It is difficult to imagine a more fearsome woman than Boudicca, Queen of the Iceni people. Dio Cassius wrote: ‘She was huge of frame, terrifying of aspect, and with a harsh voice. A great mass of bright red hair fell to her knees.’ Not exactly your usual romantic heroine, but she put together an army and almost sent the Romans packing. To her followers she was the personification of a goddess, which may explain the variety of Celtic tribes who united so passionately behind her.
When her husband Prasutagus died, he left half his estate to his wife and daughters and half to the Emperor Nero, as was expected at that time. But a few days after his death an administrator was sent to seize his total belongings and retrieve his debts. Unable to pay, Boudicca was publicly flogged and her daughters raped in front of her by Roman soldiers.
Perhaps it was grief that drove her, or perhaps revenge, but it is said that she raised an army of 100,000 warriors made up of her Iceni tribe and various other Celtic tribes. They burned and pillaged their way from Camulodunum (Colchester) to Londinium (London) and by the time she reached Verulamium (St Albans) her army was 200,000 strong. She was eventually subdued by Paullinus and, rather than face defeat, the proud warrior Queen and her daughters took their own lives by drinking poison.
What a wonderful plot this story has. Maybe a bit strong for a Pocket Novel, but otherwise it has everything. Love, romance, excitement, danger and tragedy. Boudicca has been written about many times, and the wonderful Alex Kingston with her bright red hair played the Queen in the 2003 film, but Boudicca’s story still has the power to inspire women everywhere.
I live in Colchester, so Boudicca is part of my heritage. Her picture is a stained glass window in our town hall. The town is still enclosed within a Roman wall, and part of Colchester’s Norman Castle is built on the foundations of the Temple of Claudius where Boudicca fought her famous battle with the Romans.
Like any other real heroine, she will always be remembered.