Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Constable, Robert

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CONSTABLE, Sir ROBERT (1478?–1537), one of the leaders of the Pilgrimage of Grace, born about 1478, was eldest son of Sir Marmaduke Constable (1455?-1518) [q. v.] of Flamborough. In his youth he carried off a ward of chancery, and tried to marry her to one of his retainers (Froude, iii. 166). In the reign of Henry VII he was of signal service to the crown upon the commotion of Lord Audley and the Cornishmen, who marched on London and were defeated at Blackheath in 1497. Constable was one of the knights bannerets that were created at Blackheath by the king after his victory (Bacon, Henry VII). In the following reign, on the outbreak of the great Yorkshire rising, known as the Pilgrimage of Grace, caused by the beginning of the destruction of monasteries in 1536, he took the leading part, along with Aske the captain and Lord Darcy. He was with the rebellious host on their entry into York; and after their advance on Pontefract, which became their head quarters, he was among those who received the royal herald with extreme haughtiness (State Papers, i. 486). He then threw himself into Hull, and urged that the most resolute measures should be taken; that negotiation should be refused until they were strong enough to defend themselves, that the whole country northward from the Trent should be closed, and the rising of Lancashire and Cheshire expected. If this counsel had been followed, the revolt would have been more serious. But the advance on Doncaster followed, and the fatal parley there with the king's forces, and Constable was among those who afterwards rode over the bridge, took off their badges, made their submission, and received their Ipardon. At the beginning of the next year, January' 1537, when Sir Bigod [q.v.] rashly attempted to renew the insurrection, Constable exerted himself to keep the country quiet (see his letter to the commons, Froude, iii. 196). When this last commotion was over, he, like the other leaders, was invited by the king to proceed to London. This he refused, and at the same time removed for safety from his usual place of abode to a dwelling thirty miles away. Hereupon the powerful minister Thomas Cromwell caused the Duke of Norfolk, the king’s general in the north, to send him up with a sergeant-at-arms on 3 March (Hardwick, i. 38). He with Aske and Darcy was committed to the Tower till they should be tried, and meantime Norfolk was directed to say in the north that they were imprisoned, not for their former offences, but for treasons committed since their pardon. What those treasons were the duke was conveniently forbidden to say. There was ‘no speciality to be touched or spoken of,’ but all 'conveyed in a mass together' (ib. i. 457). True bills were returned against them, and after their condemnation it seemed to the king 'not amiss' that some of them should be remitted to their county for execution, 'as well for example as to see who would groan' (State Papers, i. 666). Constable and Aske were therefore sent down to Yorkshire, exhibited as traitors in the towns through which they passed, and Constable was hanged in chains at Hull in June. He married Jane, daughter of Sir William Ingloby, by whom he had eight children (Foster, Yorkshire Pedigrees).

[Authorities cited above.]

R. W. D.