Boudicca - Celtic Warrior Queen

Painting of Queen Bodicca by John Opie.  "Boadicea Haranging the Britons."
Painting of Queen Bodicca by John Opie. "Boadicea Haranging the Britons." | Source
Red shows the area of Celtic Iceni rule.  Southeastern England.
Red shows the area of Celtic Iceni rule. Southeastern England. | Source

Boudicca, or Boudica, or Buddug (in Welsh) was a true and real Queen of the British Celtic Iceni tribe that lived in the southeast area of modern day England, then known as East Anglia. Her legend is so famous that today Boudicca is an important cultural symbol in the UK.

Based on later development of Welsh and Irish, her name comes from the Proto-Celtic feminine adjective boudika, which means victorious, and it also comes from the Celtic word bouda, which means victory. Victoria would be the comparable English name.

And, the word bodacious, meaning a lively, spirited woman, is said to be derived from her name. We use this in English, of course.

During the time of Celtic tribes in Britain, Boudicca was of royal birth and came to marry Celtic King Prasutagus, the ruler of the Celtic Iceni tribe. Although, at this time, around 60-61 AD Roman emperors ruled Britain, Prasutagus had autonomous rule over his Iceni Celtic tribe, and Boudicca shared power and rule as his Queen.

The area the Romans had conquered, in what is present day England, was called Britannia, and the reason the Iceni are referred to as a British Celtic tribe. The Iceni lived only in what today is southeast England and Boudicca and her husband are both English Celts.

Boudicca is legend because after her husband's death, she led the Celtic Iceni and Trinovantes and a few other Celtic tribes in armed revolt against the Romans. And, she had good reason for doing so.

Boudicca was victorious in soundly defeating the Roman army on three occasions, but sadly, was defeated in the end.

Her story is an inspiration to women everywhere and especially in England, with Queen Victoria being portrayed as her namesake.

Boudicca is a credit to women everywhere and was a legend in her own time and was larger than life itself. Here is her true story.

Statue of Boudicca, erected 1902, stands guard along the River Thames in London across from Big Ben and Westminster Bridge.
Statue of Boudicca, erected 1902, stands guard along the River Thames in London across from Big Ben and Westminster Bridge. | Source
Source
Stained glass window depicting Boudicca at the Colchester town hall in England.
Stained glass window depicting Boudicca at the Colchester town hall in England. | Source

Boudicca's life

Because the Celtic tribes in Britain left no written records and passed on their history verbally, we only have two sources written about Boudicca and those are Roman and obviously biased, but they do give a portrait of a strong and fierce woman.

Tacitus wrote his history of her about fifty years after the events of 60 AD. He relied on information he observed and his father-in-law observed in battle against her.

Dio Cassius also left a written account of her. Both of these are biased accounts but they lay down the chronological order of events of early Roman Britain. Dio Cassius has described Boudicca as, "she possessed of greater intelligence than often belongs to women."

He continues to describe her as tall with reddish hair hanging below her waist. She had a harsh voice and piercing glare. She wore a large golden necklace and many colored tunic covered by a thick cloak fastened by a brooch.

There have been no archaeological findings of her in modern day England, not even of her burial which was quite the event for those times.

Boudicca was believed to have come from an outside Celtic tribe, in what is modern day England, but not the Iceni. When she married King Prasutagus around 43-45 AD she became Queen of the Iceni. They had two daughters together.

Celtic society is interesting because all those years ago in the upper echelons of Celtic society women held positions of prestige and power. Women took prominent roles in political religious and artistic life. Women owned land, could choose spouses and initiate divorces.

It is into this society that Queen Boudicca married and she ruled equally alongside her husband. They ruled an area that was geographically isolated. To the north and east boundary was the sea. The remainder of their area was covered with dense forest, so invasion from foreigners was almost impossible.

They maintained a farming economy and the people were of mixed Celtic origins with the majority being Iceni Celts. An influx of people from the Hallstat culture brought knowledge of iron and pottery to the Iceni and they merged with the skills of those already there from the late Bronze Age.

