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Boadicea Haranguing the Britons by John Opie

Boudica (pronounced /ˈbuːdɨkə/; also spelled Boudicca), formerly known as Boadicea (/boʊˌædɨˈsiːə/) and known in Welsh as "Buddug" /ˈbɨ̞ðˈɨ̞ɡ/)[1] (d. AD 60 or 61) was a queen of the Brittonic Iceni tribe of what is now known as East Anglia in England, who led an uprising of the tribes against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire.

Boudica's husband, Prasutagus, an Icenian king who had ruled as a nominally independent ally of Rome, left his kingdom jointly to his daughters and the Roman Emperor in his will. However, when he died his will was ignored. The kingdom was annexed as if conquered, Boudica was flogged and her daughters raped, and Roman financiers called in their loans.

In AD 60 or 61, while the Roman governor, Gaius Suetonius Paulinus, was leading a campaign on the island of Anglesey in north Wales, Boudica led the Iceni, along with the Trinovantes and others, in revolt. They destroyed Camulodunum (Colchester), formerly the capital of the Trinovantes, but now a colonia (a settlement for discharged Roman soldiers) and the site of a temple to the former emperor Claudius, which was built and maintained at local expense. They also routed a Roman legion, the IX Hispana, sent to relieve the settlement.

On hearing the news of the revolt, Suetonius hurried to Londinium (London), the twenty-year-old commercial settlement that was the rebels' next target. Concluding he did not have the numbers to defend it, Suetonius evacuated and abandoned it. It was burnt to the ground, as was Verulamium (St Albans). An estimated 70,000–80,000 people were killed in the three cities (though the figures are suspect).[2] Suetonius, meanwhile, regrouped his forces in the West Midlands, and despite being heavily outnumbered, defeated Boudica in the Battle of Watling Street. The crisis caused the emperor Nero to consider withdrawing all Roman forces from the island, but Suetonius' eventual victory over Boudica secured Roman control of the province. Boudicca then poisoned herself so she would not be captured.

The history of these events, as recorded by Tacitus[3] and Cassius Dio,[4] was rediscovered during the Renaissance and led to a resurgence of Boudica's legendary fame during the Victorian era, when Queen Victoria was portrayed as her "namesake". Boudica has since remained an important cultural symbol in the United Kingdom. The absence of native British literature during the early part of the first millennium means that Britain owes its knowledge of Boudica's rebellion to the writings of the Romans.



Boudicca's name

Until the late 20th century, Boudica was known as Boadicea, which is probably derived from a mistranscription when a manuscript of Tacitus was copied in the Middle Ages. Her name takes many forms in various manuscripts—Boadicea and Boudicea in Tacitus; Βουδουικα, Βουνδουικα, and Βοδουικα in Dio—but almost certainly, it was originally Boudicca or Boudica, and is the Proto-Celtic feminine adjective *boudīka, "victorious", derived from the Celtic word *bouda, "victory" (cf. Irish bua (Classical Irish buadh), Buaidheach, Welsh buddugoliaeth). The name is attested in inscriptions as "Boudica" in Lusitania, "Boudiga" in Bordeaux, and "Bodicca" in Britain.[5] Based on later development of Welsh and Irish, Kenneth Jackson concludes that the correct spelling of the name in the British language is Boudica, pronounced [bɒʊˈdiːkaː][6] (the closest English equivalent to the vowel in the first syllable is the ow in "bow-and-arrow"). The modern English pronunciation is /ˈbuːdɪkə/.[7]


Tacitus and Dio agree that Boudica was of royal descent. Dio says that she was "possessed of greater intelligence than often belongs to women", that she was tall, had long red hair down to her hips, a harsh voice and a piercing glare, and habitually wore a large golden necklace (perhaps a torc), a many-coloured tunic, and a thick cloak fastened by a brooch.

Location of Iceni territory within England; modern county borders for England and Wales are shown for context.

