Military Wiki
The Right Honourable
The Viscount Lee of Fareham
Lord Lee of Fareham, 1903.
First Lord of the Admiralty

In office
13 February 1921 – 31 October 1922
Monarch George V
Prime Minister David Lloyd George
Bonar Law
Preceded by Walter Long
Succeeded by Leo Amery
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries

In office
15 August 1919 – 13 February 1921
Monarch George V
Prime Minister David Lloyd George
Preceded by Rowland Edmund Prothero
Succeeded by Arthur Griffith-Boscawen
Personal details
Born Arthur Hamilton Lee
(1868-11-08)8 November 1868
Bridport, Dorset, England
Died 21 July 1947(1947-07-21) (aged 78)
Avening, Gloucestershire, England
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Occupation Politician, statesman and public servant, soldier, philanthropist and patron of the arts.
Religion Church of England

Arthur Hamilton Lee, 1st Viscount Lee of Fareham, GCB GCSI GBE PC (8 November 1868 – 21 July 1947) was an English soldier, diplomat, politician, philanthropist and patron of the arts. After military postings and an assignment to the British Embassy in Washington, he retired from the military in 1900. He entered politics, was first elected in 1900, and later served as Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and First Lord of the Admiralty following the First World War. He donated his country house, Chequers, to the nation as a retreat for the Prime Minister, and co-founded the Courtauld Institute of Art.

Early life and family

Lee's former residence at the Royal Military College of Canada

Lee's former residence in Washington, D.C.

Arthur Hamilton Lee was born at The Rectory, Bridport, Dorset in 1868. His father was rector of the town's Anglican St. Mary's Church. He was a grandson of Sir John Theophilus Lee, who as a midshipman was present at the Battle of the Nile.[1]

Education and early military career

After attending Cheltenham College, Lee entered the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. He was commissioned into the Royal Artillery as a second lieutenant on 17 February 1888.[2] He was posted to the Far East—China—as Adjutant of the Royal Hong Kong Regiment (the Volunteers). He was promoted lieutenant on 18 February 1891.[3] He returned to England in 1891, and was stationed on the Isle of Wight for the next two years.

Professor at Royal Military College of Canada

On 18 August 1893, at the age of 24, Lee became a professor of Strategy and Tactics, at the Royal Military College of Canada, in Kingston, Ontario,[4] with the local rank of captain.[5] Since only 11 to 30 cadets annually entered the College in those days, Lee would have instructed only about 140 cadets in his five years at the College (1893–1898), consisting of cadet numbers 320 to 457. Cadet No. 433, future Major General Thomas Victor Anderson, D.S.O., a future Chief of Staff of the Canadian Army, recalled that Lee was known around the Royal Military College as 'The Nipper, which the cadets christened him because he used to sing George Grossmith's songs with gusto. He enjoyed riding and walking in winter across the ice to Wolfe Island, and to town. He was a regular attendant at St. George's Cathedral (Kingston, Ontario) to hear Dean Buxton Smith. When Colonel Gerald Kitson, K.R.R.C., became RMC Commandant in 1897, Captain Lee came to live with the Kitsons in the Commandant's residence. In 1894, Lee initiated a Military Survey of the Canadian Frontier, and supervised its progress until its completion in 1896. During the summer of 1897 he was a Special Correspondent for the London Daily Chronicle, covering the earlier stages of the Klondike Gold Rush, based on his travels to Alaska and the Yukon. In 1900, when Lee resigned as British Military Attaché in Washington, D.C., Colonel Kitson resigned as Commandant of RMC to take over the Washington post vacated by Lee.[1]

Diplomatic postings

He did not receive substantive promotion until the completion of his RMC appointment on 18 April 1898.[6] He became the British military attaché with the United States Army in Cuba during the Spanish–American War, later in 1898. He received the U.S. campaign medal, was made an honorary member of the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry—the famous Roosevelt's "Rough Riders"—and met Theodore Roosevelt. On 28 January 1899 Lee, who was still not 30 years old, was appointed military attaché at the British Embassy in Washington, with the temporary rank of Lieutenant Colonel (for the duration of his appointment).[7] Although he would have preferred to have been on active service in South Africa, since the Boer War had just started, Lee enjoyed the challenging diplomatic assignment.[1]

Marriage, retirement from military

On 23 December 1899, Lee married Ruth Moore (died 1966), daughter of New York banker John Godfrey Moore. He had first met Ruth Moore at parties in Kingston and Gananoque, and had taken her to balls at the Royal Military College, Kingston. Ruth was left a substantial inheritance after her father's death shortly before the wedding. Lee was promoted brevet major on 8 August 1900, returned to regimental duty on 22 August 1900,[8] and retired from the army on 12 December 1900.[9]


