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

CONSTABLE, Sir MARMADUKE (1466?–1518), of Flamborough, is known as 'Little Sir Marmaduke.' His life is summed up in the following inscription on a brass tablet in Flamborough church (the spelling is modernised):—

Here lieth Marmaduke Constable of Flaymburght, knight,
Who made adventure into France for the right of the same;
Passed over with King Edward the Fourth, that noble knight,
And also with noble King Harry the Seventh of that name.
He was also at Barvik at the winning of the same
And by King Edward chosen captain then first of any on,
And ruled and governed there his time without
But for all that, as ye see, he lieth under this

At Brankiston Field, where the King of Scats was slain
He then being of the age of threescore and ten,
With the good Duke of Norfolk that journey he hath ta'en
And couragely advanced himself among other there and then,
The king being in France with great number of English men.
He, nothing heeding his age there, but Jeoparde him as one
With his sons, brethren, servants, and kinsmen,
But now, as ye see, he lieth under this stone.

The family of Constable take their name from the office of constable of Chester, to which Hugh d'Avronches, earl of Chester in the Conqueror's time, appointed his kinsman Nigel, baron of Haulton. Nigel's descendant John, constable of Chester under Richard I, assumed the name and claimed the lands of Lacy, baron of Pontefract, Roger de Lacy, son of this John (and father of John de Lacy, earl of Lincoln), gave the lordship of Flamborough lo his brother Robert, surnamed Le Constable, founder of the house of Flamborough, who died in 1216. The following is taken from the diary of a Spanish envoy 'to England and Scotland in 1635 (Wegener, Aarsberetninger, iii. 243): 'He (Sir John Campbell, a Scottish courtier) saia likewise that in England there was a noble family, Constable, who received their fief from a former king of the Danes. Even now the custom is that each year at Christmas the head of the family goes to the sea shore and looking towards the north calls out three times that if any one will receive the rent in the name of the king of the Danes he is ready to give it. And then he fixes a coin into an arrow and shoots it as far as he can out into the sea. Camwel (Campbell) said he had been in England on Christmas day in the house of Marmaduke Constable and had seen this done. Marmaduke himself said his grant (litteras pheudatarias) required this ceremony, if he neglected it he could be deprived of his fief, and showed letters commanding it. Four years ago Doctor (sic) Marmaduke Constable told me the same, but instead of a coin he said a rose was shot into the sea, and not at Christmas but on St. John Baptist's day.’

Marmaduke Constable, son of Sir Robert Constable of Flamborough, and Agnes, daughter of Sir Philip Wentworth of Suffolk, was the eldest of a family of eleven, five sons and six daughters. His epitaph says his age was seventy at Brankiston (i.e. Flodden) Field in 1513. This would place his birth about 1443; but the ‘Escheators' Inquisitions,’ taken after the death of his father in 1488, and of his mother in 1496, give his age respectively as over thirty-one and over forty, from which we may infer that he was born about 1455, a more likely date, as his son Robert was born about 1478, when he would be twenty-three, and heirs to property then married young. His wars in France must have been in 1475 with Edward IV, and 1492 with Henry VII. The latter ended with the treaty of Estaples, and we find Constable named among the gentlemen appointed to receive the French delegates who ratified it. Berwick was surrendered to the Duke of Gloucester in 1482. Under that duke, when king as Richard III, Constable held the important stewardship of the honour of Tutbury in Staffordshire. Henry VII, however, pardoned his adherence to King Richard (Pat. 1 Hen. VII, p. 2, m. 22) and received him into favour. The first three years of Henry's reign were disturbed by repeated risings in the north. Humphrey Stafford, Constable's brother-in-law, was hanged for his share in that of 1486 (Lord Lovel's), and in another the Earl of Northumberland was murdered by a Yorkshire mob on 28 April 1489. Constable was then sheriff of Staffordshire, 1486–7, and of Yorkshire, 1487–8; in the latter year he received ‘by way of reward’ 340l. He also obtained the stewardship of some of Northumberland's lands during the minority of the young earl (Pat. 5 Hen. VII, p. 1, m. 21). His father dying in 1488 he became Sir Marmaduke Constable of Flamborough, having previously been known as of Someretby in Lincolnshire. He was a knight of the body to Henry VII, and was at the reception of Catherine of Aragon in 1501. In 1509 Henry VIII sent him to Scotland, with Sir Robert Drury and Dr. John Batemanson, to negotiate the treaty which was signed at Edinburgh on 29 Nov. 1509, and in the following year he and Drury were commissioned to treat for the redress of grievances. He was then, 1509–10, sheriff of Yorkshire. On 9 Dec. 1510 he obtained an exemption from serving on juries, &c. (Pat. 2 Hen. VIII, p. 2, m. 9). To the battle of Flodden in 1513 he accompanied the Earl of Surrey with a powerful band. The ballad of Flodden Field describing the muster has it:—

Sir Marmaduke Constable stout
Accompanied with his seemly sons,
Sir William Bulmer with his rout,
Lord Clifford with his clapping guns.

