CONSTABLE, Henry (c.1559-1608), of Burton Constable and Halsham, Yorks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer




Family and Education

b. c.1559, 1st s. of Sir John Constable of Burton Constable and Halsham by his 1st w. Margaret, da. of John, 8th Lord Scrope of Bolton. educ. L. Inn 1572. m. Margaret, da. of Sir William Dormer of Wing, Bucks., 2s. 4da. suc. fa 1579. Kntd. 1586.2

Offices Held

J.p. Yorks. (E. Riding) 1582, q. 1585; sheriff, Yorks. 1586-7; commr. musters, Yorks. (E. Riding) 1600.3


Established since the reign of Henry II,4 the Constables were the most powerful family in Holderness and shared with their relatives the Nevilles the parliamentary interest at Hedon. Constable’s father had sat for the borough on several occasions and he himself never looked elsewhere, except when the opportunity came to sit for the county. He is not named in the proceedings of the Commons, but as first knight for Yorkshire he could have served on the subsidy committee (11 Feb. 1589).

His religion, like that of his father, was ‘doubtful’. Sometimes he conformed, sometimes he paid recusancy fines. His wife, whose mother was a Catesby, and his brother Joseph were both notorious recusants; Joseph seems to have conformed eventually, but the wife, sister of the Duchess of Feria, maintained seminary priests in Yorkshire. She was to have appeared before the commissioners for Jesuits and seminary priests on 6 Mar. 1592, but was saved by the intervention of the Privy Council. In November, the following year, the 3rd Earl of Huntingdon, president of the council in the north, contemplated action against them, but both were ill, she seriously so. In the summer of that year Constable proposed to give Sir Robert Cecil a gelding in an effort to win or retain the minister’s good favour, for he soon had occasion to appeal to Cecil to intercede for his wife, to have an order reversed by which she was commanded to appear from term to term in the Queen’s bench. Constable managed to avert further proceedings against her in 1596, by undertaking to attempt her conversion. Exactly a year later, Joseph was arrested as a recusant and outlawed for felony, and in August 1606 Lord Sheffield captured two priests and a third escaped from a house belonging to Constable who, although he professed to be a protestant, ‘yet his "housekiptres" and officers are recusants and the only receivers of priests in the country'. In February 1608 Constable was actually imprisoned for a while, but after a few months he again conformed.5

As with so many northern gentry, this history of recusancy had surprisingly little effect upon Constable's career, presumably because his loyalty was not in doubt. The Babington conspirators hoped to obtain his assistance, but he cannot have been involved, as he became sheriff just after the execution of the traitors. Again, the puritan Earl of Huntingdon recommended him, in June 1588, as a suitable person to lead horsemen in Yorkshire, and the Armada was still fresh in men's minds when he was returned as knight of the shire in October 1588. Still, it may or may not be significant that Constable was not returned to Elizabeth's last three parliaments, and Sandys, archbishop of York, had some reservations about the suitablity of his membership of the commission of the peace in 1587 because 'his wife is a most obstinate recusant and will not be reformed by any persuasion, or yet by coercion. Her example is very hurtful.' However, Constable was still, or again on the commission by 1595 when his relatives were attracting more attention than ever for their refusal to conform.6

Constable bought and sold an unusually large amount of property in Yorkshire between 1576 and 1602. He supported Stanhope and Hoby in the contested Yorkshire election of 1597, and was one of those who signed the ensuing petition to the Privy Council. He died in 1608 and was succeeded bu his son Henry. He was one of several who left legacies to students in seminaries abroad. Administration of his property was granted in April 1609.7

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N.M.S.


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. Foster, Yorks. Peds. ii.
  • 3. Lansd. 35, f. 132v; Harl. 474, f. 44v; HMC Hatfield, xiv. 148.
  • 4. E. Riding Antiq. Soc. vii. 14.
  • 5. HMC Hatfield, v. 77; xii. 494; xviii. 247; D'Ewes, 431; CSP Dom. 1591-4, pp. 305, 351, 362, 372, 387; 1595-7, pp. 183, 636; 1603-10, pp. 389, 403, 438; APC, xxiv. 122-3.
  • 6. CSP Scot. viii 612, 695-6; Border Pprs. i. 324; Lansd. 52, f. 184; APC, xxv. 135.
  • 7. Yorks. Fines (Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. v, vii, viii), passim; HMC Hatfield, vii. 413; Lansd. 153, f. 291.