In 43AD the Romans invaded Britain. At that time it was occupied by Celtic tribes, one of which was the Iceni, their king being Prasutagus [prah-suit-a-jus]. Not much is known about Prasutagus other than he gained favor with the Romans after the Celtic rebellion of 47BC. In that year, the Romans moved to disarm the Celts and this sparked revolt. A deal was struck with Prasutagus and the Iceni were allowed to live a somewhat unmolested and autonomous existence as long as they remained docile and paid taxes. However, between the heavy Roman taxes and some “grants” later redefined as loans, the Iceni kingdom fell heavily in debt. So much so that at the time of his death in 60BC, Prasutagus had to will half of the kingdom to Emperor Nero to settle! Having no male heir, the rest was left to his two daughters.
Upon their arrival to collect, the Romans seized the entire kingdom, looted the tribal leaders, sold the majority of the royal family into slavery, and publicly raped the daughters while flogging Prasutagus’ queen.
The queen was Boudicca. And her name translates to ‘Victory.’ Described as tall, with red hair down to her hips, a harsh voice and a piercing glare; she habitually wore a large golden necklace, a multi-colored tunic, and a cloak fastened by a brooch.
Boudicca, with her strong spirit and unbending will, was not about to bow down to the brutish tactics employed by the Romans. She promptly called a meeting with the other Celt tribes (including the Druids and Trinovantes) and planned violent revolt! With an army of 100,000, Boudicca, riding in a chariot with her daughters at her side, attacked the center of Roman command in Camulodunum. The Celts made quick work of the poorly defended garrison and burned the city to the ground. The only structure left standing being the Roman Temple!
Boudicca immediately turned her Army towards Londinium [London] which the Roman military abandon in anticipation of the attack. The Celts slaughtered the 25,000 Romans who hadn’t fled, and burned Londinium, as well. To this day there is still a layer of ash from the event which can be found when excavating in London!
With the taste of victory fresh, Boudicca pressed on to Verulamiun (today known as St. Albans) which was populated mostly by Britons who had collaborated with the Romans. Once again her forces killed all the inhabitants and destroyed the city.
Eventually the successful Celt campaign was stalled through a simple matter of logistics. Boudicca’s army was made up of peasant framers who had abandon their fields to fight. They had expected to seize Roman food stores as they marched, but the Roman military, with centuries of experience in warfare, strategically destroyed all they could not carry while in retreat.
Famine overtook the Celts, and eventually weakened them to the point that in the final battle, 1200 Roman soldiers we able to kill 80,000. (Total Roman losses were recorded as 400.)
The location of the encounter isn’t known, nor is the final demise of Boudicca. Legend varies, some suggest she died in the last battle, one says she fled North and took poison to avoid Roman capture, and another says she simply fell sick and died at a later date.
Whatever the case, the life of Boudicca remains a shining example of the strength and leadership capabilities of a motivated women. Some may argue that her fight was in vein, but the end result was such an immense cost to the Romans, it prompted a replacing of the area governor and much less heavy handed approach to Celtic people.
Boudicca exacted her revenge in Roman blood, and they paid dearly.