CORBET, Robert (1383-1420), of Moreton Corbet, Salop.
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Family and Education
J.p. Salop 14 Mar. 1410-Feb. 1416.
Commr. of inquiry, Salop Nov. 1413 (liberties in Morfe forest).
Sheriff, Salop 23 Nov. 1419-d.
After the death of his parents in 1395, Corbet’s wardship and marriage were granted by Richard II to Thomas Percy, earl of Worcester. It seems likely that in more normal circumstances they would have pertained to the earl of Arundel; certainly, following the accession of Henry IV and the consequent reinstatement of Thomas Fitzalan to his estates and title, Percy was obliged to hand over the wardship to one of Arundel’s retainers, John Burley I* of Broncroft. Corbet proved his age in March 1405,1 and along with his younger brother, Roger, soon entered the service of Earl Thomas. In July 1407 these two joined with another Fitzalan retainer, William Ryman* of Sussex, John Darras* (their aunt’s husband) and others in obtaining a royal licence to grant a burgage in Shrewsbury known as ‘Ireland Hall’ to St. Peter’s abbey, to support certain works of piety, the transaction most likely being on the earl’s behalf. That same year and again in 1410 Corbet attended the shire elections at Shrewsbury castle; and on both occasions another member of the earl’s affinity, David Holbache, was elected, on the second in the company of Corbet’s former guardian, John Burley. Corbet was appointed as a j.p. in Shropshire in 1410, and he was elected to his first Parliament three years later, very soon after the earl had been made treasurer of England by the new King, Henry V. On 24 May 1413, while Parliament was in session, he and his fellow MP, Richard Lacon, who held office on the Fitzalan estates, joined Holbache and Urian St. Pierre (both then representing Shrewsbury), as sureties for one Matthew ap Meredith. On the day after the dissolution (10 June), Corbet obtained a royal licence to enfeoff Burley’s son, William* (the future Speaker) and others of his manor of Shawbury, and to entail it on himself and his wife and their issue.2
During the next Parliament, which met at Leicester in April 1414, it was claimed that the tenths and fifteenths granted in 1413 could not be collected in Shropshire because of the enmity of Corbet and Lacon towards the men they had themselves recommended as collectors. The latter alleged that when they had presented themselves at Eaton and Moreton Corbet to levy a distress for non-payment of the tax, the servants of the Corbet brothers had set upon them with swords. Furthermore, when they lodged for the night at Oldbury, guarding some money they had succeeded in getting in, a band of about 120 armed men had come out from Bridgnorth intending to rob them and kill them in their beds; they themselves managed to escape, yet their horses were shot and several of their followers left for dead. The outcome of these petitions and allegations was that the King himself saw fit to preside over sessions of the King’s bench held at Shrewsbury in the Trinity term, many indictments then being brought against the Corbet brothers and their fellow ‘esquires de count d’Arundell’: most notably Lacon, John Wele*, John Wynnesbury* and John Burley’s son, John. Among the charges was one that they had assembled 2,000 men of Chester to raid the town of Wenlock on 18 May 1413 (unlikely in Robert Corbet’s case, for he should then have been at Westminster for the Parliament), and that they had all broken the Statutes of Livery. Their cases were moved for trial to the King’s bench sitting at Westminster in the Michaelmas term, when they pleaded that they had ridden armed into Wenlock to carry out their duties as j.p.s by arresting those who had broken the law, one of the offenders being John Talbot, Lord Furnival. It is significant that Talbot was at that time engaged in an acrimonius dispute with Arundel, and that the earl’s men were the principal persons to be indicted. Arundel promptly provided bail, standing surety for the future good behaviour of his followers, who, thanks to his influence, were all able to procure royal pardons. Further petitions brought against them in the Parliament of 1415 apparently met with no response.3Earlier in 1415, both Robert Corbet and his brother had served as esquires in Arundel’s retinue on Henry V’s first expedition to France, but on 4 Oct. after the earl had been invalided home with dysentery contracted at the siege of Harfleur, Robert, too, was permitted to return to England. Unlike his lord he survived the disease, but Arundel’s death left him without a patron, and he was dismissed from the Shropshire bench shortly afterwards. Corbet attended the shire elections in 1417 to endorse the return of his feoffee, William Burley. In April 1419 he was ordered, under a pain of £100, to appear before the Council whenever warned to do so, but his misdemeanours, whatever they may have been, were evidently forgotten before the autumn, when he was returned to Parliament again, and, shortly after the dissolution, appointed sheriff. In September of that year he and his feoffees received from Roger Thornes* of Shrewsbury a charter of warranty of lands Thornes had inherited in Shropshire, excepting certain properties already conveyed to Corbet’s brother.4
Corbet died during his term as sheriff on 12 Aug. 1420, at the early age of 36. His heir was his elder son, Thomas, then aged ten, who subsequently sat for Shropshire in 1435 but died less than four years afterwards when, on the death of Robert’s widow (who had meanwhile married Sir William Mallory of Papworth, Cambridgeshire), the family estates passed to Robert’s younger son, Roger Corbet. The latter represented the shire in the Parliaments of 1439 and 1447.5