“Old King Cole
” is one of the popular British nursery rhymes and children's song, which appeared in 1708. The identity of King Cole has been debated for centuries and the character has been related to several historical figures.
Like many other nursery rhymes, the songwriter is not known. “Old King Cole” nursery rhyme is about a merry king who called for his pipe, bowl and fiddlers. The 'bowl' refers to a drinking vessel and 'pipe' is either considered as a musical instrument or a pipe used for smoking tobacco.
The identity of the character, Old King Cole
There is a lot of speculation about the identity of King Cole. There is no evidence to support the fact that King Cole has a connection with any particular historical person.
Sir Walter Scot, a Scottish playwright, historical novelist and poet suggested that King Cole was Auld King Coul, father of the Fyn M'Coule (a mythical hunter-warrior).
William King claims that Old King is either identified as the Prince that Built Colchester or Cole brook, a twelfth-century cloth merchant from Reading (a town in Berkshire).
Some commentators thought that King Cole was Richard Cole from Bucks (a small village in Woolfardisworthy, Devon England), whose monument and effigy are treasures in All Hallows Church, Woolfardisworthy.
Let's study about Cole-brook theory and Coel Hen theory in detail:
In the 19th century, William Chappell suggested that Old King Cole was Old Cole, also known as Thomas Cole-brook, who was a 12th-century cloth merchant from Reading in Berkshire. The story of this merchant was printed by Thomas Deloney in his 'Pleasant History of Thomas of Reading'. Moreover, it was also popular as a character in the 17th-century plays. It is believed that the name “Old Cole” had a special meaning in the Elizabethan theatre.
Cole Hen Theory
The name 'King Cole' has been identified as the historical figure, Welsh King Cole Hen. The character is also thought to be some other Coel in Roman Britain. However, there is no evidence supporting the relationship between the eighteenth-century nursery rhyme and the fourth-century figures.