Of all the warrior women about whom I have written, Boudicca is my favourite. She is my heroine, my inspiration. And she was a warrior. Really.
If you have not yet met Boudicca, allow me to introduce her. Boudicca was queen of the Iceni tribe who lived in what is now known as East Anglia, in southern England. Dio Cassius, a Roman historian, describes her thus: “She was huge of frame, terrifying of aspect, and with a harsh voice. A great mass of bright red hair fell to her knees.” This is exactly how I imagine her, tall and strong with long, long red hair. She must have been a fearsome beauty.
Although details of her life are rather sketchy, most historians agree that she was born into a rather prominent family, somewhere around the year 25 CE. She married the king of the Iceni people, Prasutagus, about 44 CE. The royal couple had two daughters, thought to have been born a few years later.
Again, drawing on a small wellspring of information, the “experts” believe Boudicca may have practiced Druidry. She is thought to have been born on the Isle of Mona, which had a strong Druid tradition.
Well, now we have a peaceful and, presumably, happy life; the king and queen and their two young daughters living with, and ruling over, their clan. I wonder what life was like. It was harsh, I have no doubt about that. Perhaps a little less harsh for Prasutagus and Boudicca, being royalty and all.
In 43 CE the Romans, under the leadership of Emperor Claudius, invaded England. What this meant for the Iceni and other indigenous groups was Roman settlement, military presence, reduced independence and more taxes. The usual.
Somewhere along the way, Prasutagus died. He had previously arranged to have his two daughters assume leadership of the Iceni tribe, in partnership with the Roman conquerors, upon his death. This did not sit well with the Romans as they did not recognize succession to any position of authority for women. They also thought co-ruling with women was a really, really bad idea.
In 60 or 61 CE, Boudicca, supported by other tribes, led a revolt against the Romans. She gave them a good run for their money, too, winning every battle and burning down the city of Londinium. (Can you guess the modern name of this town?) Eventually, though, Boudicca’s luck ran out. Her last battle, location unknown, was lost. It is said that the Queen of the Iceni people returned home and died by her own hand. She took poison rather than submit to Roman rule.
What a story! What a woman!
We do not, of course, have any photos of Queen Boudicca. However, here is a silver coin, minted around the year 61 CE. It is not known after whom the profile is modeled. It could be Prasutagus, a god or goddess, or even Boudicca herself.
When I think of Boudicca, my heroine, I imagine a tall woman, with piercing green eyes and that long, long red hair.