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Cunobelinus ap Tasciovanus

CUNOBELINUS ap Tasciovanus. (Kynobellinus, Cunobelin, Cynfelyn, Kymbelinus or Cymbeline {S12}). King of the Catuvellauni .
son of TASCIOVANUS ap Lludd.
Cunobelinus was a historical king of the Catuvellauni tribe before the Roman conquest of Britain. He was preceded by his father, Tasciovanus.

Cunobelinus (late 1st century BC - 40s AD) was a historical king in pre-Roman Britain, known from passing mentions by classical historians Suetonius and Dio Cassius, and from his many inscribed coins. He appears to have controlled a substantial portion of south-eastern England, and is called "Britannorum rex" ("king of the Britons") by Suetonius. He also appears in British legend as Cynfelyn, Kymbelinus or Cymbeline, in which form he is the subject of a play by William Shakespeare. His name means "hound of (the god) Belenus" or "shining hound".

From numismatic evidence Cunobelinus appears to have taken power around AD 9, minting coins from both Camulodunum (Colchester, capital of the Trinovantes) and Verulamium (St Albans, capital of the Catuvellauni). Some of the Verulamium coins name him as the son of Tasciovanus, a previous king of the Catuvellauni; unlike his father's, his coins name no co-rulers. However his earliest issues are from Camulodunum, indicating that he took power there first, and some have a palm or laurel wreath design, a motif borrowed from the Romans indicating a military victory. He may have been emboldened to act against the Trinovantes, a Roman ally whose independence was protected by a treaty made by Julius Caesar in 54 BC, by the Roman defeat in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in Germania, which severely discouraged Augustus's territorial ambitions.

He appears to have maintained good relations with the Roman Empire, however: he used the title REX (Latin "king") and classical motifs on his coins, and his reign saw an increase in trade with the continent. Archaeology shows an increase in luxury goods imported from the continent, including Italian wine and drinking vessels, olive oil and fish sauces from Hispania, glassware, jewellery and Gallo-Belgic tableware, which from their distribution appear to have entered Britain via the port of Camulodunum. He was probably one of the British kings that Strabo says sent embassies to Augustus. Strabo reports Rome's lucrative trade with Britain: the island's exports included grain, gold, silver, iron, hides, slaves and hunting dogs.

Cunobelinus had three sons, Adminius, Togodumnus and Caratacus, and a brother, Epaticcus, known to history. Epaticcus expanded his influence into the territory of the Atrebates in the early 20s AD, taking the Atrebatan capital Calleva (Silchester) by about 25. He continued to expand his territory until his death in about 35, when Caratacus took over from him and the Atrebates recovered some of their territory.

Adminius, judging by his coins, had control of Kent by this time. Suetonius tells us that in ca. 40 he was banished from Britain by his father and sought refuge with the emperor Caligula; Caligula treated this as if the entire island had submitted to him. Caligula prepared an invasion of Britain, but abandoned it in farcical circumstances, ordering his soldiers to attack the waves and gather seashells as the spoils of victory.[S6]

Cunobelinus died some time before 43. Caratacus completed the conquest of the Atrebates, and their king, Verica, fled to Rome, providing the new emperor, Claudius, with a pretext for the conquest of Britain. Caratacus and Togodumnus led the initial resistance to the invasion. Dio Cassius tells us that the "Bodunni", a tribe who were tributary to the Catuvellauni, changed sides and supported the Romans. This is probably a misspelling of the Dobunni of Gloucestershire, indicating that Cunobelinus's hegemony extended as far as the West Country.[S7]

It is possible, based on epigraphic evidence, that Sallustius Lucullus, Roman governor of Britain in the late 1st century, was his grandson.[S8]

Cunobelinus's memory was preserved in British legend and beyond. A genealogy preserved in the medieval Welsh manuscript Harleian 3859 contains three generations which read "Caratauc map Cinbelin map Teuhant". This is the equivalent of "Caratacus, son of Cunobelinus, son of Tasciovanus", putting the three historical figures in the correct order, although the wrong historical context, the degree of linguistic change suggesting a long period of oral transmission. The remainder of the genealogy contains the names of a sequence of Roman emperors, and two Welsh mythological figures, Guidgen (Gwydion) and Lou (Llew).[S9]

In Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae (1136) he appears as Kymbelinus, son of Tenvantius, a powerful warrior who was raised in the courts of Augustus. He was very friendly with the Roman court: his country was equipped with Roman weapons, and all tributes to Rome were paid out of respect, not out of requirement. He had two sons, Guiderius and Arvirargus. Guiderius succeeded him, but died in the early stages of Claudius's invasion, leaving Arvirargus to carry on the fight.[S10]

Geoffrey's story was incorporated into Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles in 1577,[S11] where it was found by William Shakespeare {S12} and used as the basis of his romance, Cymbeline. The king, under the influence of his wicked second wife, forbids his daughter Imogen to marry Posthumus Leonatus, a low-born but worthy man, preferring that she marry his boorish step-son Cloten, leading to mistaken identity, jealousy caused by false accusations of infidelity and a war with Rome provoked by the withholding of the tribute, again at the instigation of the queen. In the end peace between Britain and Rome is re-established, Cymbeline is reunited with his two sons, Guiderius and Arviragus, who were abducted in childhood by Belarius, a wrongly-banished nobleman, Imogen is reconciled with Postumus, and Cloten and the queen get their just deserts.[S12]

Cunobelinus's name lives on in England today: the group of villages in Buckinghamshire called the Kimbles are said to be named after him.

Cunobelinus died some time before 43 AD.

He was succeeded as King of the Catuvellauni by Togodumnus.

After Cunobelinusís death, his two other sons, Caratacus and Togodumnus, displayed the hostility toward Rome that gave the emperor Claudius an excuse to impose Roman rule on the island.


  1. CARADOC ap Cunobelinus.
  2. Adminius. Adminius, judging by his coins, had control of Kent. About 40 AD Cunobelinus banished his son Adminius, who thereupon fled to Rome and persuaded Caligula to make preparations to invade Britain. The expedition was assembled, but it never left the continent.
  3. Togodumnus.
  4. ARVIRAGUS. Geoffrey of Monmouth refers to him as a British king whose brother was killed sometime during Claudius' invasion (43 AD). He has been linked with Caratacus, but more interestingly, he is said by the interpolators of William of Malmesbury's "De Antiquitate Glastoniensis Ecclesiae" to be the king who granted 12 hides of land around Glastonbury to Joseph of Arimathea and his band of followers, when they brought Christianity to Britain for the first time in 63 AD. (S15).


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Cyllin ap Caradoc
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Arthfael(b)  Eudaf Hen(c) Gereint(d)
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Euddolen Ap Afallach
Eudos Ap Euddolen
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Ryddrech Rhodri ap Euddigan and Margareta verch Eynon
Gloyw Gwallthir ap Rhodi
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Meurig ap Pyll of Penhros  (c1095-?) 
Caradog ap Meurig of Penrhos  (c1125-?)
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Roger Adams (1392-?) and Jane Ellyott
Thomas Adams (1422-?) and Maria Upton
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