CORBET, John (c.1571-1611), of Sprowston, Norf. and Holborn, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



27 Jan. 1607

Family and Education

b. c.1571, 5th but 2nd surv. s. of Sir Miles Corbet (d. 19 June 1607)1 of Sprowston, and Catherine, da. of Sir Christopher Heydon† of Baconsthorpe, Norf.; bro. of Francis†, and Thomas.2 unm. d. 9 Dec. 1611.3

Offices Held

Servant to Sir Henry Unton† 1589-96, Sir Thomas Wilkes† 1596-8.4

Clerk of PC (extraordinary) 1605, (ordinary) 1608-d.;5 muster-master-gen. [I] 1609-d.6

Freeman, Portsmouth 1607;7 commr. annoyances, Surr. 1611.8


Corbet, the uncle of Sir John Corbet*, was engaged in quasi-official diplomatic missions to France for most of the 1590s.9 At James I’s accession he wrote to Sir Robert Cecil† bewailing his ‘friendless and helpless’ state, and applied, with the support of Levinius Munck†, for a post closer to home.10 Early in 1605 an additional clerkship of the Privy Council was created for him.11 After the Gunpowder Plot Corbet helped to interrogate the Jesuit priest Henry Garnet, and did what he could to secure the release of his ‘old acquaintance’ Dudley Carleton*, who had been arrested for potential complicity due his links with the Percys.12

The 1st earl of Salisbury (as Cecil now was) doubtless recommended Corbet to the electors of Portsmouth in place of Sir Oliver St. John*, appointed to Irish office. He was returned on 27 Jan. 1607, presumably in his absence, since three days earlier he was suffering from an ague, which he feared would turn to consumption without a change of air.13 Ill health may have prevented him from attending the third session of the first Stuart Parliament. If so he had recovered by 1608, when he was promoted to ordinary clerk of the Privy Council, and was granted a rectory in Oxfordshire.14 The following year he succeeded Sir James Fullerton* as muster-master of Ireland, with permission to stay in England, and received several recusancy grants.15 When Parliament resumed sitting, Corbet was among those ordered to attend the joint conference of 15 Feb. 1610 at which Salisbury unveiled the Great Contract.16 As a Norfolk man by birth, he was added to the committee for the salt marshes bill on 17 Apr., and the following day he was among those ordered to consider his friend Munck’s naturalization bill.17

Corbet’s health broke down during the summer, and on 1 Sept. 1610 he was at Sprowston convalescing from attacks of the stone and the ague; he does not appear in the sparse records of the Parliament’s fifth session.18 Despite continuing illness, Corbet was spoken of as a potential ambassador to Savoy. However, he died on 9 Dec. 1611 and was buried ten days later at St. Andrew’s, Holborn, at a cost of £500.19 In his brief will, drawn up three years earlier, he left £36 to the poor of the parish in which he died, and 20s. to each of the inhabitants of his father’s almshouses. After a number of personal bequests, including £60 to Munck and £10 to his friend Sir Walter Cope*, he left the residue to his brother Clement, later chancellor of Norwich diocese.20 The letter-writer John Chamberlain reported that his estate amounted to nearly £8,000.21

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Virginia C.D. Moseley / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. Blomefield, Norf. x. 463.
  • 2. Vis. Norf. (Harl. Soc. xxxii), 84-5, 152; Vis. Norf. (Norf. Arch. Soc.), i. 35; ii. 226.
  • 3. Stow, Survey of London ed. Strype, iii. 249.
  • 4. HMC Hatfield, xv. 188.
  • 5. Add. 11402, f. 97v; Add. 31825, f. 13v.
  • 6. CSP Ire. 1608-10, p. 581.
  • 7. Portsmouth Recs. ed. R. East, 348.
  • 8. C181/2, f. 142v.
  • 9. HMC Hatfield, xxiii. 22, 33.
  • 10. HMC Hatfield, xv. 188; xvi. 358, 416.
  • 11. Chamberlain Letters, ed. N.E. McClure, i. 205.
  • 12. HMC Hatfield, xviii. 108, 110; SP14/17/48, 50.
  • 13. HMC Hatfield, xix. 24, 220.
  • 14. C66/1757, 1786.
  • 15. CSP Ire. 1608-10, p. 581; Add. 34765, ff. 37v, 39, 44, 44v.
  • 16. CJ, i. 393b.
  • 17. Ibid. 418b, 419a.
  • 18. SP14/57/39; HMC Downshire, ii. 273, iii. 47.
  • 19. HMC Downshire, iii. 192; GL, St Andrew Holborn par. reg.
  • 20. PROB 11/118, f. 343.
  • 21. Chamberlain Letters, i. 325-6.