How much do you know about the place where you live? If it’s a big city or you’re interested in history, you may already be knowledgeable, but sometimes it doesn’t occur to us to find out about the area we call home. I know a lot about the area in Scotland where I grew up, and when I lived in York and London, there were so many museums and historic buildings that they were difficult to ignore. Now I live in the countryside and I hadn’t really done much delving into any local history. Then my mum came to visit and as someone who studied history at university, she, of course, wanted to visit the local museum. I’m so glad she did.
I discovered that the famous Celtic warrior queen Boudicca fought her final battle with the Romans just a few miles from where I live. Boudicca was born of royal descent. Her name derives from the Celtic word for “victorious” (there are several spelling variations of her name) and she was described as being intimidating in appearance; tall, with waist-length red hair, a deep voice and a penetrating gaze. She wore a large golden torque, a colourful tunic, and a cloak fastened by a brooch. Some artists depict her as wearing intricate body and face paint.
Boudicca used divination before her battles, releasing a hare (often considered a magical creature) from the folds of her dress and interpreting the direction in which it ran. She invoked Andraste, who was the goddess of victory, war, divination and ravens.
Boudicca’s husband Prasutagus was king of the Iceni tribe. In his will, he left his kingdom jointly to his daughters and the Roman emperor. However, when he died, his will was ignored by the Romans. As a result, Boudicca was flogged, her daughters were raped and the Romans claimed the Iceni land as their own.
In around AD 60, Boudicca led 100,000 Iceni and other tribes in an uprising against the Romans. She defeated the Romans in three cities, including Londinium, or latter-day London. An estimated 70,000–80,000 Romans and British were killed in those battles. Emperor Nero considered withdrawing all of the Roman forces from Britain, but in the end, Boudicca was defeated in the Battle of Watling Street. Boudicca’s fate is unknown, although accounts by the Roman historians Tacticus and Cassio Dio suggest she poisoned herself to prevent being captured, or fell ill and died.
Boudicca was largely forgotten in history up until the Victorian era, where she was aligned with Queen Victoria, whose name also means victorious, and was celebrated in a statue named ‘Boadicea and Her Daughters’, situated by the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Bridge in London.
What can you find out about your local area? You might find a historical figure or event that could inspire your writing or artwork.