Her husband, Prasutagus, was the king of Iceni, people who inhabited roughly what is now Norfolk. They initially were not part of the territory under direct Roman control, having voluntarily allied themselves to Rome following Claudius' conquest of AD 43. They were jealous of their independence and had revolted in AD 47 when the then-governor Publius Ostorius Scapula threatened to disarm them.[8] Prasutagus lived a long life of conspicuous wealth, and, hoping to preserve his line, made the Roman emperor co-heir to his kingdom along with his wife and two daughters.

It was normal Roman practice to allow allied kingdoms their independence only for the lifetime of their client king, who would agree to leave his kingdom to Rome in his will: the provinces of Bithynia[9] and Galatia,[10] for example, were incorporated into the Empire in just this way. Roman law also allowed inheritance only through the male line. So when Prasutagus died, his attempts to preserve his line were ignored and his kingdom was annexed as if it had been conquered. Lands and property were confiscated and nobles treated like slaves. According to Tacitus, Boudica was flogged and her daughters were raped. Dio Cassius says that Roman financiers, including Seneca the Younger, chose this time to call in their loans. Tacitus does not mention this, but does single out the procurator, Catus Decianus, for criticism for his "avarice". Prasutagus, it seems, had lived well on borrowed Roman money, and on his death his subjects had become liable for the debt.

Boudica's uprising

In AD 60 or 61, while the current governor, Gaius Suetonius Paulinus, was leading a campaign against the island of Mona (modern Anglesey) in north Wales, which was a refuge for British rebels and a stronghold of the druids, the Iceni conspired with their neighbours the Trinovantes, amongst others, to revolt. Boudica was chosen as their leader. According to Tacitus, they drew inspiration from the example of Arminius, the prince of the Cherusci who had driven the Romans out of Germany in AD 9, and their own ancestors who had driven Julius Caesar from Britain.[11] Dio says that at the outset Boudica employed a form of divination, releasing a hare from the folds of her dress and interpreting the direction in which it ran, and invoked Andraste, a British goddess of victory. Perhaps it is significant that Boudica's own name means "victory" (see above).

The rebels' first target was Camulodunum (Colchester), the former Trinovantian capital and now a Roman colonia. The Roman veterans who had been settled there mistreated the locals, and a temple to the former emperor Claudius had been erected there at local expense, making the city a focus for resentment. The Roman inhabitants of the city sought reinforcements from the procurator, Catus Decianus, but he sent only two hundred auxiliary troops. Boudica's army fell on the poorly defended city and destroyed it, besieging the last defenders in the temple for two days before it fell. Archaeologists have shown that the city was methodically demolished.[12] The future governor Quintus Petillius Cerialis, then commanding the Legio IX Hispana, attempted to relieve the city, but suffered an overwhelming defeat. His infantry was wiped out; only the commander and some of his cavalry escaped. Catus Decianus fled to Gaul.

When news of the rebellion reached him, Suetonius hurried along Watling Street through hostile territory to Londinium (London). Londinium was a relatively new town, founded after the conquest of 43 AD, but it had grown to be a thriving commercial centre with a population of travellers, traders, and probably, Roman officials. Suetonius considered giving battle there, but considering his lack of numbers and chastened by Petillius's defeat, decided to sacrifice the city to save the province. Londinium was abandoned to the rebels, who burnt it down, slaughtering anyone who had not evacuated with Suetonius. Archaeology shows a thick red layer of burnt debris covering coins and pottery dating before 60 AD within the bounds of the Roman city.[13] Verulamium (St Albans) was next to be destroyed.

In the three cities destroyed, between seventy and eighty thousand people are said to have been killed. Tacitus says the Britons had no interest in taking or selling prisoners, only in slaughter by gibbet, fire, or cross. Dio's account gives more prurient detail: that the noblest women were impaled on spikes and had their breasts cut off and sewn to their mouths, "to the accompaniment of sacrifices, banquets, and wanton behaviour" in sacred places, particularly the groves of Andraste.

