As in all historical fiction, we must ask: Was Queen Boudicca a real person?
The Roman historian Tacitus writes that she did in fact exist. Though the stories that people tell about her seem fantastic, there are surprising levels of consistency in the stories. This helps us to visualise her in our imaginations of what she must have looked like.
Frightening to look at, yet beautiful, these are contradictory aspects of her appearance which are often highlighted by writers who attempt to describe her. It is almost as if she is the ideal feminist. Boudicca is a mother, soft, gentle, attractive, sexy even, while at the same time possessing those traits of character and temperament that would strike terror and fear into the hearts of those who would oppose her will.
She is nearly always described in reverent, martial terms. She was tall, a red-head with long, flowing hair, and above all, exuding a fierce, warlike, penetrating aura of power. As the ruler of a tribe of Barbarians, this outward appearance would have been extremely useful for her.
Even her name, Boudicca, was special, since it meant, “Victory”. To this day, there are those who claim that England’s Queen Victoria was a descendant of Boudicca. Indeed, a monument of Boudicca, riding in a war chariot, was built by Thorneycroft, along the River Thames, in the shadow of Big Ben, to honor Queen Victoria. Victoria, was to rule England for sixty three (63) years.
Thanks to Tacitus, a person who lived close to the time period of the events which he records, we know that Boudicca was a Celtic Queen whose husband, King Prasutagus, had died, leaving her as the head of a fierce tribe of warlike barbarians, the Iceni, on the island of Britannia.
Prasutagus had been a realist and a pacifist with Rome, sending payments to Rome in exchange for peaceful coexistence. Boudicca, on the other hand, was an idealist. She felt Rome had no right to any of the wealth of the Iceni. Her decision would have dire consequences.
Further, we also know she had two daughters. These daughters would have been the heirs to the throne of the tribe which she led. Her daughters’ upbringing and physical well-being would have been a source of concern for her. After all, these were the future rulers of the Iceni tribe.
Into this scenario the events which Tacitus describes unfolds.
What Tacitus gives us, however, is history. History is always told from the vantage point of the victors. The voice of the losers is rarely heard. This is true of boudicca, even today. For instance, how many of you had ever heard of a Celtic Queen named, Boudicca before today? History gives little time and effort to deal with the tales of the vanquished…
So, what story does Tacitus tell us? He tells the story from the perspective of the Romans. In all the literature I have examined, there are none who have given us the story as Boudicca might have recorded it, if she had been the type of person to tell her story.
In this book, and the next books to come, we will explore the story of Boudicca, the events of 1066, William the Conqueror, the Norman Conquest, and follow Boudicca’s bloodline all the way to Queen Victoria and the Victorian Age.
I warn you in advance: the story of Boudicca, her daughters, their survival of the royal Iceni bloodline through the Norman Conquest and into the Victorian Age is a tale of strong women who were born into power and did not hesitate to bring all its destructive force to bear upon those who would challenge them.
Book Description Publication Date: February 18, 2012 What is deemed as “his-story” is often determined by those who survived to write it. In other words, history is written by the victors. The Roman historian, Tacitus, left us an account of the Roman victory over Queen Boudicca in the year A.D. 60-61.
Yet undeniably, every community has a memory of itself. Not a history, nor an archive, nor an authoritative record, but a living memory, an awareness of a collective identity woven of a thousand stories.