Queen Boudicca – History, Accomplishments and Major Facts
Boudicca was a British queen famous for leading the Iceni tribe in an uprising against the Romans in 60 AD. The Celtic warrior queen’s goal was to bring an end to Rome’s oppressive rule of Britannia. Her national rebellion almost caused the end of Rome’s occupation of Britain, as she inflicted several tens of thousands of casualties among the Romans and their client states.
Ever wonder the events that spurred Boudicca to take up arms and lead a completely revolutionary assault against the Romans in Britain?
What were some of the major achievements of Boudicca? And why was the Iceni queen’s rebellion against the Romans such an extraordinary event in history? Below, World History Edu explores the life and major achievements of Queen Boudicca.
Life Before the Uprising
At 18, Boudicca married Prasutagus, who was the king of the Iceni tribe. Her husband was one of the 11 kings who had surrendered to Rome following its conquest of southern England around 43 AD. During his reign, the Iceni were allied to the Romans, so Prasutagus was allowed to rule over his tribe, in an almost client king status.
Helping Prasutagus rule were his wife and two daughters. It must be noted that women had reasonable amount of rights in ancient tribal British culture; they could occupy top positions, be doctors and priestesses. This explains why Queen Boudicca and her two daughters wielded immense influence among the various tribes.
Death of King Prasutagus
Just before the death of Prasutagus in 60 AD, the king named the Roman Emperor Nero as co-heir, along with his two daughters. But his will was ignored when the Romans seized control of his kingdom and properties.
When Boudicca resisted, the Romans flogged her and raped her two daughters. Rome saw the death of Iceni king as an opportunity to seize the lands of the Iceni people. The Romans hoped to inflict the strongest kind of physical and psychological punishment on any British tribe that stood against it.
Not in Rome’s wildest imagination did it expect their oppressive tactics to have opposite effect.
Inspired by those events, Boudicca decided to raise an army to destroy the Romans. She shrugged of the humiliation that was meted out to her and her tribe and waged a crusade against the invaders. The charismatic and fierce queen was determined to remove every single Roman from her doorstep.
Achievements of Queen Boudicca
Queen Boudicca led her Iceni tribe and other British tribes to wreak untold havoc on three centers of Roman power in Britain – Londinium (London), Camulodunum (Colchester) and Verulamium (St Albans). She had vowed to purge Britain of everything associated with Rome.
In all sense and purpose, she was the ultimate warrior queen. Her heroism inspired many rulers that came after her, including Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria. Queen Elizabeth undoubtedly drew a lot from Boudicca when she had to face off against the mighty Spanish Armada in the late 16th century.
The Battle of Camulodunum
Queen Boudicca led the Iceni tribe to war against the Romans shortly after annexing her kingdom. The Iceni people received support from their neighbors, the Trinovantes. The timing of the uprising was the perfect opportunity for the Iceni queen, as at that time, the Roman governor of Britannia, Gauis Suetonius Paulinus, had been away.
The warrior queen led her army of rebels to Camulodunum, which was one of the major cities that the Romans had conquered. Although the Roman city received reinforcements, Boudicca’s army defeated the Roman soldiers, winning the Battle of Camulodunum.
The Iceni fighters, who were in a fierce bunch of naked warriors, deployed a guerrilla style of fighting. As a result of this unpredictability, the Roman forces initially struggled to hold them off.
Following her first victory, the Iceni rebels attacked other Roman settlements. During their march to Londinium, Governor Paulinus sent more troops to attack them, believing that the Iceni army would be vastly outnumbered. But the rebels proved too powerful and destroyed Londinium.
Boudicca and her army destroyed the third town, Verulamium. Close to 80,000 Roman and British warriors were killed within this period.
Queen Boudica’s forces devastated Rome’s legion stationed at Lindum Colonia
Rome’s legions were in the ancient world were stuff for nightmare to their opponents. Rather than let that get into her, Boudicca defied the odds and went toe-to-toe against Rome’s famous Ninth Legion. The Roman soldiers were about moving from Lindum Colonia (today’s Lincoln) to aid forces in Camulodonum that were being hammered by Boudicca’s warriors. The Iceni queen did not give the Romans any breathing space; she quickly struck the Ninth Legion, destroying every Roman soldier, except for a few commanders and their cavalry.
Battle of Watling Street and Defeat of the British Rebellion
Queen Boudicca continued her march as Governor Paulinus amassed more forces. The next battle occurred on a stretch of road known as Watling Street. Even though the Celtic troops had large numbers, the location was too narrow for the Queen to send in more forces. And with the Romans being better skilled at open combat and having more advanced weapons, the rebels were at a disadvantage.
Boudicca’s army tried to escape, but the Roman forces proved more formidable. The Roman victory marked the end of the British rebellion, and Rome continued to rule until 410 AD.
Death of Boudicca
According to Roman historical sources, Boudicca either poisoned herself or died from her wounds when the British lost the battle.
Her heroic efforts etched her name into history. She is regarded as one of Britain’s folk heroes for standing against Rome’s religious and psychological assault of ancient Britain.
Why Queen Boudicca lost at the Battle of Watling Street
Per the account of Roman historian Cassius Dio, Boudicca had under her command over 200,000 warriors. Although Dio’s figure might have been an exaggeration, as modern historians put the figure at around 100-120 thousand warriors. The Iceni queen undoubtedly had more troops than the Romans, who according to modern estimate place their figure at around 10,000 men. So the question that begs to be answered is: How did the Iceni lose to an army that it had outnumbered by almost 10 to 1? Historians state that the commander of the Roman troops, Suetonius Paulinus, purposely chose a terrain that would make up for his troops’ numerical disadvantage. Paulinus strategically placed his army atop a valley, whose entrance was a bit narrow. The Romans also made sure to equip themselves with the best of battle equipment and tactics and discipline.
Armed with those strategic advantages, the Romans proved a handful for the Iceni tribes and their allies. Queen Boudicca could not capitalize on her numerical advantage and succumbed to a more impressive battle tactics of their opponents. The Romans slaughtered Boudicca’s forces en masse in what historians like to call a bowl-shaped valley.
Much of Boudicca’s story and her famous rebellion comes from the accounts of Roman scholars Tacitus and Cassius Dio. Although much isn’t known about her life before becoming Queen of the Iceni tribe, she was likely raised in an upper-class family in Camulodunum around 30 AD.
There are many variations of Queen Boudicca’s name. She was also known as Boadicea, Bunduca, and in Welsh history, Buddug.
Like most Celtic women of her time, Queen Boudicca was trained as a warrior. She was familiar with various fighting techniques and weaponry.
Boudicca’s forces massacred the famous Ninth Legion, who had previously opposed her revolt. The Iceni and their allies attacked the legion when it was on its way to support the Roman empire in Camulodunum.
There are some historians that believe the Queen was buried between platforms 9 and 10 in London’s King Cross Station.
During the English Renaissance and Victorian eras, there was much history in Boudicca’s life and revolt. She became an important cultural figure in the United Kingdom.
Boudicca has been featured in several literary works throughout history, including “Chronicles” by Raphael Holinshed, and “Boadicea, an ode” by the famous poet William Cowper.
She has also been named after several ships, including the HMS Boadicea and the MV Boudicca.
In 1902, the London County Council erected a sculpture of the Iceni queen. Her statue was also unveiled at the Marble Hall in 1912 in Wales.
In the 21st century, exhibitions of Boudicca’s revolt were displayed at the Museum of London, Verulamium Museum, and the Museum of Colchester.
Boudica’s Way is a popular 58-kilometre footpath that passes through Norwich and Diss in Norfolk.