He was one of those who signed the challenge sent, 7 Sept., by Surrey to the king of Scots. On the 9th, the day of the battle, ‘the captain of the left wing was old Sir Marmaduke Constable, and with him was Master William Percy, his son-in-law, William Constable, his brother, Sir Robert Constable, Marmaduke Constable, William Constable, his sons, and Sir John Constable of Holderness, with divers his kinsmen, allies, and other gentlemen of Yorkshire and Northumberland’ (contemporary news-letter printed by Ric. Fawkes; reprint, Garret, 1822). His two sons, his brother, and William Percy were among those knighted after the battle. Henry VIII acknowledged his services on that day by a letter of thanks dated Windsor, 26 Nov. 1514 (Prickett, Bridlington, p. 186; Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. ii. 208), in which he refers to the royal license already granted to him on account of his ‘great age and impotency’ to take his ‘ease and liberty,’ and addresses him as knight of the body, Sir Marmaduke Constable, the elder, ‘called the little.’ In July 1515 he received a charter of liberties constituting Flamborough a sanctuary for felons and debtors, &c. (Pat. 7 Hen. VIII, p. 1, m. 29). In the Record Office are two orders, one dated 18 Jan. 1518, by Lord Darcy to a servant, to deliver wethers and kids to Constable. They are curious as written on the backs of playing cards (Cal. Hen. VIII, vol. ii. app. 43). He died on 20 Nov. 1518 (Esch. Inq. 11 Hen. VIII). His brother, John Constable, dean of Lincoln, and brother-in-law, Sir William Tirwhit, executors of his will (dated 1 May, and proved at York on 27 April 1520), afterwards, by deed 4 July 1522, in his name founded four scholarships in St. John's College, Cambridge. His tomb in Flamborough church is described by a writer in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ of 1753 (p. 456): ‘This epitaph’ (quoted above) ‘is written on a copper plate fixed into a large stone, which is placed upon a large stone coffin or chest in which the body was reposited, and beside it is the upper part of a skeleton in stone; the ribs project greatly and the breast is laid open, in the inner side of which appears what by tradition is held to be a toad at the heart (of which he was supposed to die), but it bears little or no resemblance of a toad.' The brass has now been separated from the coin and skeleton, and their connection with each other forgotten (Prickett, Bridlinqton, p. 187). By his first wife, Joyce, daughter of Sir Humphrey Stafford of Grafton, he left issue Sir Robert Constable [q. v.]; Sir Marmaduke Constable, Sir William Constable of Hatfield in Holderness, Sir John Constable of Kinalton, Agnes, wife of Sir Henry Ughtred, and Eleanor, wife, first of John Ingelby, afterwards of Thomas, lord Berkeley. By his second wife, Marge, daughter of William, lord FitzHugh, and widow of Sir John Milton of Swine, he left no issue.

Constable, Sir Marmaduke (1480?-1545), second son of the above, by his marriage with Barbara, daughter and heiress of Sir John Sotehill of Everingham, founded the family of Constables of Everingham. He fought under his father at Flodden, and was knighted after the battle as Sir Marmaduke Constable of Everingham, 9 Sept. 1513. In 1520 he went to France to the Field of the Cloth of Gold, and was present at the subsequent meeting of Henry VIII and the emperor at Gravelines. He took an active part in the Scotch wars of 1522 and 1523 and in the latter year distinguished himself at the capture of Jedburgh (23 Sept.) and Fernieherst (27 Sept.) In the parliament of 1529 he was one of the knights of the shire for Yorkshire. On the establishment of the council of the north in 1537 Constable was appointed to it and continued an active member till his death in 1545. He had been sheriff of Lincolnshire in 1513-14, and of Yorkshire in 1532-3. His share in the spoil of the monasteries was the priory of Drax in Yorkshire of which he had a grant, 22 July 1538 (Pat. Roll, 30 Henry VIII, p. 3, m. 12).

[Cooper’s Athenæ; Cantab.; Collect. Topog. et Geneal. ii. 60, 399; Prickett’s Bridlington, pp. 184-7; Allen's Yorkshire, ii. 310; Gairdner’s Henry VII; Campbell's Henry VII; Calendar of Henry VIII; Ballad of Flodden Field, ed. Weber; Battle of Flodden, ed. Garret; Ha11's Chronicle; Gent. Mag. 1753, 1836; Notes and Queries. 2nd ser. iii. 409, 3rd ser. ii. 208; Foster’s Yorkshire Pedigrees, vol. ii.; Dugda1e's Baronage, i. 100; Harleian MSS. 1499 f. 61, 1420 f. 137; Patent Rolls I Hen. VII and Hen. VIII; Escheators’ Inquisitions; Dodsworth MSS. voL clx. f. 212.]

R. H. B.