HAHG Lecture: Boudicca – Warrior Queen or Rebel?

Members of the Henley Archaeological and Historical Group welcomed again Dr Jill Eyers on 2 October, to give them a talk on Boudicca, probably better known to most of us as Boadicea.

Boudicca’s tribe, the Iceni, of Norfolk, were permitted nominal independence under Roman rule in return for their loyalty. Following the death (possibly the killing) of her husband Prasutagus, the Romans ignored his will which left his kingdom between them and his daughters and took it entirely for themselves. Boudicca naturally objected to this, leading to the Romans inflicting terrible punishments on her and her daughters.

To avenge this, in about AD60, Boudicca amassed a fighting force (said to number hundreds of thousands) from her own and neighbouring tribes. This army destroyed important Roman cities – Colchester, London and St Albans – and marched up Watling Street to meet the Roman forces of Paulinus, who was campaigning in Anglesey at the time of the revolt. In spite of being greatly outnumbered, the Romans were victorious and entirely slaughtered their enemy, except one – Boudicca herself. She was captured but died – possibly by her own hand.

There are still many mysteries about Boudicca. Archaeology of the Roman towns confirms the destruction, but why were no personal possessions or bodies (or body parts) found? The location of her final defeat is unknown; some people have suggested Mancetter in Warwickshire, but this does not match with Tacitus’s description of the location – Jill believes that a location near Whipsnade is more likely.

Was Boudicca a warrior queen or a rebel? Well, that depends or whether you are British or Roman!