Women in History III: Boadicea – Warrior Queen

Boadicea, Queen of Iceni. Roman period. ©Ancient Art & Architecture Collection Ltd.

Boadicea, Queen of Iceni. Roman period.
©Ancient Art & Architecture Collection Ltd.

While Sappho represents the expression of female desire, Boadicea has become a symbol of woman as warrior. Hailing from Norfolk, she was the wife of Prasutagus, King of the Iceni tribe in Roman occupied Britain. Prasutagus accepted an alliance with Rome after the invasion of Claudius in AD43. When her husband died without male heir, Boadicea was sadistically persecuted and her kingdom abused by the Roman forces. As a response she led a revolt that was extensive and, for a while, successful, with the invasion of places including Colchester and Londonium, before eventually succumbing to the imperial forces of Rome.
As with Sappho there is also considerable mystery around the iconic figure of Boadicea. As Miranda Aldhouse-Green points out in Boudica Britannia (Pearson Education Ltd, 2006) there is enduring uncertainty about how the warrior queen’s name is spelt. Nevertheless, she has remained a potent figure for appropriation at different points in history including the Victorians (the association with Queen Victoria was greatly strengthened, as Aldhouse-Green tells us, because the name Boudica also means Victory). Despite the mysteries surrounding the warrior queen there is significant evidence, including the writing of Roman Tacitus, cited by Aldhouse-Green to show that the people of Boadicea’s time were already familiar with commanding female leaders.