When Roman Emperor Claudius invaded and conquered large arts of Britain in 43 AD the Iceni remained passive and watched.

King Prasutagus went to the city of Camulodunum to become a client of Roman king. The Romans forced him to answer to the Roman ruling class but allowed his tribe and their culture to remain autonomous. King Prasutagus believed appeasement and accommodation of Roman rule was better than all out war which could result in the Celts becoming conquered slaves.

They were voluntarily aligned to Rome but very proud of their independence.

King Prasutagus and Queen Boudicca ruled peacefully for many years and it was not until around 60-61 AD that King Prasutagus died. In his will, King Prasutagus had left his kingdom to his wife and two daughters to rule peacefully. But, the Romans would not allow that to be.

Boudicca in battle.
Boudicca in battle. | Source
Another rendition of Boudicca in battle.
Another rendition of Boudicca in battle. | Source

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Boudicca revolts

According to Roman law, inheritance came only through the male line, therefore, Prasutagus' lands and property were confiscated and his kingdom annexed as if it had been conquered. Celtic nobles were treated as slaves.

The Roman practice was to allow the allied kingdoms their independence only for the lifetime of their client king who would then agree to leave his kingdom to Rome in his will.

When Boudicca resisted this and demanded Prasutagus' will be honored, she was publicly flogged and her two daughters, approximately the age of twelve, were publicly raped before her eyes.

Roman financiers also called in all their loans from the Celtic Iceni. These acts were unconscionable to Boudicca and the Romans were now her enemies.

The Iceni Celts saw Boudicca as their natural leader although she had no power by Roman rule and rights, however, they were willing to support an anti-Roman uprising, because they had been driven off their land and were now mere Roman slaves.

Boudicca drew inspiration to revolt against the Romans from Arminus, prince of Cherusi, who drove the Romans out of Germany in 9 AD and her own ancestors who previously had driven out Julius Caesar from Britain.

According to Tacitus' writings, Boudicca invoked Andraste, a British goddess of victory. She released a hare from her skirts and the direction in which it ran was interpreted to mean she was to fight the Romans.

She gathered all the Iceni tribe of people, along with Trinovante Celtic tribe among others to fight Legio IX Hispana. She massed what is believed to be today an army of 100,000 men and women, to fight the Romans who were outnumbered at the time.

According to the writings of Tacitus, Boudicca gave a short speech to her army from her chariot announcing she was not fighting for wealth lost but for lost freedom, her abused body and the chastity of her daughters.

As a woman she was resolved to win or die; if men wanted to live in slavery that was their choice.

Boudicca lead her forces first to Camulodumnum (modern day Colchester) and destroyed and massacred everyone there.

Next, she and her army headed for Londinum (modern day London) and her army burned and totally destroyed this Roman city. The Romans, greatly outnumbered, evacuated Londinum because they could not defend the settlement.

The third city she defeated was Verluamium (modern day St. Albans). She had soundly defeated the Romans in three of their major cities. She had massacred as many Romans as she could find and burnt down the cities. At this point, the Roman empire in Britain was reduced to ashes.

An estimated 70-80,000 Romans and British were killed in these three cities.

The Celts excelled in small-scale guerrilla warfare with small bands of Celtic warriors slipping quietly through the dense forest of the area. The slow moving large Roman units were at a disadvantage in the dense forest.

The Celts fought naked with no armor and only decorated in war paint and tattoos.

The Celts also used fast-moving, small and light chariots. The driver and warrior were protected on all sides by wicker screens.

Tacitus and Dio Cassius describe Boudicca and her army as savage and brutal. It was a chaotic war scene and they were described as uncivilized animals as opposed to the civilized Roman army. Boudicca took no prisoners and massacred every Roman she could find, including women and children.

Finally, the Romans regrouped their forces under Roman Governor, Gaius Suetonius Paulinus in the Western Midlands and though outnumbered, they finally defeated Boudicca and her army in the Battle of Watling Street. Her defeat is believed to be in modern day High Cross in Leicestershire at the junction of Watling Street and Fosse Way.

