Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Constantine, George

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CONSTANTINE, GEORGE (1501?–1559), protestant reformer, born about 1501, was first brought up as a surgeon (Foxe, Acts and Monuments, ed. Townsend, vii. 753; Anderson, Annals of the English Bible, i. 188). He received his education in the university of Cambridge, and was bachelor of canon law in 1524 (Cooper, Athenæ Cantab. i. 205). Adopting the reformed doctrines he went to Antwerp, where he assisted Tyndal and Joye in the translation of the New Testament, and in the compilation of various books against the Roman church (Strype, Cranmer, p. 81, fol.) While in Brabant he practised for a year as a surgeon. About 1530 he was seized on a visit he made to England for the dispersion of prohibited books. He was placed in the custody of the lord chancellor, Sir Thomas More, and in order to escape punishment for heresy he made disclosures as to his associates abroad, and gave the names of ‘the shipmen who brought over many of these books, and the marks of the fardles, by which means the books were afterwards taken and burnt’ (Strype, Eccl. Memorials, i. 166, fol.) The chancellor is represented by one manuscript as having put his prisoner in the stocks, but a subsequent letter shows that this was another way of expressing that he was in irons (Anderson, i. 308). Constantine succeeded, however, in making his escape, and arrived at Antwerp on 6 Dec. 1531.

Venturing to return to London after More's death he entered into the service of Sir Henry Norris, who suffered on the scaffold with Queen Anne Boleyn. He next entered the ministry of the church of England, having obtained the vicarage of Lawhaden or Llanhuadairne, three miles north-west of Narberth, Pembrokeshire, under William Barlow, bishop of St. David's. About 1546 he became registrar of the diocese of St. David's, and in 1549 archdeacon of Carmarthen. Anticipating the public articles on the subject, he in 1549 pulled down the altar and set up a table in the middle of his church. This proceeding caused much murmuring among the people, and gave offence to the bishop, Robert Ferrar, who had not been consulted, and who commanded the vicar to place the communion-table on the spot formerly occupied by the altar. This was subsequently made one of the articles of accusation against Ferrar by Constantine and his son-in-law, Thomas Young (Strype, Eccl. Memorials, ii. 227, 228). They both sought for and obtained forgiveness from the bishop shortly before he was burnt for heresy in 1555 (ib. iii. 254, 256, 258, App. 138, 143, 144; Foxe, vii. 4, 10–14, 17, 23, 25, 27, 753; Strype, Cranmer, p. 184). In 1559 Constantine became archdeacon of Brecon, which office was vacated the same year by his death (Jones and Freeman, St. David's, p. 360).

He was married and had a daughter, who became the wife of Thomas Young, afterwards bishop of St. David's, and ultimately archbishop of York.

He was author of:

  1. ‘Instructions for my Lord Privey Seale as towchinge the whole communication betwixt John Barlow, Deane of Westbury, Thomas Barlow, Prebendary there, clerkys, and George Constantine of Lawhaden, in their journey from Westbury unto Slebech in Sowthwales’ (1539); in ‘Archæologia,’ xxiii. 56–78.
  2. Translation of a sermon by John Wycliffe, ‘De Hominis Villicatione’ (Bale, Scriptt. Brit. Cat. i. 732; Tanner, Bibl. Brit. p. 196).
  3. ‘The Examination of Master William Thorpe, priest, of heresy, before Thomas Arundell, Archbishop of Canterbury, the year of our Lord MCCC. and seven.’

See Sir Thomas More's ‘English Works,’ p. 342. This appears to be the tract which is reprinted in Arber's ‘English Garner,’ 1883, vi. 41.

[Authorities cited above.]

T. C.