Romans rally

Statue by Thomas Thornycroft, standing near Westminster Pier, London

Suetonius regrouped with the XIV Gemina, some vexillationes (detachments) of the XX Valeria Victrix, and any available auxiliaries. The prefect of Legio II Augusta, Poenius Postumus, ignored the call, but nonetheless the governor was able to call on almost ten thousand men. He took a stand at an unidentified location, probably in the West Midlands somewhere along the Roman road now known as Watling Street, in a defile with a wood behind him. But his men were heavily outnumbered. Dio says that, even if they were lined up one deep, they would not have extended the length of Boudica's line: by now the rebel forces numbered 230,000. However, this number should be treated with scepticism: Dio's account is known only from a late epitome, and ancient sources commonly exaggerate enemy numbers.

Boudica exhorted her troops from her chariot, her daughters beside her. Tacitus gives her a short speech in which she presents herself not as an aristocrat avenging her lost wealth, but as an ordinary person, avenging her lost freedom, her battered body, and the abused chastity of her daughters. Their cause was just, and the deities were on their side; the one legion that had dared to face them had been destroyed. She, a woman, was resolved to win or die; if the men wanted to live in slavery, that was their choice.

However, the lack of manoeuvrability of the British forces, combined with lack of open-field tactics to command these numbers, put them at a disadvantage to the Romans, who were skilled at open combat due to their superior equipment and discipline, and the narrowness of the field meant that Boudica could put forth only as many troops as the Romans could at a given time.

First, the Romans stood their ground and used volleys of pila (heavy javelins) to kill thousands of Britons who were rushing toward the Roman lines. The Roman soldiers, who had now used up their pila, were then able to engage Boudica's second wave in the open. As the Romans advanced in a wedge formation, the Britons attempted to flee, but were impeded by the presence of their own families, whom they had stationed in a ring of wagons at the edge of the battlefield, and were slaughtered. This is not the first instance of this tactic. The women of the Cimbri, in the Battle of Vercellae against Gaius Marius, were stationed in a line of wagons and acted as a last line of defence;[14] Ariovistus of the Suebi is reported to have done the same thing in his battle against Julius Caesar.[15] Tacitus reports that "according to one report almost eighty thousand Britons fell" compared with only four hundred Romans. According to Tacitus, Boudica poisoned herself; Dio says she fell sick and died, and was given a lavish burial.

Postumus, on hearing of the Roman victory, fell on his sword. Catus Decianus, who had fled to Gaul, was replaced by Gaius Julius Alpinus Classicianus. Suetonius conducted punitive operations, but criticism by Classicianus led to an investigation headed by Nero's freedman Polyclitus. Fearing Suetonius' actions would provoke further rebellion, Nero replaced the governor with the more conciliatory Publius Petronius Turpilianus.[16] The historian Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus tells us the crisis had almost persuaded Nero to abandon Britain.[17]

Location of her defeat

The location of Boudica's defeat is unknown. Most historians favour a site in the West Midlands, somewhere along the Roman road now known as Watling Street. Kevin K. Carroll suggests a site close to High Cross in Leicestershire, on the junction of Watling Street and the Fosse Way, which would have allowed the Legio II Augusta, based at Exeter, to rendezvous with the rest of Suetonius's forces, had they not failed to do so.[18] Manduessedum (Mancetter), near the modern town of Atherstone in Warwickshire, has also been suggested,[19] as has 'The Rampart' near Messing in Essex, according to legend.[20]. More recently, a discovery of Roman artifacts in Kings Norton close to Metchley Camp has suggested another possibility.[21]

Historical sources

Tacitus, the most important Roman historian of this period, took a particular interest in Britain as Gnaeus Julius Agricola, his father-in-law and the subject of his first book, served there three times. Agricola was a military tribune under Suetonius Paulinus, which almost certainly gave Tacitus an eyewitness source for Boudica's revolt. Cassius Dio's account is only known from an epitome, and his sources are uncertain. He is generally agreed to have based his account on that of Tacitus, but he simplifies the sequence of events and adds details, such as the calling in of loans, that Tacitus does not mention.

