Even her name is under some dispute. Alternately spelled Boudica and Boadicea, but that’s what happens when you go back to 60 AD. They did not use Webster’s or Dictionary.com back then.
Boudicca, quite likely some kind of queen or princess in her own right, was married to Prasutagus, who ruled the Iceni people and East Anglia in what is now England. Conquered by Rome in about AD 43, Prasutagus was allowed to continue to rule as a client king, apparently with Boudicca as a co-ruler.
When Prasutagus died, Rome – or their local representative – decided to change the game, and ignore P’s will, which had left his kingdom jointly to the Roman Emperor and his daughters. Rather than accepting Boudicca as a client queen regent for the underage girls, this brain trust (not!) decided to show her who was boss by publicly flogging her, and ordering her young daughters (roughly 12 years old or so) gang-raped before her eyes. This d*ckless wonder was sure it would show this uppity woman how powerless she was, how she was just a slave and she had better suck it up.
Boudicca wasn’t the type to suck it up.
“She was huge of frame, terrifying of aspect, and with a harsh voice. A great mass of bright red hair fell to her knees: She wore a great twisted golden necklace, and a tunic of many colors, over which was a thick mantle, fastened by a brooch. Now she grasped a spear, to strike fear into all who watched her……” -Dio Cassius (Dudley and Webster, 54)
Boudicca’s story as portrayed by Alex Kingston in the 2003 movie. TW: It’s brutal.
Boudicca did not take the rape of her daughter nor her own flogging as a reason to curl up and become a meek little subservient woman, grateful for whatever crumbs fell from Rome’s table.
She and her followers burned Camulodunom (Colchester), Londinium (later to be called London), and Verulamium (St. Albans) to the ground. The Iceni/Trinovante army was no gentler with the Roman women than the Romans had been with Boadicca and her daughters.
Also from Unc.edu:
While by Roman law Boudicca had no real claim to succession after her husband’s death, her people regarded her as their natural leader, and their neighboring tribes were willing to support any anti-Roman uprising. The indigenous people had suffered under Roman taxation for years. They were also driven off their own land and subjected to lives as prisoners and slaves. Sometime between 56 and 60 CE the Temple of Claudius was erected in Colchester to commemorate the life of the Roman emperor who had destroyed the majority of the Celtic culture; this immediately became an object of strong derision for the British. They were also angered by the attack on the headquarters of the Druidic religion. These realities urged neighboring tribes, among them were the Trinovantes, to join Boudicca in her rebellion, which has been said to have been 100,000 people strong, against Roman forces. They began by storming the Roman cities of Camulodunum and Colchester, then proceeding to the growing trade center of Londinium (London), and ending in a final catastrophic battle.
If you prefer the story told in a music hip-hop video version, here’s Boudicca, Superstar…
Here’s a couple things that are certain.
We are not still talking about the d*ckless, nameless wonder of a Roman who ordered Boudicca flogged, are we? We are still talking about and reading about and watching movies about Boudicca/Boudica/Boadicea. Even though, in the end, she and her people were defeated by superior weaponry and military tactics.
Boudica has been the subject of two feature films, the 1928 film Boadicea, where she was portrayed by Phyllis Neilson-Terry, and 2003’s Boudica (Warrior Queen in the US), a UK TV film written by Andrew Davies and starring Alex Kingston as Boudica.
(See the Youtube clip above.)
She has also been the subject of a 1978 British TV series, Warrior Queen, starring Siân Phillips as Boudica. Jennifer Ward-Lealand portrayed Boudica in an episode of Xena – Warrior Princess titled “The Deliverer” in 1997.
In the fictional world of Ghosts of Albion, Queen Bodicea is one of three Ghosts who once were mystical protectors of Albion and assists the current protectors with advice and knowledge.
Boudica’s story is the subject of several novels, including books by Rosemary Sutcliff, Roxanne Gregory, Pauline Gedge, Manda Scott, Alan Gold, Diana L. Paxson, David Wishart, George Shipway, Simon Scarrow and J. F. Broxholme (a pseudonym of Duncan Kyle). She plays a central role in the first part of G. A. Henty‘s novel Beric the Briton and in a children’s novel by Henry Treece. One of the viewpoint characters of Ian Watson‘s novel Oracle is an eyewitness to her defeat. She has also appeared in several comic book series, including the Sláine, which featured two runs, titled “Demon Killer” and “Queen of Witches” giving a free interpretation of Boudica’s story. Other comic appearances include Witchblade and From Hell. The DC Comics character Boodikka, a member of the Green Lantern Corps, was named after Boudica. Additionally, in the alternate history novel Ruled Britannia by Harry Turtledove, Boudicca is the subject of a play written by William Shakespeare to incite the people of Britain to revolt against Spanish conquerors.
The Diana L. Paxson/Marion Zimmer Bradley novel Ravens of Avalon features another retelling of the Boudicca legend. In it Boudicca is portrayed as a woman who gives herself over to and becomes possessed by the Celtic battle goddess, the Morrigan/ Morrigu, which explains her sudden proficiency with battle and bloodlust after basically being a housewife/judge for 15-odd years.
Then again, seeing your young daughters raped right in front of your face would really piss off a lot of women. (And men.)
Boudicca did not lead an all-female army. There are many, many decent men who really do not believe raping women is cool. But too often, men do need pressure or leadership by women to do the right thing. Right now in the US Congress the newest version of the decades-long bi-partisan Violence Against Women Act is unauthorized, because, reasons.
And there are countless rape kits lying untested in every state, because funding isn’t a priority. Why would anyone have a problem with the idea that thousands of rapists are walking the streets because we can’t bother to test the rape kits and lock them up?
About the Great Sluts in History series:
What makes a woman a “slut,” anyway? From Lillith to Jezebel to Sandra Fluke, it seems that whenever women are in positions of power, open about their sexuality, “too outspoken,” or heaven forbid, all three, they are labeled sluts by some men (and sometimes other women), in an attempt to shame them into “knowing their place.” And into meekly accepting “their place.”
This series will look at flawed and wonderful heroines throughout history who insisted on “Following their own weird,” no matter how much it cost them to do so. And how, by doing so, they made the world better for all humans, of all genders, who followed them.
“…it is no longer acceptable to discuss women’s rights as separate from human rights… If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all.” ~Hillary Rodham Clinton, 1995
(Note: This post was originally published in 2013. In 2018 I had the opportunity to visit London and take the featured photo, of Boudicca and her horses – rising up over a souvenir stand, lol. Republishing here with minor changes in 2019.)