Henry Constable Biography


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Henry Constable came from a line of distinguished ancestors on both his father’s and his mother’s side. The surname originated from the office of Constable in Chester, which had been held by members of his father’s family since the time of William the Conqueror, although his father’s branch of the family had settled in Yorkshire. The poet must have been born in 1562, since he was thirteen years old in 1575, and was presumably born at Flamborough. There is no information about his childhood. He attended St. John’s College, Cambridge, his rank being recognized there by special distinctions. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1579 or 1580 by a special grace, the reason not made clear, he was admitted to Lincoln’s Inn on February 21, 1583. Later in the same year, a letter he wrote to his father indicates that he was with the English ambassador, Sir Francis Walsingham, in Scotland. Walsingham recommended the young Constable to the English ambassador in Paris, who was distantly related to Constable, and he became an emissary. He seems to have been a proponent of the Protestant cause at Paris, remaining there until 1585. He wrote indignantly about the actions of English Catholics in Paris, and he was recommended to Walsingham by Stafford as a good choice to help the Protestant Henry of Navarre stand firm in the face of Catholic arguments. After Constable left Paris, he traveled to Heidelberg, to Poland, to Italy, perhaps to Hamburg, and probably to the Low Countries. His pamphlet in answer to a work by Cardinal Allen was probably written in 1588.

It seems likely that Constable spent the years 1588 and 1589 at court, and he was said to have been a favorite of the queen. He wrote sonnets, including ones to Penelope Rich, and was much in the company of Arabella Stuart. He was friendly with many Protestants of the Continent, including followers of Henry of Navarre. One of these, Claude d’Isle, Seigneur de Marivaux, sent several letters by James VI of Scotland to their destination by way of Constable. Another follower of Henry of Navarre and friend of Constable was Jean Hotman, who wished to see the Protestant and Roman Catholic Churches united. Constable was involved with him and others, including Penelope...

(The entire section is 912 words.)