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Coel Hen's Ancestry

There appear to have been a number of people in Celtic tradition with the name Coel and they have been hopelessly confused over the years:

  • The most well-known was Coel Hen (the Old) - the Old King Cole of nursery rhyme fame - who held sway in Northern Britain in the early 5th century and was probably the last of the Duces Britanniorum. His descendants continued to rule various kingdoms in the region for several generations. 

  • Then there was Coel Godhebog (the Magnificent), traditionally a 'dux' of Camelodunum (Colchester); probably a decurion in fact. He supposedly lived in the 3rd century and his daughter, St. Helena of Colchester, married the Roman Emperor, Constantius Chlorus. They may have been the ancestors of Magnus Maximus.

  • Less well known was an earlier Coel ap Mor from the more indefinite realms of mythology. If he existed, he would have lived in the 2nd century. Traditionally, he was the maternal great grandfather of Coel Godhebog's wife, Strada.

All are numbered amongst the supposed 'High-Kings' of Britain.

The ancestry of Coel Hen (the Old) is given in the pedigree of the Kings of Bryneich in the Harleian MS.3859 as:

Beli Beli Mawr (the Great)
Aballac Afallach
Eudelen Euddolen/Eudos/Eifudd, possible duplicate generations
Outigern Eudeyrn/Euddigan, duplicate generations
Ritigirn Rhydeyrn
Iumetel Rhifedel
Grat Gratian
Urban Urban
Telpuil Telpwyll
Teuhant Deheuwaint/Tegfan or Tasciovanus, duplicate generations
Coyl Hen Guotepauc Coel Hen (the Old)

It is similarly recorded in the pedigree of the Kings of South Rheged in the Achau Brenhinoedd a Thywysogion Cymru as:

Beli Mawr Beli Mawr (the Great)
Aflech Afallach, duplicate generations
Enddolev Euddolen/Eudos/Eifudd, possible duplicate generations
Endeyrn Eudeyrn/Euddigan, duplicate generations
Rydeyrn Rhydeyrn
Rriuedel Rhifedel
Gradd Gratian
Vrban Urban
Tyddbwyll Telpwyll
Deheuwaint Deheuwaint/Tegfan or Tasciovanus, duplicate generations
Koel Godebawg Coel Hen (the Old)

Coel's father is thus shown to have born the native Celtic name of Tegfan. In Latin, this becomes Tasciovanus, a name known to have been in use in Britain during pre-Roman times, at least amongst the Catuvellauni tribe. Telpwyll is an otherwise unknown name, probably Celtic, but the extended ancestry have distinctly Roman names (Urban and Gratian), before descending into corrupt mythology. Coel Hen evidently had a mixed racial background. He spawned a widespread Northern dynasty.


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