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.