|“||You are nothing. A speck of dust. You and all your ilk. Living in the dirt like animals, oblivious to the true ways of the world.||„|
|~ Lee to a young Ratonhnhaké:ton.|
Charles Lee is the secondary antagonist (later main antagonist) of Assassin's Creed III. He is a soldier in the British Army and a member of the Templar Order, eventually rising to Grand Master following the death of his master, Haytham Kenway. Charles is also the deuteragonist of the first three sequences of the game, but following the death of Edward Braddock, his true loyalties are revealed to the player.
|“||Master Birch said I should know only as much as you saw fit to share. He sent me a list of names and bade me ensure you could find them.||„|
|~ Charles Lee to Haytham Kenway, shortly after the latter's arrival, 1754.|
Charles Lee was born to John Lee, a prominent British Colonel, and Isabella Bunbury, the daughter of a British Conservative politician. Due to his father's reputation and encouragement, Charles pursued a military career at a young age. He was sent to a military academy in Switzerland, and by 1746, he had joined his father's regiment as an ensign. Five years later, in 1751, Lee returned to England and was commissioned to the rank of lieutenant.
In 1754, Charles was sent to the British colonies in America to serve under General Edward Braddock, to fight in the French and Indian War. At some point, Lee learned of and became affiliated with the Templar Order, of which Braddock was a member, and was keen to become a fully fledged member. In response, Lee was given instructions by Reginald Birch, the Templar leader in Great Britain, to assist Haytham Kenway in finding and recruiting fellow Templars in the Colonies to assist in Haytham's mission: the location of the Grand Temple, perceived to be a hidden First Civilization storehouse.
Induction into the Templar Order
- "If I am to serve the Order, I can imagine no better mentor than yourself."
- ―Charles to Haytham, 1754.
Upon Haytham's arrival in Boston, Charles met the Grand Master at the docks and led him to the Green Dragon Tavern, where Haytham's fellow Templar, William Johnson, was residing.
After a brief conversation with Johnson, Charles and Haytham set out to meet with Thomas Hickey, who was scouting a nearby bandit compound in an attempt to retrieve some of Johnson's stolen research. The three proceeded to raid the compound and accomplished their aims.
Shortly thereafter, Charles and Haytham searched for Benjamin Church, who had recently been detained by a British military officer named Silas Thatcher. After searching Church's ransacked home and eavesdropping on several guards and eyewitnesses, Charles and Haytham deduced Church's location; in a warehouse on the docks, following which the pair made their way there. After Haytham managed to pickpocket a key to the warehouse from a nearby guard, both Charles and Haytham rescued Church from being tortured and brought him to the Green Dragon.
Subsequently, the two went to gather their final recruit, John Pitcairn, from General Braddock's encampment at Copp's Hill Battery. However, despite Braddock also being a Templar, Charles noted that and he and Haytham were clearly at odds. Furthermore, Braddock was already angered by the fact that despite Lee was in stationed under his command, the general had been forced by his superiors to let Lee help Haytham. These factors led to Braddock denying their request to give them Pitcairn. In a plan to retrieve Pitcairn, the two followed Braddock's entourage and ambushed them. After a brief engagement in a back alley, Haytham, Charles and Pitcairn left together.
With all of the Templar recruits assembled at the Green Dragon tavern, Haytham proposed a plan to infiltrate Southgate Fort and kill Silas Thatcher, the notorious slaver who had kidnapped Church, in order to gain favor with the local Kanien'kehá:ka. Haytham reasoned that by doing so, the Kanien'kehá:ka would be willing to provide information that would lead them to the Grand Temple.
After ambushing a slave cart transport destined for the fort, Lee and the others disguised themselves as British Regulars and led the convoy into the fort. Inside, Haytham stealthily freed the slaves while Lee and the others blended with and distracted the guards. However, upon realizing that the slaves had escaped, Silas raised the alarm. Lee and the others then fought and distracted the garrison, fending off Silas' troops while Haytham and Church killed the slaver, allowing them to free the remaining detainees.
After several weeks, Haytham decided to make contact with a Kanien'kehá:ka woman, Kaniehtí:io, who would be a valuable ally in the search for the Precursor site. Lee was able to find a lead, informing Haytham that she had been seen in the wilderness near Lexington. However, Lee left shortly after beginning the search, explaining that he had to return to his commission under Braddock.