Gildas, in his 6th century De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae, may have been alluding to Boudica when he wrote "A treacherous lioness butchered the governors who had been left to give fuller voice and strength to the endeavours of Roman rule."[22]

Cultural depictions

History and literature

By the Middle Ages Boudica was forgotten. She makes no appearance in Bede's work, the Historia Brittonum, the Mabinogion or Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain. But the rediscovery of the works of Tacitus during the Renaissance allowed Polydore Virgil to reintroduce her into British history as "Voadicea" in 1534.[23] Raphael Holinshed also included her story in his Chronicles (1577), based on Tacitus and Dio,[24] and inspired Shakespeare's younger contemporaries Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher to write a play, Bonduca, in 1610.[25] William Cowper wrote a popular poem, Boadicea, an ode, in 1782.[26]

It was in the Victorian era that Boudica's fame took on legendary proportions as Queen Victoria was seen to be Boudica's "namesake". Victoria's Poet Laureate, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, wrote a poem, Boadicea,[27] and several ships were named after her. A great bronze statue of Boudica with her daughters in her war chariot (furnished with scythes after the Persian fashion) was commissioned by Prince Albert and executed by Thomas Thornycroft. It was completed in 1905 and stands next to Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament, with the following lines from Cowper's poem, referring to the British Empire:

Regions Caesar never knew
Thy posterity shall sway.

Ironically, the great anti-imperialist rebel was now identified with the head of the British Empire, and her statue[28] stood guard over the city she razed to the ground.[29]

In more recent times, Boudica has been the subject of numerous documentaries, including some by Discovery Channel, History International Channel, and the BBC.


Boudica has been the subject of two feature films, the 1928 film Boadicea, where she was portrayed by Phyllis Neilson-Terry,[30] and 2003's Boudica (Warrior Queen in the USA), a UK TV film written by Andrew Davies and starring Alex Kingston as Boudica.[31] A new film is planned for release in 2010 entitled Boudicca, written by Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal, directed by Gavin O'Connor, and produced by Mel Gibson.[32] She has also been the subject of a 1978 British TV series, Warrior Queen, starring Siân Phillips as Boudica. Jennifer Ward-Lealand portrayed Boudica in an episode of Xena - Warrior Princess entitled "The Deliverer" in 1997.

The Viking Queen is a 1967 Hammer Films adventure film set in ancient Britain, in which the role of Queen Salina is based up on the historical figure of Boudica.

Boudica's story is the subject of several novels, including books by Rosemary Sutcliff, Pauline Gedge, Manda Scott, Alan Gold, Diana L. Paxson, David Wishart, George Shipway, Simon Scarrow and J. F. Broxholme (a pseudonym of Duncan Kyle). She plays a central role in the first part of G. A. Henty's novel Beric the Briton. One of the viewpoint characters of Ian Watson's novel Oracle is an eyewitness to her defeat. She has also appeared in several comic book series, including the Sláine, which featured two runs, entitled "Demon Killer" and "Queen of Witches" giving a free interpretation of Boudica's story. Other comic appearances include Witchblade and From Hell. Boudicca is a character in the animated series Gargoyles.[33] Additionally, in the alternate history novel Ruled Britannia" by Harry Turtledove, Boudicca is the subject of a play written by William Shakespeare to incite the people of Britain to revolt against Spanish conquerors.

Henry Purcell's last major work, composed in 1695, was music for play entitled Bonduca, or the British Heroine (Z. 574). Selections include "To Arms", "Britons, Strike Home" and "O lead me to some peaceful gloom". Boudica has also been the primary subject of songs by Irish singer/songwriter Enya, Dutch soprano Petra Berger, Scottish singer/songwriter Steve McDonald, English metal band Bal-Sagoth, Faith and the Muse and Dreams in the Witching House. She has also been mentioned in The Libertines' song The Good Old Days.

