Boadicea – The First Queen Of England

The first woman to hold the title of Queen in England was Boadicea, Queen of the Iceni tribe in the first century A.D.

Boadicea (also spelled Boudicca or Boudica) was born into a royal family around 26 A.D. She married Prasutagus, king of the Iceni, a tribe located in what is now Norfolk, England. Prasutagus ruled under the auspices of the occupying Romans, who had probably put him on the throne in return for his assistance when they invaded England in 43 A. D.

Upon Prasutagus’s death around the year 59, the kingdom passed into the hands of the Romans. The king had hoped the Romans would allow his two teenage daughters to keep half of his property, but instead the Romans took over completely. When Boadicea complained, she was publicly flogged and forced to watch as her daughters were raped.

Infuriated, Queen Boadicea — described by one Roman historian as a tall, terrifying-looking woman with fierce eyes, a harsh voice, and very long red hair — became the leader of a violent uprising against Roman rule.

Leading a swarming army of angry tribes folk she swept into London, torched its buildings, and slaughtered in the region of 70,000 Romano-Londoners.

To this day, about 18 feet below the current street level there is a level of red ash, known to archaeologists as the Boadicea layer.

The Romans brutally put down the rebellion with their superior numbers and weapons  in a ferocious battle (the exact site of which is uncertain). According to one account, Boadicea then killed herself with poison so she would not fall into Roman hands. Boadicea’s name means “victorious,” or Victoria, and in Victorian times she came to be viewed as a heroic symbol of Britain.

Boadicea’s rebellion was a crucial moment in early British history. Her confederacy of Briton tribes had taken the placid Roman occupiers by surprise; they had assumed that the Celtic “barbarians” were far too disorganized to mount any insurrection. As a result, the Roman officials lessened some of the onerous demands of their colonial rule, including a fairer system of taxation.

Long live Queen Boadicea!

18 thoughts on “Boadicea – The First Queen Of England

  1. oceannah says:

    Didn’t she paint herself in woad to go into battle? Seems I recall that story somewhere in the recesses of my mind. Long live the queen.
    *anna

  2. Bodacious post, Deborah.

  3. willowbatel says:

    How interesting! I’d never heard tell of anything to do with the start of Britain. You’d think they’d teach that in elementary-high schools…

    • Maybe it was viewed as being too violent? And to know who to root for?? Boadicea was really angry. Hell hath no fury….

      • willowbatel says:

        I doubt it. I was showed some pretty horrific stuff relating to the holocaust and the Civil War. I think it’s mostly because our school system sucks. I can’t imagine the UK is not teaching their students about how America started. We should at least have the decency to do the same for them.

  4. Boadicea was my favourite queen at school, she rocked!

  5. Did you see BBC4′s ‘She-Wolves: England’s Early Queens’ in the US? It was a brilliant historical documentary series about the fierce women who defied male rule and shaped today’s Britain. Queen Matilda – not to be messed with! http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01db7z8

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