Coel Hen

Old King Coel
Old King Coel

Old King Coel was a merry old soul,
And a merry old soul was he;
He called for his pipe, and he called for his bowl,
And he called for his fiddlers three.

Every fiddler, he had a fine fiddle,
And a very fine fiddle had he;
Oh, there's none so rare as can compare
With King Coel and his fiddlers three.

    Coel Hen or Coel the Old is best remembered by the nursery rhyme, but the pipe would have been of the musical kind, and the bowl a drinking bowl.  The fiddlers would have been harpists and not violinists as pictured above.  Roman writings comment on the hospitality of Britons who would invite a visitor in for a feast and music before talking business.

    Coel Hen was most likely the last of the Roman Duces Brittanniarum with his headquarters at York, and he did his best to carry on as the first King of Northern Britain when the Roman officials returned to Italy, leaving Britain and her people to fend for themselves.  King Coel soon found himself fighting with a coalition of Picts and Scots who overran his forces about 420. Coel himself wandered in the unknown countryside until he eventually got caught in a bog at Coilsfield (in Tarbolton, Ayrshire) and drowned.  After his death, Coel's Northern Kingdom was divided between two of his sons, Ceneu and Gorbanian.

    Coel Hen mentioned here is not to be confused with another “Old King Cole” who is said to have lived in Colchester, Essex during the third century.  According to legend, King Cole of Colchester’s daughter Helen married the Roman senator Contantius who later became the Emperor of Rome. Their son was Constantine the Great . . . or so the story goes.

To learn more about Coel Hen, click on Britannia:  Gateway to the British Isles


Most Celtic British monarchs claimed descent from Old King Coel because he was the first post-Roman King of Northern Britain. Coel Hen himself was an historical figure. However, there is a good possibility that later monarchs set up the line shown next in much the same manner as some overly enthusiatic modern genealogists piece together a line while attempting to find a link to a famous ancestor. The genealogy shown next must be considered at least partly legendary.

Generation One
Coel Hen who was also known by the Latinised name of Caelius Votepacus, was a son of Tehvant and a grandson of Urban.  Coel Hen was King of North Britain.
Born circa 350
Died circa 420
Coel Hen married Ystrafael or Ystradwel Ferch Cadfan and they had the following children:

Generation Two
Born circa 382
Ceneu had two sons:
  • Gwrst ap Ceneu
  • Mar ap Ceneu

Generation Three
Born circa 422
Gwrst ap Ceneu had a son:

    Meirchion Gul ap Gwrst
Remains of a Roman Fort
Remains of a Roman Fort
Generation Four
Meirchion Gul
Generation Eight
Generation Five
Generation Nine
Generation Six
Llywarch Hen
Generation Ten
Generation Seven
Generation Eleven

Generation Twelve
Elidir ap Sandde had a son:

Generation Thirteen
Gwriad of Man, King of Gwynedd
Died: 825
Gwriad married Ethyllt of Gwynedd, Queen of Gwynedd and they had a son:

For the continuation of this line, click on Ethyllt and Gwriad


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