Boudicca's army had put armaments, family and wagons/chariots behind them in battle and cut off any escape route and then they found themselves surrounded by and in hand to hand battle with the Romans. It was in this battle that the Romans were finally able to defeat Boudicca and her Celtic army.

Drawing of Boudicca rallying her forces in battle with the Romans.
Drawing of Boudicca rallying her forces in battle with the Romans. | Source

Boudicca's last battle

The end

It is here, after battle, that the written histories of Tacitus and Dio Cassius differ. Tacitus writes that when defeated, Boudicca took her own life, living by her vow she gave her army at the beginning of the revolt.

Dio Cassius, on the other hand, writes that Boudicca fell ill and died after battle. Whatever the case of her demise, Boudicca was given a funeral and burial fitting for a queen and leader of battles. The Romans had come to respect her for her fortitude, bravery and courage. This much is written both by Tacitus and Dio Cassius.

With the Celtic defeat, southern Britain was secured for Rome and from then on Rome ruled through gentler means. Boudicca's courageous revolt resulted in better lives for the Celts of the region under the Romans and, therefore, her revolt was not made in vain. Smaller insurrections were mounted by the Celts, but none gained the wide support hers did.

Today, unfortunately, we have no idea where her burial site is and archaeological diggings have not turned up anything regarding her life in Britain.

By the middle ages, Boudicca had been forgotten and there is no mention of her in the Historia Brittonum or in the History of Kings of Britain written by Geoffrey Monmouth.

During the English Renaissance Period of the 17th century, Tacitus' works were rediscovered by the British and so attention was brought back to Boudicca. Both Frances Beaumont and John Fletcher (1610), contemporaries of William Shakespeare, wrote plays about Boudicca and so British people were once again reminded of her life and bravery.

William Cowper, in 1782, wrote the poem "Boadicea, an ode," and so Boudicca was not completely forgotten. During the Victorian Era, Boudicca's fame took on legendary proportions as Queen Victoria was seen by the British as Boudicca's namesake as the names have identical meaning - Victorious.

Throughout history and today, Boudicca is seen less as a Queen and more of a mother, wife, and warrior defending her country. She has become very awe-inspiring to many.

Today, Boudicca is remembered as a British national heroine and someone willing to give her life for freedom and justice.


Sources:

www.enc.edu/celtic/catalogue/boudica/catalog.html

www.thistleandbroom.com/scotland/boudicca.htm

www.penmon.org/page9.htm

honeygrail.com/indexx.php/honey/bouica_history

www.ancient.eu.com/Boudicca

Full length movie of Boudica's life

© 2014 Suzette Walker suzettetaos

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Comments 39 comments

mactavers profile image

mactavers 2 years ago

Very interesting Hub. Proud to be a Cammeron.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

mactavers: I assume Cammeron is a Celtic tribe? Yes? No? So glad you found this interesting and thank you for reading and commenting. Most appreciated.


Imogen French profile image

Imogen French 2 years ago from Southwest England

Interesting information thanks. As a British woman I have always wanted to know more about Boudicca, and they don't teach this part of history in schools.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Hi Imogen: Thank you so much. I found her story so interesting. I, too, had never heard of her. It was Nell Rose who mentioned her in a comment on one of my other hubs. I researched her and found her story so interesting that I wrote a hub about her. I never studied her in history either. Some of these good and true stories we should study in school - it would have made history class so much more interesting. LOL! Thanks for stopping by and I appreciate your comments.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

Fantastic story and one I had certainly not been made aware; so glad you did!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Hi Jackie: She really is interesting, isn't she? I found her story to be so inspiring. Given her same set of circumstances I might have done the same thing! So glad life is a bit easier these days. Thanks so much for your visit.


travmaj profile image

travmaj 2 years ago from australia

All hail Boudicca. I recall reading about her (many moons ago) but didn't realise the full extent of her power and bravery. certainly a women to admire and remember.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

travmaj: She is really interesting. I knew nothing about her until I did the research on her. Nell Rose mentioned her to me which I am glad she did. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

Never heard of her, so thanks for the education. Interesting as always.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

