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John Constable

John Constable was a Catholic low-born ex-soldier from Yorkshire and friend of Robert Aske who became one of the Captains of the Northern rebellion against King Henry, known as the "Pilgrimage of Grace".  He is a recurring character in the first half of Season Three of The Tudors, played by English actor Kevin Doyle.  

A hot-headed impulsive man, Constable initially convinces Aske to lead the movement, but later disobeys Aske's instructions because he doesn't trust King Henry's promises, and leads a separate uprising.  This proves fatal to the Pilgrimage, as it provokes Henry to put it down with violence; the Royal Army overwhelms Constable's men, killing many of them, and captures Constable himself.  He is taken to London and brutally tortured by Edward Seymour; at the end of episode 3.03 he has been beheaded.

Season Three[]

Constable is shown with Aske in episode 3.01 observing the sacking of one of the Catholic abbeys in Yorkshire by agents of Thomas Cromwell, in the name of the Protestant Reformation in England.  Constable and Aske are both furious; Cromwell's confiscations of the assets for the Crown- based on claims of corruption in the abbeys- has removed the only working system of charity and care for the poor that is available in the North, and destabilizes the lives of thousands of devout Catholics.  Constable makes it clear that "the men" are angry and willing to fight, but they need "clever, educated captains" like Aske (who is a lawyer and gentryman) to lead them.  Aske is initially reluctant to take part in an armed resistance to royal authority, but pressured by Constable and the other militant rebels he eventually agrees to lead the Pilgrimage of Grace, although Constable is frustrated that Aske attatches conditions to his participation.  

The size and success of their movement in Lincoln and York quickly convinces Constable that they are unstoppable, especially after they take Pontifract Castle bloodlessly and gain the sympathy of its' commander, Lord Darcy; Constable makes a point of insulting the pro-Protestant Archbishop in the castle, saying that heretics like him, Cromwell and Cranmer are responsible for misadvising Henry and causing him to abuse his power.

In episode 3.02 Constable wants to push on further, but Aske urges that they should stop, consolidate their gains, and consider making terms to the approaching Royal Army- which, although well-equipped, is vastly outnumbered.  Constable agrees, and he, Sir Ralph (another of their captains) and Darcy go to negotiate with the commander of the Royal Army, Charles Brandon the Duke of Suffolk.  Charles suggests Constable and Sir Ralph should come south to "make confessions to the King" but though a meeting is arranged, Constable and Sir Ralph are unable to make any headway; instead they are reprimanded in front of the entire royal court by the King and their archenemy, Cromwell.  Henry tells them to lay down their arms and disperse immediately in exchange for a general pardon, but will not concede to any terms, enraging Constable; on returning to Pontifract, he urges Aske to lead the movement further south despite the growing presence of the Royal Army.

However, Aske is summoned to Henry's court in 3.03 and has a much more successful conversation to the King; it is unclear whether Henry was actually willing to meet any of the promises that he made Aske, but he seemed genuinely mollified by Aske's honesty and loyalty.  Unfortunately, Constable's hot-headed nature caused him to disdain the King's 'promises' that Aske brought back to Pontifract, and he declares "The King will not be moved by words but by action!" and leads his forces in a march to take Carlisle despite the pleas of Darcy, Aske and Sir Ralph not to rashly provoke the King.

John Constable refuses to trust the King's word

John Constable (left) moments before his capture

Although Constable is correct to mistrust the King's promises, his actions can be seen as foolish, as they were certain to provoke Henry's wrath and remove any possible hope of mercy.  Since the majority of the Pilgrimage had dispersed on Aske's orders- in response to Henry's offer of a pardon and favorable terms- Constable's much-reduced forces are quickly ambushed and overwhelmed by Charles Brandon's troops as they approached Carlisle.  Hundreds of the rebels are killed and most of the survivors captured, including Constable himself.  Refusing to deny any responsibility for the uprising- declaring he is proud of it- Constable is quickly taken to the Tower of London where he is brutally tortured by Lord Edward Seymour of Hartford, who is already developing a reputation for cruelty towards his enemies.  Meanwhile, the other Pilgrimage leaders are arrested, as further reprisals are carried out in the North when Cromwell declares martial law.  At the end of the episode, Constable's head is seen on a spike on the Tower Wall next to those of Lord Darcy and Charlie, one of his bodyguards. 

Constable's head (left) on display at the Tower of London beside Lord Darcy (center) and Charlie (right)


"It's all Cromwell's doing! Cromwell, and that sect of heretics in London- the bastards!"

"There is no agreement, just base and empty promises!  The King will not be moved by words, but by actions- we shall do now what we should have done before!  Gather the men!"