutual devotion that lasted to the end of their lives.  

In 1729 the Lees’ home at Machodoc was destroyed by fire, with Thomas and his family barely escaping the flames.  Prosperous by this time, he soon began construction of a magnificent new mansion for his family. The Stratford Hall plantation, completed in 1741, lay along the Potomac river.  This Georgian Great House remains associated with the family, having been purchased by the Robert E. Lee Memorial Association in 1929. 

Thomas Lee’s rise in Virginia circles continued and in 1749 he served as acting Governor of Virginia.  He died a year later.

The Lees on the Faithful Steward

On July 9, 1785, forty four members of the Lee family were among the total of 249 passengers and crew who sailed from Londonderry, Ireland aboard the ship Faithful Steward

The Faithful Steward was a new ship, insured for more than its real value.  Somewhere along the Delaware Bay on September 1, the captain ran the ship upon a rock and wrecked her to pieces.   The passengers alarmed, had pleaded with the captain to shun the rock, but he swore he would drive the ship through or "sink her to hell," and such was the terrible result.  The captain, his officers and sailors, manned their boats and left for shore.  

Of the 249 passengers who were left, only 68 survived.  Among these survivors were six members of the Lee family - James Lee, the wife of one of his brothers, and four cousins who apparently didn't carry the Lee name.  

James Lee, born about 1707, and his wife Isabella were the eldest of the family on this ill-fated voyage.  They, as well as four sons and two daughters, drowned.  The James Lee who survived, was their grandson.  His parents, whose names are unknown, were among those lost.  

Mary Lee, who went by the name of Pretty Polly Lee, was among those who drowned.  She was a renowned beauty of her day and many poems had been written in praise of her beauty.  And there were songs about Pretty Polly Lee that descendants of the survivors used to sing.

Lee and Li in Asia

Li is a common transliteration of several Chinese family names and the Korean family name Lee. Alternate Romanizations include Lai (Cantonese), Lý, Lí and Lę (Vietnam), Lee (Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore), and Lie (Indonesia).  Taken collectively, these surnames make Li the most common surname in the world. 

Lee is the common English spelling of a common Korean family name. The proper pronunciation in South Korea is like the English letter "E", although in North Korea the name is still pronounced "Lee."

Return to Top of Page
Return to Lee Main Page