Great hub suzette, do you mind if I just add a bit? you said she lived in the southwest, but actually its the south east, and she was purely an English celt not british, as british is English and Scottish, sorry to be a pain! lol! but it does prove one thing, when the irish, scots and welsh say they are celts, actually it proves that the southern English were too, I love boudicca, she rocks! lol! wonderful read, nell


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Bill: Thanks for taking the time to read this. She is new to me to introduced to me by Nell Rose. She had quite an interesting life and story.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Hi Nell: Thanks for catching my mistake -yes, I know it should be southeast. I can't believe I didn't catch that. Thank you for your explanation and I have changed the wording a bit to emphasize England. I understand what you mean. It went with British, because that is what all my sources said. (Not that they are always correct). But, When the Romans were in what is today called England, they called it Britannia, and that area was not called England until later. So, even though the southeast area was called East Anglia and the area today is England, in Roman times they called it Britannia. That is also why I went with British. But, I have tried to word it so readers know she is definitely from England and the Iceni were a English Celtic tribe in England, not Scotland or Ireland. I hope it meets with your approval. Thanks for your input - I really appreciate it Nell.


mylindaelliott profile image

mylindaelliott 2 years ago from Louisiana

She sounds very interesting. She sounds like a powerful woman.


Vellur profile image

Vellur 2 years ago from Dubai

Great write, interesting read. Never knew about her before I read your hub. She was amazing!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

mylindaelliott: Thanks so much for reading and I am pleased you enjoyed this piece. She was a powerful woman, but I think most women would react the same way after the abuse she and her daughters endured. She certainly left us with a great story for inspiration. Thanks so much for stopping by and I appreciate your comments.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Vellur: Thank you so much for reading this and I am glad you enjoyed it. She certainly was amazing. Thanks for your comments.


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 2 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

Suzette you are adding a depth to your presentation which includes this heroine. Always something interesting to find in your writings.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

lol! sorry suzette, for, as we say, picking the bones out of it! actually thats my irish aunt who used to say that! its a great hub, and its just we English like the fact that we have an awesome queen like boudicaa! lol!


MG Singh profile image

MG Singh 2 years ago from Singapore

Thank you for a lovely post about a subject I didn't know


Jasdeep-Singh profile image

Jasdeep-Singh 2 years ago from (Punjab) India

Boudicca was one of those who dares to swim against the flow of water. She was a very powerful women and her story is an inspiration for every women everywhere so that we remember her even today after approximately three thousand years.you write very beautiful post about great personality of world I like very much


Dim Flaxenwick profile image

Dim Flaxenwick 2 years ago from Great Britain

I knew only a little about this woman until today.

Thank you very much for such a rich, detailed hub on such an interesting subject.

Have shared with my facebook friends too.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Thanks Mike. She is an interesting person isn't she? I was amazed by her life story and wanted to present it to everyone. I had never heard of her either before this. Thanks so much for your interest and comments. Most appreciated.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Nell, I understand where you are coming from. She truly is an English queen and I didn't mean to lump her in with all the 'British.' In America we learn that the British Isles or UK consists of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. But, I do want to give credit where credit is due. Thanks so much for your input - it really is helpful - and I found a way to include it in my article, so no harm done!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

MG Singh: Thank you so much for reading this and for your comments. I am pleased you enjoyed reading this. Thanks so much for your visit.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Jaseep-Singh: Thank you so much for reading and for your kind comments. I am pleased you enjoyed reading this. She really does have an inspirational story to her life and she was so loved and admired by the Celts that she was able to raise an army of 100,000. That in itself is amazing to me. Being a woman, I can understand her reaction and answer to the Romans. Thanks so much for your visit.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Dim: Thanks so much for your kind comments and I am pleased you enjoyed reading this. Thanks also for the share. Boudicca certainly lived a full life. Her story truly is inspirational.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

Totally love this hub, suzzette! The world needs many more warriors like Boudicca who can kick butt lol. She was one awesome woman no doubt. I had no clue about her at all until I read your wonderful hub.

