History Profile: Queen Boudicca
Date of Birth: circa 30 CE
Place of Birth: unknown — likely Gaul
Date of death: 60 or 61 CE — suicide
Spouse: King Prasutagus of the Iceni
Issue: none surviving
Queen Boudicca is the national heroine of England for a reason: she united rival British tribes and won several military victories against the Romans in a time when that was deemed impossible.
Often depicted as a vengeful warrior out for blood on a personal vendetta, the real Queen Boudicca ruled as her husband’s co-sovereign over the small but technologically advanced and religiously devout Iceni nation. In 60 or 61 CE King Prasutagus died mysteriously.
Though often assumed to be old age by many, the timing of his death relative to the Roman military campaigns on the Welsh island of Ynys Môn coupled with the terms in Prasutagus’ last will and testament suggest otherwise. Prasutagus was worth more dead than alive to the Romans, especially as the Romans did not recognize Celtic laws and customs which granted women near complete equality to men. With his family members all female, the Romans were eager to remove Prasutagus and fully conquer the Iceni. This suggests to me his death was violent and at Roman hands.
When the Romans invaded her lands, Boudicca did what any sovereign or co-sovereign would do: she mounted a defence. After losing the first battle with the Romans in her own community at which she and her daughters suffered outrageous torture and injury, Boudicca struck back, determined to prevent the Romans from harming her people again.
It worked better than she could have expected. Other tribes, especially her southern neighbour the Trinovantes joined with her, forming a rare confederation that eventually spread across several tribes.
Boudicca achieved unity from within the boundaries of her free and very individualistic society, proving that liberty and unity can exist when we put aside what divides us and choose to work together.