Other cultural references

There have been scattered reports that the restless spirit of Boudica has been seen in the county of Lincolnshire. These reports, dating back to the mid-19th century, claim Boudica rides her chariot, heading for some unknown destination, and many a traveller and motorist have claimed to have seen her.[34]

There is also a long-lived urban myth that she is buried under Platform 10 of King's Cross railway station in London.[35] This originates from the village of Battle Bridge (previously on the station's site), which was said to be the site of her last battle, suicide and burial. This is now accepted as a fiction and a hoax, whose origins can be traced back to Lewis Spence's book Boadicea — Warrior Queen of the Britons (1937) (where it is given but unevidenced)[36] or earlier.[37] It is now thought that Battle Bridge was a corruption of 'Broad Ford Bridge'. Other such legends place her burial on Parliament Hill, Hampstead or in Suffolk.

In 2003, an LTR retrotransposon from the genome of the human blood fluke Schistosoma mansoni was named Boudica.[38] In July 2008, the UK tv series Bonekickers, dedicated a one hour to Boudicca in the episode named "The eternal fire"

On her 1987 debut album, the Irish singer Enya performed the song "Boadicea".

Various female politicians, including former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark have been called Boudica.[39]

In the role-playing game GURPS: Infinite Worlds, there is a mention to an alternate universe in which Boudica manages to expel the Romans from Britain and establish a matriarchal monarchy.

In the strategy computer game Civilization IV, Boudica is playable (by the player and the AI) as the leader of the Celts. She was added in the Beyond the Sword expansion pack which was released in July 2007. In the game, she has the leadership traits of "Aggressive" & "Charismatic" which affect her gameplay style.

She appears in the game Rise of Nations, published in 2003 by Microsoft.

She also appears in the game "Dante's Inferno", published in 2010 by Electronic Arts.

She is referenced in the song Our Lady Of The Campfires by Frank Turner, from his album Poetry of the Deed.

In the 3rd episode of the 3rd series of the Vicar of Dibley, the vicar reveals that her first name is not Geraldine, but Boadicea. David Horton then mockingly states he is anxious to introduce her to a Bishop of his acquaintance and to introduce the Bishop to "the Queen of the ancient Britons".

See also


  1. ^ Davies, John (1993). A History of Wales. London: Penguin. pp. 28. ISBN 0-14-01-4581-8. 
  2. ^ Tac. Ann. 14.33
  3. ^ Tacitus, Agricola 14-16; Annals 14:29-39
  4. ^ Cassius Dio, Roman History .html#1 62:1-12
  5. ^ Graham Webster, Boudica: The British Revolt against Rome AD 60, 1978; Guy de la Bédoyère, The Roman Army in Britain, retrieved 5 July 2005
  6. ^ Kenneth Jackson, "Queen Boudicca?", Britannia 10, 1979
  7. ^ Boudicca. Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. (accessed: December 20, 2007).
  8. ^ Tacitus, Annals 12:31-32
  9. ^ H. H. Scullard, From the Gracchi to Nero, 1982, p. 90
  10. ^ John Morris, Londinium: London in the Roman Empire, 1982, pp. 107-108
  11. ^ Tacitus, Agricola 15
  12. ^ Jason Burke, "Dig uncovers Boudicca's brutal streak", The Observer, 3 December 2000
  13. ^ George Patrick Welch, Britannia: The Roman Conquest & Occupation of Britain, 1963, p. 107
  14. ^ Florus, Epitome of Roman History 1.38
  15. ^ Julius Caesar, Commentarii de Bello Gallico 1.51
  16. ^ Tacitus, Annals XIV.39
  17. ^ Suetonius, Nero .html#18 18, 39-40
  18. ^ Kevin K. Carroll, "The Date of Boudicca's Revolt", Britannia 10, 1979
  19. ^ Sheppard Frere, Britannia: A History of Roman Britain, 1987, p. 73
  20. ^ Messing-cum-Inworth Community Website: Messing Village
  21. ^ Is Boudicca buried in Birmingham?, BBC, 25 May 2006, retrieved 9 September 2006
  22. ^ Hingley, Richard; Christina Unwin, Boudica: Iron Age Warrior Queen # Hambledon Continuum; New Ed edition (15 Jun 2006) ISBN 978-1852855161 p.61 [1]
  23. ^ Polydore Vergil's English History Book 2 (pp. 69-72).
  24. ^ Raphael Holinshed, Chronicles: History of England 4.9-13
  25. ^ Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher, Bonduca
  26. ^ William Cowper, Boadicea, an ode
  27. ^ Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Boadicea
  28. ^ Corinne Field (30 April 2006). "Battlefield Britain - Boudicca's revolt against the Romans". Culture24. Retrieved 8 December 2009. 
  29. ^ Graham Webster, Boudica: The British Revolt against Rome AD 60, 1978
  30. ^ Boadicea (1928)
  31. ^ Boudica (2003)
  32. ^ Boudicca (2010) at IMDb
  33. ^ Boudicca at The Gargoyles Encyclopedia.
  34. ^ Dan Asfar, Haunted Highways: Ghost Stories and Strange Tales, 2003
  35. ^ Queen Boadicea ( - 61) - Find A Grave Memorial
  36. ^ Bob Trubshaw, "Boudica - the case for Atherstone and Kings Cross" from At the Edge
  37. ^ "A Boudicca question", discussion on the Time Team forum at Channel 4
  38. ^ Copeland CS, Brindley PJ, Heyers O, Michael SF, Johnston DA, Williams DL, Ivens AC, Kalinna BH, "Boudica, a retrovirus-like long terminal repeat retrotransposon from the genome of the human blood fluke Schistosoma mansoni". Journal of Virology 2003 Jun;77(11):6153-66; Copeland CS, Heyers O, Kalinna BH, Bachmair A, Stadler PF, Hofacker IL, Brindley PJ, "Structural and evolutionary analysis of the transcribed sequence of Boudicca, a Schistosoma mansoni retrotransposon". Gene 2004;329:103-114.
  39. ^ [2]