Months later, Lee returned to Lexington in 1755, to aid Haytham in his plan to kill General Braddock. Charles assisted by taking part in Braddock's expedition. When the expedition was ambushed by the French ArmyCharles fired the first shot, killing the French Commander Daniel Liénard de Beaujeu. In the ensuing chaos of the attack, Haytham chased and killed Braddock.
Haytham returned days later, revealing that the Precursor site had contained nothing and disregarded it as merely a painted cave. He then changed their goal to establish a permanent base and to expand Templar power and influence throughout the colonies. Commending Lee for his dedication and loyalty, Haytham decided to formally induct Lee into the Templar Order, placing a Templar ring on his finger that had previously belonged to Braddock.
Fighting in the French and Indian War
|“||You are nothing. A speck of dust. You and all your ilk. Living in the dirt like animals, oblivious to the true ways of the world.||„|
|~ Charles Lee to a young Ratonhnhaké:ton, 1760.|
Following his induction, Lee continued to serve in the British Army; he participated in several battles during the French and Indian War, such as the battles at the forts of Ticonderoga and Niagara, and the British conquest of Montreal.
In 1760, Lee and his fellow Templars, with the exception of Haytham – who was away in Europe on personal business – and Pitcairn, sought to meet with the elders of the local Kanien'kehá:ka tribe in Kanatahséton, in their continued efforts to locate the Precursor site.
En route, Lee encountered a young boy in the forest and forcibly demanded the location of his village, unaware that the child was Ratonhnhaké:ton, Haytham's son. Instead of answering, the boy defiantly asked for Lee's name, before warning him steadfastly that he would find him. Amused, Lee mocked the boy, saying that he would look forward to it, and left after Johnson had knocked the child out.
Soon after, Lee and the others gave up in their search, and left. Shortly afterward, Ratonhnhaké:ton's village was set ablaze by George Washington and his forces, who suspected their allegiance to the French; an act which Ratonhnhaké:ton would mistakenly attribute to the Templars.
Charles Lee was present with several Templar members when Haytham inducted the former Assassin Shay Cormac into the Order.
Lee returned to England in 1760 and was promoted to the rank of Major, where he fought in several campaigns in Portugal and Poland. Despite his service, Lee was not well paid, and so became a critic of several military and political figures in England. This backfired however, and as a result, Lee was unable to advance his career as his payment didn't improve, nor his chances for promotion.
Joining the Continental Army
Lee returned to America in 1770, rejoining his Templar brothers. Along with Haytham, Lee instigated the Boston Massacre by firing his pistol into the air, alarming the guards and causing them to open fire against the protesting citizens. Although he was spotted by Ratonhnhaké:ton - now a budding Assassin - Charles was able to evade detection.
By 1773, the colonists had started to rebel against British rule, en masse. Beginning with the Boston Tea Party, the colony's citizens – aided by the Assassin Ratonhnhaké:ton – dumped a large supply of British tea, owned by William Johnson, into the water of Boston's port as a show of defiance towards the tax laws. As a result, the Templars' found themselves unable to smuggle the tea, cutting off one of their main sources of funding. This act was the first, of many, that would eventually led to the outbreak of war between the British Crown and her colonies.
Responding to the events, Lee resigned his commission from the British Army and joined the Continentals in 1775. He quickly established himself as a strong supporter of the Patriots and became a likely candidate for the position of Commander-in-Chief, alongside George Washington. However, Lee's demand to be well compensated, which contrasted against Washington's selfless and modest insistence for little payment, saw him fall from favor for the position. As a result, Washington was chosen by the Continental Congress to lead the Continental Army.
Despite this, Lee was still promoted to the rank of General and served directly under Washington. Charles also attended Washington's acceptance speech and watched with contempt and criticism. It was at this moment that Lee met a man named Connor, in actuality the self-same child he had assaulted over a decade before, but did not recognize him and merely dismissed him as Samuel Adams' lapdog.
Plotting Washington's Assassination
|“||Your meddling in the revolution has caused us no small measure of grief. It cannot continue. Our work is too important.||„|
|~ Charles Lee to Connor.|
In 1776, the Templars tasked Hickey with the murder of Washington, in order to secure Lee the promotion to Commander-in-Chief. Unfortunately for them, Hickey was intercepted by the Assassin, and was soon arrested for counterfeiting and treason, alongside Connor.
On receiving word of Hickey's shortcomings, Charles and Haytham visited him in Bridewell Prison, where they reprimanded him for his recklessness and informed him that he could not be pardoned due the investigations against him by Benjamin Tallmadge. Upon realizing that Connor, the Assassin, was also locked up in a cell next to Hickey's, Lee formulated a new plan.
