Queen Boudicca (unknown—c.63 CE) was the wife of King Prasutagus of the Iceni Tribe. She was not born Iceni, but married into it, as rulers during that time and among the Celtic tribes often married people from other tribes. They had two daughters and no sons.
The Iceni tribe was an independent ally with Rome when Prasutagus was still alive. In his will, Prasutagus split his estate into parts for his daughters and for Emperor Nero of Rome. He left his wife out of the will in order to publicly denounce her anti-Roman sentiments. When he died the will was ignored, as women were not recognized as legal heirs by the Roman state. The Iceni’s status as a Roman ally also ended. Boudicca objected to this and was flogged for punishment while her daughters were raped.
Many Celtic tribes were under Roman jurisdiction at this time period. People were taxed heavily, enslaved, and imprisoned. Anti-Roman sentiment was furthered in the completion of the Temple of Claudius in the city of Colchester, as well as the attack on the Druid faith. This lent Boudicca plenty of supporters and warriors for a possible rebellion—something that she took advantage of.
In retaliation for the treatment of her daughters and her husband’s will, Boudicca amassed a force 100,000 strong from the Iceni and from various other Celtic tribes. They stormed the city of Colchester, razing buildings to the ground and killing Roman inhabitants. The accounts of the Celtic warriors by Roman historians depicted them as brutal and savage killers. While they may have been brutal, their hate was built up of decades of abuse and inequality imposed by the Romans. The Ninth Roman Division—which was called to stop the onslaught—was decimated by the Iceni.
After destroying Colchester, Boudicca and her army marched to Londinium (London), which was growing into a trade epicenter. Boudicca sacked the city and killed all Roman inhabitants. Other inhabitants were offered safe passage out of the city—mostly men. The Romans believed that neither Boudicca nor her army would bring themselves to the slaughtering of women or the old. As the Britons were raised in a society where women were taught to handle themselves in battle, no Roman woman was spared.
As Boudicca and her army were destroying Verulamium (St. Albans), the Romans developed a strategy in order to stop the rebellion. The general Suetonius planned to meet Boudicca in battle in open ground, with the land slightly narrow. She and her army arrived en masse. This time, the Roman army was successful and victorious over the Celtic tribes. In order to escape capture, Boudicca and her daughters committed suicide.
Legacy:A statue of Boudicca is placed in Colchester, the city that Boudicca first destroyed. She is still celebrated today as a national hero and a symbol of freedom.