Coel Hen

King of Northern Britain


The capital of Late Roman Britain in the north was Eboracum, later Ebrauc to the British, Eorforwic to the English, and contorted into York by the Danes. This was the civitas capital of the Brigantian Britons, who as pre-Roman Celts had ruled a huge swathe of central northern England for some centuries. Archaeological evidence points to a period of rebuilding in York at the start of the fifth century, when Coel Hen was at the height of his governorship of the region. But, formed partly it seems from the Roman military district of Valentia, the kingdom of Northern Britain covered the whole of the Roman militarised zone from a line close to the Humber to Hadrian’s Wall and a lesser sphere of influence for some distance beyond it (perhaps including the Votadini, as mentioned above). *

Quite possibly appointed to his position by the departing Magnus Maximus, Coel Hen was probably the last Roman-style dux brittanniarum, and would have ruled in a very Romanised way. He held the north in a strong protective grip, and guaranteed that he and his immediate descendants had little trouble from the Picts to the north. Unfortunately, his descendants divided what was a very strong single political entity into a patchwork of small kingdoms that fell one by one to the Angles.

  • In his book, Roman Britain, Guy de la Bédoyère contests that the mention of Valentia in the Notitia Dignitatum is a transcription error that should instead say that the province of Maxima Caesariensis had been renamed Valentia, probably at the same time that London was renamed Augusta, after 367.

from Kessler, P. L. (2007, September 8). Post-Roman Britain: Early Independent Britain AD 400-425. Retrieved from

Coel Hen

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