Connor was later able to steal the prison warden's key and went to kill Hickey in his cell, only to find the murdered body of the warden. There, he was ambushed by both Hickey and Lee, who held him at gunpoint. In this moment, they revealed to Connor that he would be tried and executed for the murder of the warden and for attempting to assassinate Washington.
Lee justified his actions and the Templars to Connor by slandering Washington, citing his poor military record and calling him unfit for leadership. Connor attempted to attack Lee, but was easily overpowered. It was at this moment that Lee finally recognized Connor as the boy from the forest, to which Connor reminded Lee of his vow to find him. Lee then choked and rendered Connor unconscious.
Lee's plan not only framed Connor but would allow Hickey an opportunity to murder Washington, who would personally attend the execution. The next day, Connor was taken to be publicly executed after Haytham and Lee were able to omit the supposed trial.
Hickey escorted Connor to the gallows, with Lee presiding to announce his crimes against Washington and the colonies, before sentencing him to death. However, Connor was saved in part by Achilles Davenport and his Assassin recruits, and also through the intervention of Haytham, who had recently discovered his familial link to the Assassin. In the resulting confusion, Lee escaped while Hickey made a desperate attempt to kill Washington; he failed and was assassinated by Connor, proving the latter's innocence.
Lee continued serving under Washington, biding his time and secretly undermining Washington's orders and authority. Washington failed in his campaign in keeping New York for the Patriots, and because of this, he ordered the evacuation of his forces as the British Army retook control of the city.
However, Lee intentionally delayed the retreat and allowed himself to be captured by the British. Consequently, Lee was imprisoned, but since he formally resigned his commission in the British Army rather than deserting, Lee was treated with civility and given comfortable accommodations and fine dining. Lee then took this opportunity to give the British information regarding the Continental Army, hoping it would lead to further weaken and disgrace Washington in battle.
Battle of Monmouth
|“||I will say it one last time – that man is your enemy and he will not stop until you are dead or dishonored.||„|
|~ Connor's warning to Washington regarding Charles Lee.|
On his release from prison, Lee returned to Congress, where he attempted to convince them that the Continental Army was not strong enough to match the British forces. Nonetheless, Washington prepared his armies in Valley Forge to stop the British march from Philadelphia to New York in 1778. Washington also ordered the extermination of the Kanatahséton village, Connor's home, due to his suspicions of them allying with the British.
Lee took advantage of this situation by travelling to Kanatahséton, where he met with Kanen'tó:kon and several others, and convinced them to join the war against the Continental Army in order to protect their land. He also manipulated Kanen'tó:kon into believing that Connor had betrayed the village by allying himself with Washington.
Following this, Lee took control of Marquis de Lafayette's contingency forces at Monmouth and ordered a full retreat, while abandoning his post, leaving them unprepared against the advancing British forces. However, Connor arrived in time to help hold off the British Army and secured the Patriots' retreat, saving many lives of the Continental Army and sparing Washington a devastating defeat.
Prompted by Lee's behavior, Connor and Lafayette revealed Lee's treachery to Washington. As a result, Washington investigated, leading to Lee's court martial for insubordinate behavior and poor command decisions. Lee was disgraced, though he was spared execution and was instead temporarily suspended from duty.
Becoming Grand Master
|“||He will wait. He will watch. And then – when he's seen all his life's work brought to ruin... Only then will I allow him to die.||„|
|~ Charles Lee to Connor about killing Shay Cormac whenever his work is undone.|
By 1781, both Haytham and Charles knew that Connor sought his death; Lee resided in the Templar-controlled Fort George, in the military district of New York. Haytham visited Lee, encouraging him to leave and assuring him that there was no danger, while also giving him his amulet for safekeeping.
Soon after, Connor infiltrated the military district with aid of several French warships creating a diversion. As he had expected an attack, Haytham had remained to confront and kill his son, however Connor prevailed in the struggle they shared, assassinating Haytham. Lee soon learned of this and ascended to the rank of Grand Master, in Haytham's place, over what was left of the Templar Order.
Months later, in 1782, Lee presided over Haytham's funeral and delivered the eulogy in his honor. However, Connor appeared from the crowd and approached Lee, though he was restrained by guards. Enraged by Connor's constant interference of his plans and the murder of his comrades, Lee vowed revenge, promising not only to kill him, but to also murder everyone and destroy everything that Connor loved and held dear.
