Boudicca: Rebel Queen of the Iceni

Deep beneath London is a layer of reddish-brown ash, with burnt piece of Roman pottery strewn about. Archaeologists call this “Boudicca’s Layer.”

This statue of Boudicca currently stands outside of the Houses of Parliament in London. It was commissioned by Prince Albert, and was completed in 1905.

She was queen of the Celtic Iceni tribe in the early first century CE. Her husband Prasutagus ruled the tribe independently of Rome who, in turn, viewed him as an ally and left him alone. When he died he left the tribal land to Boudicca and their two daughters. However, the Romans—hostile to the idea of cooperating with a female ruler—chose to disregard his wishes and seized the land for themselves.

They raped Boudicca and her daughters to demonstrate their lack of power. In 60 CE, Boudicca retaliated. She rallied thousands, some estimates put the figure at 100,000, of Britons and sacked three Roman cities: Londinium (London), Camulodunum (Colchester), and Verulamium (St. Albans). The ashes from her fire can still be seen in London.

Here’s a map to give you an idea of where all of this took place:

Once she had satisfied herself, she committed suicide with her two daughters to avoid being captured and further humiliated by the Romans.

Her actions persuaded Nero to install a more conciliatory governor in Britain, and her story was preserved in the writings of the Roman historian Tacitus.

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