Thomas Lee

Life
?-1601; Captain in Ireland with Essex, executed for attempting to secure his escape; ‘wrote an historically valuable tract on the Government of Ireland’ printed in 1772; his military career involved suspicions of allegiance with Tyrconnell, whose loyalty he protested but afterwards condemned for ‘arrogance’; at his trial he confessed himself surrounded by enemies and glad of death, but asked that his estate - 700 horses - be spared for his son; he said, ‘A free tongue has ever been my worse fault,’ and died by hanging and decapitation like a Christian. [ODNB, but review for details.] Note also that a painting by Marcus Gheeradts survives of him dressed as an Irish kerne with bare legs; he was married to an Irish woman (‘mere Irish’) who translated for him in parleys; resided in the estate that he acquired at Castlemartin, Co. Kildare. ODNB DIW

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Commentary
Declan Kiberd, Inventing Ireland: The Literature of a Modern Nation (London: Jonathan Cape 1995): ‘A portrait of Sir Thomas Lee made in 1594 depicted a physically as well as spiritually hypenated man: conventionally Elizabethan in apparel to his waist, but bare-legged and bare-footed as any Irish kern, the implication being that he might lapse into utter saveragy unless the erasure of Irish culture was completed.’ (p.10.)

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