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Boadicea Warrior Queen

Updated on September 1, 2012

Warrior Queen

Boadicea, sometimes calle Boudicca, was a Warrior Queen who caused havoc among the roman legions in Britain in the first century AD.

The Iceni

Boadicea was born into aristocracy in the year 30 AD. Her marriage to Prasutagas, the ruler of the Iceni tribe in East Anglia, produced two daughters. The Iceni lived in round, wooden houses with thatched roofs and walls of mud and straw or, wattle and daub. Most of the Iceni grew their own food and made their own clothes but the richest bought wine and other luxuries including jewellery and animal furs from Gaul and Italy.

Life among the Iceni was very desirable compared to other tribes as their women could enter a number of professions, as well as having legal rights, especially in the area of marriage, and have rights of redress in case of sexual harassment.

They could govern, they took prominent roles in political, religious and artistic life, and even became judges and lawyers. They could own property which marriage could not deprive them of; they chose when they wanted to marry and, more importantly, who they wanted to marry. They could divorce, and if they were deserted, molested or maltreated, they had the right to claim considerable damages.

The Romans invaded Britain in the Spring of 43AD, when a force of 40,000 landed in Kent. They defeated a force of Britons led by Caratacus and began to over run the South-East of Britain. Caratacus escaped and fled to Wales where he set up a resistance base. Later that year the Roman emperor Claudius arrived in Britain with a large army. They took Colchester (Camulodunum) and eleven tribal Kings surrendered to the Romans. Claudius appointed a governor of Britain before returning to Rome.

The Battles

The Romans continued their conquest of Britain, and by 47AD had conquered the whole of Southern Britain and claimed it as part of the Roman Empire. By 50AD, London (Londinium) was founded a bridge was built across the river Thames and a network of roads was built across the south of Britain.

In 60AD Prasutagas, who had signed a treaty with the Romans, died. Boadicia intended to honour the treaty which her husband had signed, the essence of which was that half his empire went to the Romans and the other half to his wife and daughters. The Romans, however wanted the whole of the empire and they invaded, raping and killing. Boadicea was brutally whipped and her two daughters were raped. If this was not enough Boadicea also had to witness the suffering of her people with raised taxes, and forced military service as well as the Romans building a temple for themselves in Iceni territory.

As a result, Boadicea raised a large army and went to battle with the Romans. With up to 100,000 troops, many of them women, she stormed into the Romans.

She has been described by a Roman historian as having a commanding stature and appearance. Long yellow hair streamed down over her shoulders, and her dress was a many-coloured tunic fastened round the waist by a chain of gold.

The Roman governor of Britain at that time was Suetonius Paulinus, but he was in the North Wales island of Anglesey with a large army slaughtering the Druids, who were leading uprisings. Meanwhile, Boadicea with a large force of her own and of other tribes that joined her was trampling all before her. She had one burning ambition - to see the Roman legions slaughtered and driven from the land. She marched her army to Colchester and laid it to waste with fire and sword wiping out a whole legion that came to relieve the garrison there. A weakness of the Romans was that some towns were held entirely by retired soldiers. They were perfectly capable of collecting taxes and quelling small revolts, but a determined force such as Boadicea's was completely beyond their fighting ability. From Colchester her vast force of battle chariots with long knives fixed to the wheel hubs sacked the important Roman centre of Verulamium (St Albans). She then stormed through London, killing any Romans in her path, and reduced it to ashes.

Suetonius Paulinus raced from North Wales back to London, gathering his forces as he went,  to enter into battle with the larger force led by Boadicea. The final decisive battle was prepared.

The Romans had only 10,000 men, but they were very well trained and equipped. The Iceni had over 100,000 in their army but compared to the disciplined Romans, they were a rabble.However, the tribes thought it was a fight they would easily win, and they were hugely confident.

Unfortunately for Boadicea, numbers and enthusiasm counted for little against the might of the Roman empire, and it is said that during the battle just 400 Romans died, but 80,000 of Boadicea's army were slaughtered. Boadicea and her daughters escaped death in the fighting, but committed suicide on the battlefield by taking poison because they preferred to die rather than be taken prisoner by the Romans.

The present area of King's Cross in London used to be called Battle Bridge, and it is here that excavations for the present day railway station unearthed evidence of Roman battle equipment. It is here that Boadicea made her last stand, and here, under Platform 10, lie the bones of herself and her daughters. 

Comments

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    • scarytaff profile imageAUTHOR

      Derek James 

      8 years ago from South Wales

      Cheers, Ianto. No, I've never seen the Westminster Bridge one.

      Thanks for coming by.

    • iantoPF profile image

      Peter Freeman 

      8 years ago from Pen-Bre, Cymru/Wales

      Great Hub. I love the story of Bwdica. Have you noticed though, that on Westminster bridge in London, There is a statue of her in her chariot. Trouble is she has an arm stretched out to the right while the horses are turning left. Women Drivers never change :)

    • The Rope profile image

      The Rope 

      8 years ago from SE US

      I never knew! I've been to King's Cross and never knew...I remain stunned at missing such a great historic fact and appreciate your - as always - well written hub.

    • scarytaff profile imageAUTHOR

      Derek James 

      8 years ago from South Wales

      Thank you, No 7. Your comments are always welcome.

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 

      8 years ago from Upstate New York

      Oh, good hub! Love that topic, I've read a little about her but more in passing while reading early English history. Thank you for a wonderful hub. She's a (bloody!) hero.

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