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

CONSTABLE, Sir WILLIAM (d. 1655), regicide, son of Sir Robert Constable of Flamborough and Holme, Yorkshire, served in Ireland under the Earl of Essex, and was knighted by him at Dublin on 12 July 1599 (Phillips, Catalogue of Knights). He was involved in Essex’s lot, but never tried, and on 20 March 1601 the queen, by warrant to Chief-Justice Popham, directed him to be admitted to bail (Foster, Yorkshire Pedigrees). He married on 15 Feb. 1608, at Newton Kyme, Dorothy, daughter of Thomas, first lord Fairfax (ib.),and on June 1611 was created a baronet (Forty-seventh Report of the Deputy-Keeper of Public Records, p. 126). Several of Constable’s letters are printed in the ‘Fairfax Correspondence.’ In one letter, dated 19 July 1627, Constable gives an account of his summons before the council for refusing to pay the forced loan levied in that year (i. 66). Others relate to the marriage between Thomas Fairfax and Ann Vere, which was negotiated by him (ib. i. 27 6, 297, 302). In 1626 Constable represented the county of York in parliament, in 1628 the town of Scarborough, and in the Long parliament he sat for Knaresborough, being declared elected on 19 March 1642, although he had only received 13 against 33 votes given for his opponent (Commons' Journals; Fairfax Corr. ii. 260). During these years Constable's debts had obliged him to sell his manors of Holme (1633) and Flamborough (1636) (Foster); nevertheless, in spite of his embarrassments, he was able to raise a regiment of foot for the parliament. At the battle of Edgehill his blue-coats completed the rout of the king's red regiment, and one of his ensigns had the honour of taking the king's standard (Vicars, Parl. Chron. i. 193, 199). His greatest exploits, however, took place in the spring of 1644 In February he took Burlington, assisted in the capture of Whitby, retook the town of Scarborough and shut up Sir Hugh Cholmley in the castle, and defeated Newcastle’s forces at Dritfield and Malton (ib. iii. 154–60). In March he also captured Tadcaster and Stamford Bridge (ib. iii. 171–3). Excluded from active service by the self-denying ordinance, he still continued to adhere to the independent party, and was one of the members who joined the army in 1647. In January 1648 he was commissioned to assist Colonel Hammond in the guard of the king at Carisbrook, and given by vote of the House of Commons on 5 Jan. power with Hammond to remove any attendants, and take any measures necessary for the security of the king’s person (Rushworth, vii. 955). In the same month he was appointed govemor of Gloucester, and was in command there three years later, when Charles II marched to Worcester (Bibliotheca Gloucestrenis, p. cxvii). The House of Commons appointed Constable one of the king's judges, and he attended with great assiduity nearly every sitting of the court, and also signed the warrant for the execution of Charles (Nalson, Trial of Charles I). During the existence of the republic he was elected member of the first, second, and fourth councils of state, and twice was appointed president of the fourth council. He died on 5 June 1655 in London, and was interred in Henry VII’s Chapel in Westminster Abbey on 21 June (Mercurius Politicus). His wife, Lady Dorothy Constable, died on 9 March following, and was buried on 11 March 1656 at Bishophill Elder, Yorkshire (Foster). At the Restoration Constable was one of the twenty-one dead regicides whose estates parliament resolved to confiscate (1 July), and on 14 Sept. in the same year his body was removed from Westminster Abbey.

[Foster's Yorkshire Pedigrees; Fairfax Correspondence; Vicars's Parliamentary Chronicle; Rushworth's Hist. Coll.]

C. H. F.