Connor brushed off Lee's threats, warning him that he would fail, and die with the rest of his plans. As the guards carried Connor away, Lee decided to gather an army and recuperate his power. To this end, he recruited the captain of the HMS Jersey and many mercenaries to his cause. After leaving for Boston, Lee learned that Connor had escaped, to which he decided to flee and return to England for safety.
|“||Why do you persist...? You put us down. We rise again. You end one plot – we forge another. You try so hard... But it always ends the same. Those who know you think you mad and this is why... Even those men you sought to save have turned their backs on you. Yet you fight. You resist. Why?||„|
|~ Charles Lee questioning Connor of his hard work leading to the Templar Order's downfall.|
Connor intercepted Lee at Boston pier, leading to a chase through the dockyards. Lee attempted to lose Connor by running through a ferry under construction, during which an accident had caused it to set ablaze. After a dangerous pursuit, both Lee and Connor crashed through a collapsed floor, with Connor impaling himself on a wooden splinter through his abdomen.
Lee approached Connor, looking down on him, before asking why the Assassins fought an endless and futile cause against the Templars. Catching Lee off guard, Connor quickly raised his pistol and shot Lee in the stomach.
Though injured, Lee managed to escape, taking a ferry up the Charles River to Monmouth and rested at the Conestoga Inn. Connor once again followed and caught up with him, neither in any condition to fight. Lee silently offered and shared his drink, to which Connor accepted. Welcoming his end, Lee gave Connor a slight nod, and Connor proceeded to stab Lee in the heart. After the Assassin took the amulet from around Lee's neck, Charles fell forward against the table and finally passed away. With Charles Lee dead and every other Templar having been murdered during the course of the American Revolution, the Colonial Rite of the Templar Order collapsed, having kept in power since the end of the Seven Years' War and now reduced to rubble by one Assassin much like the other Templar Grand Masters before him.
Personality and Characteristics
Charles Lee, throughout most of his life, was a veteran warrior and commander from years of military service in the French and Indian War and American Revolution. In his youth, Lee was dedicated, enthusiastic and keen. To this, William Johnson commented that he was "a good lad, if a bit earnest."
All of this changed as he rose through the Order's ranks to become second-in-command. Though Lee was seemingly noble and honorable, he appeared as impulsive, violent and slightly power-crazed.
In his pursuit to gain more power, he also became ruthless, vengeful and cruel. This was evident by his strong political motivations and demand for higher pay. Furthermore, his arrogance manifested into violence and contempt for others; for example, he had frustration for the Kanien'kehá:ka people for not knowing the threats the colonists might pose, considering them to be naive, and he also slandered and criticized Washington with passion.
Despite his long, successful career and military prowess, Lee wasn't popular or favored amongst the Patriots. This was clear by how the Congress viewed him: vulgar and slovenly in appearance and attitude, as well as greedy. As a result, Lee constantly plotted and competed against Washington to seize his command. However, Haytham had strong faith in Lee's ability, loyalty and understanding of the Templar vision for a New World Order.
- The initial render of Charles Lee prior to the game's release showed him as an older-looking character.
- Charles Lee was the first major assassination target to die without sharing their final thoughts with their killer, neither in the Animus' memory corridor, nor at the moment of their death.
- While it is commonly mistaken as a belief that Charles Lee is the main antagonist, especially since Lee was more directly responsible for the misfortunes of Connor; he burned his village, motivating him to become an Assassin, plotted to kill George Washington, he was only Haytham's top enforcer to ensure the Templars would triumph, regardless of the outcome of the American Revolution, even after Haytham is killed by Connor. This makes Charles the secondary antagonist, as even after Haytham's death, he was still carrying Haytham's influence, and only with Charles' death (again after being killed by Connor), was the Templar influence in the colonies completely destroyed.
- Among the Kanien'kehá:ka, Charles Lee was known as Ounewaterika, meaning "Boiling Water".
- In the Davenport Manor's basement, Ratonhnhaké:ton's memento from killing Lee was the Grand Temple Key, despite the fact that after Lee's death, the key was buried in Connor Davenport's grave.
- Historically, Lee was only discharged from the Continental Army years after his retreat: On January 10, 1780, he was formally discharged and spent his remaining years reportedly verbally attacking Washington to anybody around, and as a result, was frequently challenged to duels by those loyal to Washington. In a duel with Colonel John Laurens, Lee was heavily wounded in his side, but he continued to duel. Charles eventually retired to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he died of fever on October 2, 1782.
- Also, historically, Charles Lee had apparently had children with several Native Americans, whose names remain unknown to this day. In Assassin's Creed III, that Iroquois relationship is used for Haytham Kenway.