The Corbets are an ancient family that can be traced back to Normandy. It is believed that the Corbets are of Danish origin and that the raven was their symbol. The Corbet name is probably an outcome of the old Norman "Le Corbeau" that, over time, changed to "Le Corbet". It could be derived from two possible sources. The Danish were known to display the "Reafan" or the raven as a sacred standard in battle. It is written by the historians, Pliny and Tacitus, that there was a warrior family who took their family name and emblem from "The Raven". They related that their direct ancestor was "Valerius". It is said that during a battle, Valerius had a Raven land on his helmet at a critical moment during a battle in Gaul and lead him to victory. The latin for crow or raven is Corvus. The first documentation of this family is in A.D. 1040, Le Carpentier mentions one Hugo le Corbet or le Corbeau as "Chivalier." Until the Norman Invasion in 1066 they were thought to be an important family in the "Pays de Caux" region of Normandy.
This family history begins with Hugo le Corbet or le Corbeau. With two of his sons, Roger and Robert, Sir Hugo joined in the battle of Hastings with William the Conqueror in 1066. Hugo helped counsel the Conqueror in regards to the Welsh border lands which were rebellious. For their service as knights to the Conqueror, Robert and Roger were given Baronies. Roger received twenty-five manors. Robert received a grant of fifteen manors in Shropshire which became the barony of Longden. These Manors were townships under the Saxon rule. Roger called both his castle and barony "Caus" after his home in Normandy. The Corbets served under the Earl Roger de Montgomery. They were in service to help control the borders of Wales.
In this family history we are following the eldest branch - Roger. After the invasion, Roger made his home at one of his newly acquired manors, the Saxon Morton-Toret. It became the central home for his family, as well as an important Norman castle. During the Civil Wars it was burnt down by Cromwell's soldiers. After that, Acton-Reynold Hall became the new center of the family's activities.
CORBETT: Corbat (sic) and his two sons, Roger and Rodbert (sic), are named by Ordericus among 'the faithful and very valiant men" employed by Roger de Montgomeri in the government of his new Earldom of Shrewsbury. Corbet was also, according to tradition, consulted by William the Conqueror as to the defence of the Welsh Marches.
His ancestry, Blakeway tells us, ascended "to a very remote antiquity. The name denotes in Norman-French a raven: whether in allusion to the famous Danish standard (the Reafan), of which their ancestor might have been the bearer from Scandinavia under Rollo, or whether from a less noble source, cannot be determined.
It is certain that Corbet came with his second and fourth sons, Roger and Robert, to the invasion of England by Duke William of Normandy. Besides the two sons who settled in Shropshire, the eldest and the third, Hugh and Renaud, stayed behind.
Hugh is mentioned in some charters of the Abbey of Bec, in Normandy; and Renaud was in Palestine in 1096, with his two sons, Robert and Guy. From the last of these descended five generations, all of them men of eminent rank in France, distinguished crusaders in the Holy Land, and castellans or viscounts of St. Pol, which the Corbets continued to hold until Hugh Corbet, knight, fourth descendant of Guy, sold his viscountcy to the Count de St. Pol, in order to raise money that he might follow St Louis on his crusading expedition against the Moors of Africa.
Robert, son of Hugh, accompanied his father to Tunis, and was drowned there in 1270. Hugh, his son, settled near Cambray; and his descendants for four generations lived at various places in the Netherlands, till James Corbet removed to Antwerp; and Robert, grandson to James, migrated to Spain, where he left a fair posterity. These Corbets of France and Flanders bore three ravens for their arms, in token of their descent from the third brother.
A branch also of the Corbet family settled in Scotland, and were even allied to the Royal family there; for, in 1255, the Archbishop of St. Andrews writes a letter to the English Chancellor, Walter de Merton, on behalf of his 'beloved and especial friend, Nicholas Corbet, cousin of my Lord the King,' who had then certain affairs pending at the court of Henry III."
Corbet the Norman was dead before 1086: for his son, Roger Fitz Corbet, is the Domesday baron, and built a castle at Alfreton as the head of his honour, which he names Caux, from Pays de Caux, his former home in Normandy. "This was one of the Border castles which, for two centuries after Domesday, served its continuous purposes of aggression and defence." Eyton's Shropshire.
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