In 1900, Lee returned to England and embarked upon a political career. He was elected as a Conservative Member of Parliament for the Hampshire constituency of Fareham in the 1900 general election while still a regular officer.[10] He represented Fareham for the next 18 years until his elevation to the peerage.[11] He served as Civil Lord of the Admiralty from 1903 to 1905 under William Palmer, 2nd Earl of Selborne.[12] He also continued military service during this period as a member of the Volunteer Force.[13]

The resignation of Arthur Balfour as Conservative Prime Minister in favour of Liberal Leader, Henry Campbell-Bannerman, in 1905 and the defeat of the Conservative Party in the elections of 1906 and 1910 postponed Lee's further office for a decade. He was Chairman of the Parliamentary Aerial Defence Committee, from 1910 to 1914. He also introduced the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1912.[11]

World War I

At the beginning of World War I, Lee served as Lord Kitchener's personal commissioner to report on the Army Medical Services in France, with the rank of temporary colonel.[14] From October 1915 he served David Lloyd George at the Ministry of Munitions, and followed him to the War Office in 1916.[15] He was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath on 12 July 1916.[16]

On 8 June 1917, with Lloyd George now Prime Minister, Lee became Director-General of Food Production under Rowland Prothero as President of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries. Having then left the army he was permitted to retain the honorary rank of colonel.[17] He was recognised for his work on 1 January 1918, being appointed Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire.[18] He was elevated to the peerage on 9 July that year as Baron Lee of Fareham, of Chequers in the County of Buckinghamshire,[19] shortly before he resigned as Director-General of Food Production after disagreements with Prothero. He then became a member of the House of Lords.

Joins Cabinet

Lee joined the Cabinet and the Privy Council in August 1919[20] when he was appointed Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, succeeding Prothero. He became First Lord of the Admiralty on 18 February 1921,[21] and was selected as a second British delegate to attend the Washington Naval Conference, along with Arthur Balfour, later that year. He resigned from Lloyd George's government in 1922, and was promoted to Viscount Lee of Fareham, of Bridport in the County of Dorset, on 9 December that year.[22]

Productive from House of Lords

Conservative Prime Ministers Bonar Law and Stanley Baldwin, along with Labour Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, all benefited substantially from Viscount Lee's dedicated work during the decade of the 1920s, as Lee was not content to rest upon his laurels in the House of Lords. He went on to chair Royal Commissions on the civil service in India (1923–1924),[23] London cross-river traffic (1926),[24] and Police Powers and Procedure (1928).[25] He was also Chair of the Radium Commission and of the Committee on Police Pay and Pensions (1925). He was appointed Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Star of India on 1 January 1925,[26] and he was promoted Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath in the 1929 King's Birthday Honours.[27] He was also appointed Knight of Grace in the Venerable Order of Saint John on 20 June 1930.[28]


Lee's Chequers estate 1909-1921

Lee and his wife took on a long lease of Chequers, a country house and 1,000-acre (4.0 km2) estate in Buckinghamshire, in 1909. The Lees bought the property in 1912 after the owner died, and began restoration. In 1917, they gave the estate, and the entire contents of the house which included a library, historical papers and manuscripts and a collection of Cromwellian portraits and artefacts, in trust to the nation to be used as the official residence and retreat of successive British Prime Ministers in perpetuity, enabled by the Chequers Estate Act 1917. The Lees left the property in January 1921, and Lloyd George was the first Prime Minister to use the property.[29][30][31]

Patron of the arts, and later life

After furnishing Chequers, Lee began a second collection. He gained the financial backing of Samuel Courtauld and Joseph Duveen, and established the Courtauld Institute of Art with the University of London. The Institute, the first to offer degrees in the history of art in Britain, opened in 1932 with William George Constable as its director at Lee's request. Also with Courtauld, he persuaded the University of London to accept the transfer of the Warburg Institute from Hamburg; it was loaned to him prior to its re-establishment in 1944. He also donated a silver collection and other objects to Hart House, at the University of Toronto in Canada in 1940.

Additionally, in the 1920s Lee was a trustee of the Wallace Collection and of the National Gallery. He served as chairman of the latter in 1931–2, and was a member of the Royal Fine Art Commission from 26 May 1926 until his death.[32]

Lee wrote his autobiography, entitled A Good Innings in 1941, and this was privately published in three volumes that year. It was later republished by his good friend Alan Clark, also a Conservative politician, for publishers J. Murray in 1974 (see below).


Lee died at Old Quarries, a grade II listed building in Avening, Gloucestershire, in 1947. Lee had no children and his viscountcy became extinct upon his death.

