In ad 60 Queen Boudicca (who is also known as Boadicea) led a British revolt against the Roman invaders of Britain. Although she was soon defeated, Boudicca has become a British national heroine.
WHO WAS BOUDICCA?
Boudicca was the wife of King Prasutagus of the Iceni, a British tribe who lived in eastern England. When the Romans invaded Britain in ad 43 Prasutagus made peace with them and was allowed to remain king of the Iceni. When Prasutagus died in ad 60 the Roman governor of Britain decided to take direct control of the Iceni territory. He sent Roman soldiers to seize all Prasutagus’ property. As a symbol of his control, he ordered that Boudicca be publicly whipped in front of the assembled tribe.
Boudicca swore to revenge this public humiliation, and many of the Iceni warriors supported her. She travelled around eastern England persuading other tribes that she could drive the Romans out of Britain. Soon she had gathered a large army of fierce British warriors. Boudicca first led her army against the Roman town of Camulodunum (present-day Colchester). The town was burned to the ground, and most of the inhabitants were killed.
DESTRUCTION AND SLAUGHTER
Boudicca then led her army southwards and attacked the Roman port of Londinium (London) and the town of Verulamium (St Albans). The attacks took the inhabitants by surprise and Boudicca’s warriors killed thousands of them. Many buildings were destroyed, and Roman temples were pulled down. The Romans sent a legion of 6,000 soldiers against Boudicca, but her army easily defeated them. After the battle, Boudicca hung the heads of dead Roman soldiers from tree branches as a warning to others.
THE REVOLT CRUSHED
The main Roman army was stationed in northern England, and the governor ordered it to march southwards against Boudicca’s army. The two armies met at a battle somewhere in central England (the exact site has not yet been discovered). The result was a crushing Roman victory and many of the British warriors were killed. Boudicca escaped from the battle, but died shortly afterwards, either from illness or by taking poison. Boudicca’s revolt gave Roman Britain a nasty shock—altogether about 70,000 people were killed during the revolt—but it soon recovered. Britain remained a part of the Roman Empire for another 350 or so years.