Boadicea – The Warrior Queen

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Illustration courtesy of Pixabay

The Warrior Queen

During recent research for my second novel, due for release in autumn this year, I found myself gathering some interesting facts about Boadicea, or as she is recently referred to, Boudicca. On-going debate as to the correct pronunciation of her name still continues, my children having been taught at school that the latter was correct, and I the former. I personally prefer Boadicea so from hereon in will refer to her as such. And no, just for the record, in case anyone is wondering, I haven’t switched genre to write about historical fiction for my second novel. Like my debut, my second novel is also a work of contemporary fiction, I just happened to come across Boadicea in my search for inspirational women of history. Boadicea demonstrated strength of character and endurance at a time of great adversity, both for herself and her daughters, as well as the people of her kingdom. History teaches us that all did not end well for Boadicea but she did not take her humiliation lying down. And, more importantly, she reminds us that once upon a time, before the Roman invasion of Britain, women were part of a social structure that encouraged equal rights.

Not much is known of Boadicea’s early life and her birth date is not recorded but general consensus suggests she was born into a royal house as a member of the Iceni tribe, based in the area now known as Norfolk. Manda Scott’s modern novel’s based on Boadicea’s life suggest it likely she was brought up in a largely peaceful environment where both sexes would have taken similar rolls in the running of the lives of the Iceni tribe, including mastering the skills necessary to defend themselves. This way of life was then threatened after the Roman invasion of Britain around 43CE. Boadicea and her husband Prasutagus, King of the Iceni, found ownership of their land and wealth threatened. A deal was struck and Prastuagus was allowed to remain in control of his land and money, but only with the status of ‘Client King.’ However, Prasutagus drew up a will leaving half of everything to his wife Boadicea, and their daughters, and the other half to the Roman Emperor. This did not sit well with the Romans because women in Roman society had no rights of ownership or inheritance. After the death of Prastuagus in 60CE the Romans refused to honour his will and Boadicea’s attempts to claim her rights were viciously denied. She was whipped, her estates confiscated, and her two daughters raped. The Romans may have left us with a rich legacy of innovation and invention including straight roads, sewers and sanitation, hot baths and bound books, but they also destroyed a social structure that had been so important to the women of the tribes of Britain, namely equality.

During Victorian times a memorial of Boadicea was commissioned and still stands today. Somewhat overshadowed by the London Eye on the opposite bank of the Thames, she can be found on the north-east corner of Westminster Bridge. Next time you are visiting London why not take a look at the statue of the ‘Warrior Queen.’ Driving her carriage, arms aloft, defiantly holding a spear with her daughters standing behind her, she looks very formidable. She also serves as a reminder that there was a time in bygone history when men and women in Britain had equal rights to property, power and inheritance. This does leave me wondering what recent historical relations between British men and women would have been like had we inherited the sexual politics of the Celtic tribes rather than those preferred by the Romans.

 

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THE VANISHING – MY BOOK REVIEW

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The Vanishing by Sophia Tobin

Published by Simon & Schuster

When runaway Annaleigh first meets the Twentymans, their offer of employment and lodgings seems a blessing. Only later does she discover the truth. But by then she is already in the middle of a web of darkness and intrigue, where murder seems the only possible means of escape…

My Review

I love historical fiction, Dickens, Conrad, Austen, Eliot, Gaskell and Shelley, not forgetting the brilliant Brontë sisters and yet, I have to admit, it’s been a while since I last read a book in this particular genre. However, after reading Sophie Tobin’s The vanishing, I had to ask myself why? Beautifully written, this dark tale of intrigue and deception is set against the backdrop of England’s nineteenth century eerie Yorkshire Moors. Add a brooding Byronic villain who (in the words of Lady Caroline Lamb when referring to Lord Byron) could be best described as “mad, bad and dangerous to know,” a persecuted heroine and a remote setting alluding to aristocratic decay and madness, this atmospheric tale of mystery also bears all the hallmarks of good gothic fiction.
Annaleigh Calvert leaves behind the hustle and bustle of her London life, including her beloved adoptive father, and heads for Yorkshire to take up the position of housekeeper at White Windows, a somewhat decaying mansion nestled among the remote Yorkshire Moors. Annaleigh is also fleeing heartache; only White Windows is not the sanctuary she hoped for. “I felt disappointed,” she said. “I had come here to escape from sadness, and yet the house in that moment seemed the opposite of a place where one could be happy. It seemed to crouch in the rugged landscape, as though cowering from the rain.” Her employers, the Twentyman’s, are a somewhat aloof brother and sister, Marcus and Hester. They appear pleasant enough however all is not as it seems. Hester, slightly melancholic and “colourless, like a water colour executed with too much water” relies on opiates to help her constant headaches. Her brother Marcus, at times arrogant and at others troubled, is a contradictory character yet Annaleigh finds herself strangely drawn to her broody proprietor. “He looked at me, and the keenness of his gaze, needle sharp and perceptive, startled me anew.” Nonetheless, Annaleigh struggles with the isolation of her new home. And why is she warned by the other two resident servants not to get too close to her employers? And, more importantly, where did the previous housekeeper Kate; disappear to – apparently without trace?
Although well paced, I did find The Vanishing somewhat slow to begin with. However, it quickly picked up pace keeping me gripped to the very end. Tobin’s characters are well drawn and her descriptive use of language while both beautiful and haunting is also, at times, amazingly brutal. Through Annaleigh, Tobin explores the historical entrapment of women within domestic space as well as their subjection to patriarchal authority. However, although subservient, as Annaleigh’s position would have dictated at the time, Annaleigh does discover a strong will and strength of character within herself that is refreshingly at odds with her place in society. The Vanishing is a story of love, betrayal and revenge and the perfect read for a cold day in front of a warm fire.