Boudica (also spelled Boudicca and Boadicea) was a tall, fierce woman, with long reddish hair, who ruled the Iceni tribe of East Anglia along with her husband, Prasutagus, during the Roman occupation of England. In what he must have considered an astute political gesture, Prasutagus named the Roman Emperor Nero co-heir to his lands, along with his two teenage daughters. Unfortunately, the Romans were not known for sharing, nor were they particularly advanced on the matter of gender equality.
When Prasutagus died, the Roman Governor of the region, Suetonius Paulinus, raided the land. When Boudica protested, she was flogged and forced to watch the rape of her two daughters. Understandably angry, Boudica rallied the neighboring tribes into an all-out rebellion against Roman rule. The ancient Brits have had women in power for generations, and the Romans had abused many of the locals in the area. So when Boudica set out to raise a following, she amassed an army. The rebels razed several cities, including modern day London and Colchester, in an attempt to expel the Romans from Britannia.
Governor Suetonius led several unsuccessful campaigns against Boudica, whose army was so fierce that one Roman legion turned and ran from battle. After multiple defeats, the Romans retreated to the safety of the Roman military zone, where a final battle saw many casualties on both sides and resulted in a Roman victory.
It is important to note the accounts of the battle do come from Roman sources, which held quite a bit of bias against the Iceni Queen. However, it is known that Boudica and her daughters actively rallied the men to battle and that Boudica was a skilled warrior and commander. After her army was defeated, Boudica took poison to avoid being captured.
A National Hero?
Some scholars regard Boudica as a British national hero because she fought for the freedom of Britons from Roman occupation. Others, however, condemn the warrior queen for killing innocent people who were under Roman rule. It is important to remember, however, that Boudica lived in a time when such casualties of war were regrettable, but also acceptable and expected. Regardless of whether or not Boudica was a hero, she was certainly one tough warrior queen.
Written by Irina Yakubin
- Boudica: Iron Age Warrior Queen by Richard Hingley and Christina Unwin.