His widow, Viscountess Lee, presented to the Royal Military College of Canada Museum a silver-headed walking stick of her late husband, which he had used daily at RMC fifty-four years earlier. The stick has two silver bands listing the places where Lee served, or visited, between 1888 and 1904, which include the Royal Military College of Canada. Lady Lee also presented the RMC Museum with three photographs of Lord Lee –- two of them taken in Kingston, one in uniform in 1893, and the other in 1896 wearing a checked suit, silver-topped stick in hand. The third is a photograph of the portrait by Herbert James Gunn in full regalia of a Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath.[33]

Styles of address

  • 1868-1900: Mr Arthur Lee
  • 1900-1916: Mr Arthur Lee MP[10]
  • 1916-1918: Sir Arthur Lee KCB[16] MP
  • 1918: Sir Arthur Lee GBE[18] KCB MP
  • 1918-1919: The Rt Hon The Lord Lee of Fareham[19] GBE KCB
  • 1919-1922: The Rt Hon The Lord Lee of Fareham GBE KCB PC[20]
  • 1922-1925: The Rt Hon The Viscount Lee of Fareham[22] GBE KCB PC
  • 1925-1929: The Rt Hon The Viscount Lee of Fareham GCSI[26] GBE KCB PC
  • 1929-1947: The Rt Hon The Viscount Lee of Fareham GCB[27] GCSI GBE PC


  • Lee of Fareham, Viscount; Clark, Alan (1974). A Good Innings; The Private Papers of Viscount Lee of Fareham. London: J. Murray. ISBN 0-7195-2850-X. 


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Lord Lee of Fareham Professor of Strategy and Tactics, R.M.C., 1893–98 By No. 2141, T. L. Brock; Royal Military College of Canada Review yearbook 1962 p 189
  2. "No. 25790". 24 February 1888. p. 1225. 
  3. "No. 26139". 27 February 1891. p. 1120. 
  4. "No. 26433". 18 August 1893. p. 4708. 
  5. "No. 26436". 29 August 1893. p. 4923. 
  6. "No. 26967". 17 May 1898. p. 3048. 
  7. "No. 27064". 21 March 1899. p. 1905. 
  8. "No. 27254". 7 December 1900. p. 8306. 
  9. "No. 27255". 11 December 1900. p. 8377. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 "No. 27244". 6 November 1900. p. 6770. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 Lord Lee of Fareham Professor of Strategy and Tactics, R.M.C., 1893-98 By No. 2141, T. L. Brock; Royal Military College of Canada Review yearbook 1962 p 189
  12. "No. 27606". 16 October 1903. p. 6291. 
  13. "No. 27563". 12 June 1903. p. 3721. 
    "No. 27765". 17 February 1905. p. 1207. 
  14. "No. 28956". 27 October 1914. p. 8752. 
    "No. 28994". 1 December 1914. p. 10277. 
  15. "No. 29705". 11 August 1916. p. 7978. 
  16. 16.0 16.1 "No. 29667". 14 July 1916. p. 6977. 
  17. "No. 30118". 5 June 1917. p. 5618. 
  18. 18.0 18.1 "No. 30460". 4 January 1918. p. 365. 
  19. 19.0 19.1 "No. 30787". 9 July 1918. p. 8063. 
  20. 20.0 20.1 "No. 31123". 14 January 1919. p. 712. 
  21. "No. 32235". 22 February 1921. p. 14563. 
  22. 22.0 22.1 "No. 32776". 12 December 1922. p. 8793. 
  23. "No. 32835". 19 June 1923. p. 4274. 
  24. "No. 33186". 28 May 1926. pp. 4957–4958. 
  25. "No. 33417". 31 August 1928. p. 5765. 
  26. 26.0 26.1 "No. 33007". 30 December 1924. p. 3. 
  27. 27.0 27.1 "No. 33501". 31 May 1929. p. 3668. 
  28. "No. 33618". 24 June 1930. p. 3956. 
  29. "Lloyd Gearoge's New Home" (PDF). The New York Times. 20 October 1917. Retrieved 16 August 2009. 
  30. "People and history: Chequers". Chilterns Conservation Board. Retrieved 24 January 2012. 
  31. "Home from home". BBC News Online. 18 July 2001. Retrieved 16 August 2009. 
  32. "No. 33166". 28 May 1926. p. 3454. 
    "No. 33727". 19 June 1931. p. 3392. 
    "No. 34255". 2 March 1943. p. 973. 
    "No. 37572". 21 May 1946. p. 3402. 
  33. Lord Lee of Fareham Professor of Strategy and Tactics, R.M.C., 1893-98 By No. 2141, T. L. Brock; Royal Military College of Canada Review yearbook 1962 p 189

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir Frederick Fitzwygram
Member of Parliament for Fareham
Succeeded by
Sir John Humphrey Davidson
Political offices
Preceded by
Rowland Edmund Prothero
as President of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries
Succeeded by
Arthur Griffith-Boscawen
Preceded by
Walter Long
First Lord of the Admiralty
Succeeded by
Leopold Stennett Amery
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Viscount Lee of Fareham
New creation Baron Lee of Fareham

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