Robert Constable

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Sir Robert Constable (c. 1478 – 6 July 1537) was a member of the English Tudor gentry. He helped Henry VII to defeat the Cornish rebels at the Battle of Blackheath in 1497. In 1536, when the rising known as the Pilgrimage of Grace broke out in the north of England, Constable was one of the insurgent leaders, but towards the close of the year he submitted at Doncaster and was pardoned. He did not share in the renewal of the rising which took place in January 1537; but he refused the king's invitation to proceed to London, and was arrested, tried for treason, and hanged at Hull in the following June.[1]


Born at Flamborough in Yorkshire, Robert Constable was the eldest son of Sir Marmaduke Constable (1456/7 – 20 November 1518) and his second wife, Joyce Stafford. His paternal grandparents were Sir Robert Constable of Flamborough, Yorkshire, and Agnes Wentworth, daughter of Sir Roger Wentworth, esquire, of Nettlestead, Suffolk, and Margery le Despencer. Constable's maternal uncle, Sir Humphrey Stafford (c. 1426/7 – 8 July 1486), was executed at Tyburn for his part in an insurrection against King Henry VII.[2]

Early life[edit]

In his youth Constable carried off a ward of Chancery, and tried to marry her to one of his retainers. In the reign of Henry VII he was of signal service to the crown upon the Cornish Rebellion led by Lord Audley, who marched on London and was defeated at the battle of Blackheath in 1497. Constable was one of the knights bannerets that were created at Blackheath by Henry VII after his victory on 17 June 1497. In the following reign he was also at Flodden.[citation needed]

Pilgrimage of Grace[edit]

In 1536, 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 Robert Aske and Lord Darcy. Constable was among those who made their submission, and received their pardon. At the beginning of the next year, January 1537, when Sir Francis Bigod rashly attempted to renew the insurrection, Constable exerted himself to keep the country quiet. When this last commotion was over, he, like the other leaders, was invited by King Henry VIII 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.[citation needed]

Hereupon the powerful minister Thomas Cromwell caused the Duke of Norfolk to send him up with a sergeant-at-arms on 8 March. 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'. 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'. Constable and Aske were therefore sent down to Yorkshire, exhibited as traitors in the towns through which they passed, and Constable was executed at Hull on 6 July 1537 being hanged in chains over Beverley gate at Hull, and thereby forfeited Flamborough and 35 other manors in Lincolnshire.[citation needed] The Duke of Norfolk witnessed his execution;

On Frydaye, beyng market daye at Hull, Sir Robert Constable suffred, and dothe hang above the highest gate of the towne, so trymmed in cheynes, that I thinke his bones will hang there this hundrethe yere. And on Thursdaye, which shall be market daye, God willing, I will be at the execution of Aske at York.


Sir Robert was married to Jane Ingleby of Ripley (b. 1472) in 1492, probably in Yorkshire, England. Jane's parents were Sir William Ingleby of Ripley, son of John Ingleby of Ripley and Margaret Strangeways, Baroness Willoughby, and his wife Catherine Stillington, daughter of Thomas Stillington of Nether Acaster and Agnes Bigod.[citation needed]

Sir Robert and Jane had the following issue:[citation needed]

  • Sir Marmaduke Constable of Nuneaton (1498/1502 – 20 April 1560), married Elizabeth Darcy, daughter of Lord Darcy. Had issue.
  • Catherine Constable (c. 1498–1585), married Sir Roger Cholmley. Had issue.
  • Thomas Constable of Great Grimsby (c. 1504 – aft. 1558), MP, married 1st Barbara Catherall, 2nd Lady Holdenby. Had issue by both wives.
  • Joyce Constable (b. circa 1500), married Rowland Pudsey. No issue.
  • Anne Constable (b. circa 1504), who married George Hussey (d. 10 August 1537) of Harswell and North Duffield, Yorkshire, son and heir of Sir William Hussey (d. 1531) by Anne Salvaine, and had issue three sons, John, Robert and William, and one daughter, Frances.[4]
  • Jane Constable, married Thomas Rokeby of Mortham, and had issue, including the judge Ralph Rokeby.

In fiction[edit]

He is a major character in The Man on a Donkey by H F M Prescott.



  1. ^ Chisholm 1911.
  2. ^ Richardson I 2011, pp. 117–19, 527–8; Newman 2004.
  3. ^ State Papers Henry VIII, vol. V part IV part 2 (1836), 93, Norfolk to Cromwell, Sunday 8 July 1537.
  4. ^ Maddison 1903, p. 528.


  • Brodie, Robert Henry (1887). "Constable, Marmaduke" . In Stephen, Leslie (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. 12. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 42–44.
  • Horrox, Rosemary (2004). Constable, Sir Marmaduke (1456/7?–1518). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 21 December 2012. (subscription required)
  • Maddison, Arthur Roland, ed. (1903). Lincolnshire Pedigrees. II. London: Harleian Society. Retrieved 28 January 2013.
  • Newman, Christine M. (2004). "Constable, Sir Robert (1478?–1537)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/6110. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  • Richardson, Douglas (2011). Everingham, Kimball G. (ed.). Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families. I (2nd ed.). Salt Lake City. ISBN 1449966373.
  • Burke, John (1836), A genealogical and heraldic history of the commoners of Great Britain and Ireland, Colburn, p. 548
  • "Sir Robert Constable". Tudor Place.[unreliable source]