Hearts Through History Romance Writers

Boudica – Celtic Queen

by | January 3, 2013

Boudica (Boadicea) was queen of the Iceni tribe who led an uprising against the Roman army that took her kingdom.

Boudica’s husband, Prasutagus, was the ruler of the Iceni tribe. He had ruled his tribe as an ally of Rome. He intended to secure his land and the fate of his two daughters by bequeathing his kingdom jointly to his daughters and the Roman Emperor. When Prasutagus died his will was ignored. Rome annexed his kingdom as if it had been conquered territory. Boudica was flogged and her daughters were raped. Roman financiers that had loaned Prasutagus money demanded payment.

Boudica was a tall woman with amber hair that hung below her waist. She wore a golden torc, a multicolored tunic and a thick cloak fastened with a Celtic brooch. She dressed the part of a leader and her harsh voice and penetrating glare marked her as a person with whom to be reckoned.  Historical accounts describe her as more intelligent than other women of her day. Perhaps it was her royal upbringing and the close relationship she had with her husband the king. She was a strong willed woman and would not be defeated.

In about 60 AD she encouraged the nearby tribes, who had also been routed from their land and mistreated by the Romans, to join her and her people in revolt.

Their first target was Colchester, the former capital of the Trinovantes tribe, now displaced from their lands by the Romans. She planned to attack the city while the Roman governor, Gaius Suetonius Paulinus, was leading his troops against the Isle of Anglesey. Boudica found the city poorly defended and destroyed Colchester.

Her next target was London. Suetonius, after hearing of her attack and victory, hurried to London but quickly realized he did not have enough men to defend the settlement. He evacuated and abandoned London. Boudica burned London to the ground as well as other cities in her path. It is estimated that nearly 75,000 people were killed.

Suetonius, regrouped his forces. Heavily out-numbered-Rome 10,000 Boudica 230,000-the field of attack was to Suetonius’ advantage.  The area was narrow. Boudica could not optimize on her large force and the Roman soldier’s discipline and tactics were a deadly combination. In addition, wagons filled with onlookers cheering the queen on blocked any way for Boudica to move her forces out. Despite being heavily outnumbered, Boudica and the Britons were defeated in the Battle of Watling Street. Up until this victory Emperor Nero considered withdrawing his Roman forces from Britain  Suetonius’ victory restored Roman control.

It is unclear how Boudica died. She either killed herself, so she would not be captured, or fell ill and died—the sources differ.

Interest in the history of these events was revived during the English Renaissance and led to a resurgence of Boudica’s legendary fame during the Victorian era, when Queen Victoria was portrayed as her ‘namesake’. Boudica has since remained an important cultural symbol in the United Kingdom. The absence of native British literature during the early part of the first millennium means that Britain owes its knowledge of Boudica’s rebellion solely to the writings of the Romans.




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