Anne Aylett Lee
Wife of Richard Henry Lee, Signer of the Declaration of Independence
1738 – 1768 A.D.
Anne Aylett, first wife of Richard Henry Lee, one of Virginia’s most eminent and patriotic sons, came of a family as wealthy and prominent as the Lees. In the Historic Families of Virginia there is this note: It is claimed that the Ayletts are descended from a companion of Conqueror whose son received grants in Cornwall. In 1657, Captain John Aylett came to Virginia and had a son William whose daughters intermarried with prominent families.”
It would be interesting to know more of the inner life and personality of Anne Aylett, and the other notable women who shine in the reflected light of husbands and fathers, to whom it was given to fashion state policies and fight battles. But such information has come down to us only in isolated and fragmentary instances. Old Virginia differed materially from other provinces and indeed from all countries. Probably in no other country were the women, generally, so protected and sheltered as in the Old Dominion.
There were no large cities, and comparatively little town life. Hospitality, not only a a virtue but as a fine art, was exercised to an extent equaled in no other Colony and rarely if ever in any other country. The old families, with their large estates, numerous house and field servants, their wealth and culture, visited and intermarried among themselves until the entire commonwealth was like one big family. The estates scattered over vast stretches of country, sometimes miles apart, were not open to the depredations of the enemy as those of the more thickly populated coast countries of Maryland and the Carolinas [sic] or the northern Colonies, and when the men were called from home to the council chamber or camp and field, the women were not left unprotected as were those of South Carolina, New Jersey, Long Island, or Connecticut, where for months at a time the country was overrun with British troops, Hessians [sic], and Tories. Consequently, if we find but little to tell, in many instances, but family genealogy, it is not because these women were less patriotic or loyal to the cause of independence than her sisters of less favoured [sic] localities. The steadfast patriotism of the husbands and fathers as a splendid tribute to the loyal support and self-sacrifice of the women.
It was about a century after the coming of John Aylett to the Province of Virginia, that Anne Aylett was married to Richard Henry, the fifth son of Thomas and Hannah Ludwell Lee of Stratford House, Westmoreland, Westmoreland County. She was a cousin of Col. William Aylett, of “Fairfield,” King William County, and one of the leading citizens of Virginia of his day. Anne Aylett’s sister Mary married Richard Henry Lee’s brother, Thomas Ludwell Lee. A writer in the William and Mary Quarterly says of the Aylett family:
“Col. Aylett was born about 1743. He married, 1776, Mary Macon the daughter of Col. Augustine Macon of ‘Chelsea’…Col. Aylett was on intimate terms with General Washington. When he visited headquarters, he is said by Charles Campbell, the Virginia historian, to have invariably slept in the General’s tent. He and Washington had been members of the House of Burgesses at the same time. Col. Aylett’s mother and Mrs. Washington were first cousins. Col. Aylett’s brother, John, married a sister of Mrs. Washington’. Elizabeth Macon, sister of Mrs. Aylett, was married to Mrs. Washington’s brother Bartholomew Dandridge. Mrs. Washington’s great-grandfather, Gideon Macon, was Mrs. Aylett’s grandfather. “Fairfield,’ Col. Aylett’s home, being on the direct road between Mt. Vernon, ‘The White House’ (Mrs. Washington’s home when she married the second time) and Williamsburg, the Washingtons generally spent several days with their Aylett relations, both going from and returning home. This was also the custom of Thomas Ludwell Lee and Richard Henry Lee, who married respectively Mary Aylett and Anne Aylett, first cousins of William Aylett. Augustine Washington, General Washington’s brother, married Anne Aylett, another first cousin of Col. Aylett.”
Children were born to Anne Aylett Lee as follows: Thomas in 1758, Ludwell in 1760, Mary in 1764, Hannah born about 1766.
Anne Aylett Lee died in 1767, her thirty-fifth year, and two years later Mr. Lee married as his second wife Mrs. Anne Gaskins Pinkard, daughter of Thomas Gaskings of Westmoreland County, and a sister of Colonel Thomas Gaskins, Jr., a distinguished officer of the Revolution. The children born of this union were Ann born in 1770, Henrietta born in 1773, Cassius who died in boyhood, and Francis Lightfood. Mrs. Lee survived her husband, who died in 1794, but the date of her death is not given.
Reference: The Pioneer Mothers of America: A Record of the More Notable Women of the Early Days of the Country, and Particularly of the Colonial and Revolutionary Periods by Harry Clinton Green and Mary Wolcott Green, A.B. Third Volume, Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons.