COMBE, William (1551-1610), of Middle Temple, London and Warwick.
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Family and Education
b. June 1551, posth. s. of John Combe (d.1550) of Stratford-on-Avon, Warws. by his 3rd w. Jane, da. of John Wheeler of Droitwich, Worcs., wid. of Baldwin Sheldon of Broadway. (She m. 22 Nov. 1554, Thomas Lewkenor† of Alvechurch). educ. New Inn; M. Temple 1571, called 1579. m. ?(1) a da. of Thomas Lewkenor of Alvechurch; (1) or (2) Alice, da. of Richard Hanbury of London; (2) or (3) Jane, da. of Nicholas Chowne† of Fairlawn in Wrotham, Kent, wid. of (Sir) John Puckering of Kew, Surr.1
J.p. Warws. by 1595, Worcs. by 1604; sheriff, Warws. 1607-8.
The Combes were related to several substantial families in Worcestershire and Warwickshire and were well known in Stratford, where, at the turn of the century, they engaged in a number of transactions with William Shakespeare. No adequate pedigrees of the family are known.
Though Combe’s elder brother John was classed as an adversary of true religion in 1564, and Combe himself had Catholic connexions, his loyalty to the government was certain. According to a contemporary account he was ’set to school and brought up in learning by some loving benefactors’, including the recusant Mrs. Dorothy Heath (widow of William Heath†) whose arrest many years later, on 4 Jan. 1595, while sheltering a Catholic priest was brought about by Combe,
a favourite of some in authority, as namely to Doctor Whitgift ... the lord treasurer, and the lord keeper [Puckering, whose widow he married] by which means he grew to be of some account in the country.
This account mentions another recusant, Jane Sheldon (of the Catholic county family), to whom he was allied by the ‘marriage of their parents’. The Sheldons owned salt-pans at Droitwich, for which borough Combe was returned to the Parliament of 1589. Her eldest son married the daughter of another Droitwich MP, Francis Brace. When returned at Warwick, Combe was living there and may already have been ‘of counsel’ to the borough, for in 1605 a lease in reversion that he secured from the authorities was said to be granted in consideration of the counsel which he ‘had heretofore given and hereafter shall give’. He may also have had the support of Puckering, a former recorder of the borough.
No activity is recorded for Combe in the parliamentary journals until 1597, when he claimed privilege after being cited in a Star Chamber case (as Nov.). He served on the committee of privileges himself (5 Nov.), and also on a defence committee (16 Jan. 1598). As knight for Warwickshire he was eligible to attend committees concerning enclosures (5 Nov.), the poor law (5, 22 Nov.), armour and weapons (8 Nov.), the penal laws (