Sir William Constable, 1590-1655

Fought for Parliament in Yorkshire under his brother-in-law Lord Fairfax then became a member of the Army Council and a regicide.

William Constable was the only son of Sir Robert Constable, who owned estates at Flamborough and Holme in Yorkshire, and his wife, Anne. In 1608, he married Dorothy, the daughter of the first Lord Fairfax, and was created a baronet by King James I in 1611. During the early reign of Charles I, Constable was an ally of Sir Thomas Wentworth (later Earl of Strafford). He was elected MP for Yorkshire after Wentworth's appointment as sheriff of Yorkshire in 1626, and MP for Scarborough in the Parliament of 1628. Wentworth appointed him a deputy-lieutenant of Yorkshire in 1629. Constable was obliged to buy a knighthood in 1630 under King Charles' money-raising policy of distraint of knighthood.

Constable fell into debt during the 1630s and was obliged to sell his estates. After a plan to emigrate to New England fell through, Constable and his wife settled at Arnhem in the Netherlands and became leading members of the Puritan congregation led by Philip Nye and Thomas Goodwin. Constable returned to England in 1641 when, supported by his brother-in-law Lord Fairfax, he was elected MP for Knaresborough, Yorkshire, in the Long Parliament.

On the outbreak of the First Civil War, Constable raised an infantry regiment for Parliament and fought in Essex's army at Edgehill. During 1643, he commanded forces in the East Riding of Yorkshire under the Fairfaxes and was active in directing raids from Hull against the Royalists during 1644. Constable resigned his commission under the Self-Denying Ordinance in 1645, but remained an active Independent in Parliament. He returned to the army in December 1647 to take command of John Lambert's regiment of foot after Lambert was reappointed to the Northern Association. In January 1648, Constable was ordered to assist Colonel Hammond in guarding the King at Carisbrooke Castle.

Constable was a prominent member of the Army Council during the events leading up to the King's trial. He sat as a commissioner of the High Court of Justice and signed the King's death warrant. Thereafter, he was an active member of the Council of State and sat on several parliamentary committees concerned with military matters. When he died in June 1655, Constable received a state funeral and was buried in Westminster Abbey. At the Restoration, his body was exhumed and reburied in the communal burial pit at St Margaret's churchyard.


C.H. Firth, The Regimental History of Cromwell's Army vol.ii (Oxford 1940)

David Scott, Sir William Constable, Oxford DNB, 2004