One of Lee's great grandparents, Henry Lee I, was a prominent Virginian colonist of English descent. Lee's family is one of Virginia's first families, descended from Richard Lee I, Esq., "the Immigrant" (1618–64), from the county of Shropshire in England.
Robert E. Lee was born in Virginia's Westmoreland County on January 19, 1807, the third son of Henry ("Light Horse Harry") and Ann Hill Carter Lee. Declining fortunes forced the family's removal to Alexandria. His father's death in 1811 increased responsibilities on all the sons; Robert, especially, cared for his invalid mother.