Up and more, pinning, tweeting, google+ and sharing (Well, looks like the HP button is not working to share, shall return)


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Hi Faith: Well, I had no idea about her either until Nell Rose mentioned her in a comment to one of my hubs. I found her story so interesting and yes, she was a super-woman of the Celts in England, that I had to write a hub about her. Thanks so much for the share - I know the button doesn't work half the time. I have tried to share other hubbers hubs, and it is frustrating. Thanks so much, Faith, and I am pleased you enjoyed reading this. Most appreciated.


VVanNess profile image

VVanNess 2 years ago from Prescott Valley

What an interesting hub! I always love reading your descriptions of famous people from history I would not have known much about otherwise. :)


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

VVanNess: Thank you so much for you kind comments. I am glad you enjoyed this. Boudicca certainly was a super-woman! I am so pleased you enjoyed reading this and found it interesting. THanks so much for your input!


Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 2 years ago from West Virginia

I saw this on The History Channel two or three times. I loved it but at the same time can see how and why women were not included in the Bible. It is a Roman thing that they MUST take over the world. If not by land than by submission. I see that they are still doing it in religion. Thanks for putting this into something readable.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Lady: Her story is interesting because Celtic women were treated with much more respect in their culture than the Roman culture. Women were on equal footing with men in the Celtic culture and held important and political roles. The Romans were a very patriarcal culture and subjugated women. Of course, the Roman Catholic Church is run by men, the Bible is written by men, and only men can have positions of importance and power in the Catholic Church. Yes, much male dominance in Roman times and not much different today.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Lady: Her story is interesting because Celtic women were treated with much more respect in their culture than the Roman culture. Women were on equal footing with men in the Celtic culture and held important and political roles. The Romans were a very patriarcal culture and subjugated women. Of course, the Roman Catholic Church is run by men, the Bible is written by men, and only men can have positions of importance and power in the Catholic Church. Yes, much male dominance in Roman times and not much different today.


Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 2 years ago from West Virginia

Have your read The Holy Grail stuff by Sir Laurence Garner? You can get it on-line. Let me try to get what I posted on one of my bubbles. BTW I had it all on here but did not get a lot of people to read it.

“The Church was so frightened of women that it implemented a rule of celibacy for its priests - a rule that became a law in 1138; a rule that persists today. But this rule has never been quite what it appears on the surface, for it was never sexual activity as such that bothered the Church. The more specific problem was priestly intimacy with women. Why? Because women become mothers, and the very nature of motherhood is a perpetuation of bloodlines. It was this that caused such concern - a taboo subject which, at all costs, had to be separated from the necessary image of Jesus.”

---------Laurence Gardner, “The Bloodline of the Holy Grail The Hidden Lineage of Jesus” You can read his entire lectures here: +www.bibliotecapleyades.net/biblianazar/esp_biblianazar_11.htm


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Lady: I have had company here from Italy for a week or so and have not been on HP much. Thanks so much for the link. I will read it. I find this so interesting and it is good to get another's perspective on the Bible. I know about the celibate rule - yes the church was more concerned about children and bloodlines than being celibate. The Catholic Church is full of hypocrisy. Thanks so much for your interest and input - so interesting.


Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 2 years ago from West Virginia

It was Catholics and the law of the day that changed the bloodlines. They weren't sure of who would get the inheritance of the priests when they passed. Priest also had concubines and some were married to several wives at one time. The celibacy turned around in the 1100's so that they could not marry and that would take care of any money passing hands from the church. Yep---all about MONEY.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Lady: Yes, I think you are correct about this. Most things are all about MONEY - the greatest evil in the world. Thanks for your re-visit.


word55 profile image

word55 2 years ago from Chicago

Hi suzzettenaples, It's nice to learn more of history and that there were women in power during those times. I enjoyed the read.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

word55: Thanks so much for your visit and reading this. I find it so interesting that women of Celtic tribes and time were nearly equal to men in their society. We can learn much from that. That women could be housewives, single, goddesses, and warriors is a fascinating culture and lifestyle. Too bad it has taken women so long in modern times to achieve what the Celtic women had.

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