King Constans of Britain appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae and later derived works as the son of King Constantine. He was originally a monk, from which he is instead called King Moines (Monk) in the Story of Merlin and derived versions. Bauduins Butors calls him Ivoine. Vortigern who had brought him from the monastery to be made king later deceived some Picts into murdering Constans.
Constans is Made KingEdit
Geoffrey of Monmouth relates that after the murder of King Constantine of Britain, there was debate over whether his son Aurelius Ambrosius or his son Uther or some other of King Constantine’s kinsmen should be made king. Vortigern, Duke of the Gewissei, a powerful lord who wished to eventually take the crown himself paid a visit to Constans who had been brought up in a monastery and was then a monk himself.
If Constans was indeed the son of King Constantine’s wife whom he had married soon after becoming king, Constans should then have been about 9 years old, too young to be confirmed as a monk, but the story indicates no awareness that Constans was not then a grown man, albeit a young one. Following the accounts of Wace and Lawman, Constans might have been at most 12 years old.
Vortigern persuades Constans that he will have Constans made king if Constans will swear to support him in all things. Constans agrees and Vortigern has Constans dressed in royal garments and brought to London. Wace and Lawmon say that the monastery where Constans dwelt was in Winchester. Lawman tells how Vortigern spirits Constans away by having Constans change garments with one of Vortigern’s knights, the knight remaining in Constans’ place. Discovering the truth, the Abbot of the monastery rides after Vortigern and upbraids Vortigern. But Vortigern threatens to hang the Abbot unless he will release Constans of his vows, which the Abbot does. Vortigern then feigns to the British lords that he persuaded the Abbot to defrock Constans by reasonable argument.
Archbishop Guithelin was dead by this time, but none of the clergy were willing to go along with Vortigern. Therefore Vortigern himself anointed and crowned Constans. Then Constans put power over the kingdom into Vortigern’s hands, keeping only the title of king.
Bauduins Butors, in his Romance of the Sons of King Constans calls the young king Ivoine, a name derived from that of his mother Ivory, but declares that he was also known as King Monk (Moine) because he had been brought up in a monastery and that his deceased mother wished him to become a monk.
This story seems based on that of Constans son of the Roman Emperor Constantine III who was brought up in a monastery and became a monk, but left holy orders to join his father when Constantine III was appointed emperor.
Triad 51 knows of Custennin Vychan (the Less) son of Custennin the Blessed who appear to be misnamings of this Kostant and his father Custennin.
The Reign of King ConstansEdit
Geoffrey relates that the whole kingdom was under Vortigern’s power.
The Story of Merlin relates that Vortigern (Vertigier) was the Monk King’s seneschal, but refused to aid in defence of his country when the Saxons mounted an attack. The Britons were defeated and lost many of their men.
Bauduins Butors has his Ivoine defeat the Saxon invaders when they attack and then successfully resist an attempt to depose him.
Death of ConstansEdit
Geoffrey and most derived works relate that Vortigern persuaded King Constans to allow him to invite some Picts into the king’s retinue, supposedly in order to learn from them of the plans of the Picts to ally themselves with Danes and others who wished to gain land in Britain. When Constans agreed, Vortigern hires one hundred Picts and appears to favour them over any others in Constans’ service.
Then, one evening, at a party, Vortigern gets the Picts drunk and then claims that he has run out of money. He has bankrupted himself in the service of the king and must now leave Britain in an attempt to restore his finances. When Vortigern leaves the party, the drunken Picts, knowing it is true that the kingdom has long depended on Vortigern, decide that they will kill Constans to pave the way for Vortigern to openly wear the crown that is really his in any case.
According to Lawman, the Picts’ leader in this enteprise is one Gille Callæt. The Picts mount a surprise attach on Constans in his bedchamber and behead him, and then carry Constans’ head back to Vortigern. Vortigern pretends to be in shock. He summons the citizens of London to see what has occurred and has the Picts bound and beheaded before any full enquiry can be made. In the Story of Merlin, it is a group of Britons, angered at being defeated by the Saxons, who try to take Vortigern as their king. When Vortigern claims that he cannot be king while the Monk king is still alive, the treacherous Britons chose twelve of their number to assassinate the Monk king, which they do. They then inform Vortigern. Vortigern pretends to be angry with them and advises them to flee the kingdom.
So now Vortigern alone stands in a position to be made king. But many suspect his treachery.
Some Name VariationsEdit
LATIN: Constans; FRENCH: Constant, Costant, Costan, Moine, Moines, Moyne, Maine, Maines, Mainet, Ivoine, Ivoines; ENGLISH: Costanz, Constance, Constanz, Costentine, Costaunt, Costaunce, Costantyn, Constans, Costance, Moyne, Moynes, Moyen, Moyn; WELSH: Konstant, Custennin Vychan (Custennin Uychan).