NIGHTBRINGER | The Arthurian Encyclopedia

Constans of England

Constance, Constant, Constantine

King of England.

In Geoffrey, he was the son of the British King Constantine and brother (or in some stories, father) of Ambrosius Aurelius and Uther (and thus, Arthur’s uncle). Constans was raised in the church of Amphibalus and became a monk in Winchester, but was pushed by Vortigern, Earl of Gwent, to become King of Britain after his father’s death – both of Constantine’s other children were too young to assume the throne.

Dizzy with the power, Constans accepted and fled the monastery in which he had immured himself, and Vortigern forced the abbot to unconsecrate him. It was Vortigern himself who laid the crown upon Constans head; he was made king without approval of the bishops. Constans became a puppet king, controlled by Vortigern. At Vortigern’s request, Constans invited a number of Picts to stay at his court, to serve as ambassadors from the Pictish tribes in Gaul. Vortigern craftily caused the Picts (led by Gille Callaet) to despise Constans, and they eventually cut off his head while he was sleeping. Vortigern then assumed the throne.

Malory seems not to mention Constans, unless he is to be identified with “Constantine the son of Heleine”, whose holding the empire is citied as precedent for Arthur’s refusal to pay truage to Rome.

Called Maine by the Vulgate Merlin, Constans is based on a historical figure – the son of “Constantine III” of Britain. He did, in fact, leave a monastery when his father launched a war against Rome. After helping his father conquer Gaul and Spain, Constans was killed by Roman forces. In French romance he is called Moine, but this word merely signifies a monk.

Historia Regum Britanniae | Geoffrey of Monmouth, c. 1138
Roman de Brut | Wace, c. 1155
Brut | Layamon, late 12th century to mid-13th century