Further reading

  • Guy de la Bédoyère, 'Bleeding from the Roman Rods: Boudica' in Defying Rome. The Rebels of Roman Britain, Tempus, Stroud, 2003
  • Vanessa Collingridge; Boudica, Ebury, London, 2004
  • Richard Hingley & Christina Unwin, Boudica: Iron Age Warrior Queen, 2004
  • Manfred Böckl: Die letzte Königin der Kelten. (The last Queen of the Celts). Novel telling the life of the Iceni-Queen Boadicea in German language. (Rights: Aufbau Verlag, Berlin, Germany, 2005.)
  • Joseph E. Roesch, Boudica, Queen of The Iceni (London, Robert Hale Ltd, 2006).
  • Andrew Godsell "Boadicea: A Woman's Resolve" in "Legends of British History" (2008)

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Boudica (film) article)

From Wikiquote

Boudica (released in the United States as Warrior Queen) is a British epic film released in 2003. Starring Alex Kingston, Steven Waddington and Emily Blunt, the film is a biopic of the queen of the Iceni tribe, Boudica.

Directed by Bill Anderson. Written by Andrew Davies.



  • Our people are poets. When Dervalloc speaks of killing, he means using reason to defeat your arguments. When he speaks of sending you home in pieces, he means something quite harmless, I'm sure.
  • Romans, you are damned. You have wakened the terrible anger of our gods and ancestors, and they will show you no mercy. We will crush your bones into the land you have desecrated. We will slit your veins and watch the blood burst from you and shower down upon our soil. We will swallow you up, and our strong green shoots will spring to life where you once stood. See your gods tremble and fall before the wrath of Boudica!
  • All men die, Isolda. All women, too. Our lives are over in a moment, like a bird that flies out of the darkness into a bright hall full of light and noise and merriment, then out again into the darkness of eternity. But in that moment, we can do great things. We can make ourselves remembered forever. And by all the gods, we will!
  • [last words] That was the beginning of her story, Isolda, my daughter. And no one will ever hear it. Because we don't write our stories down. We live them.


  • Look at them. They're fighting this war to save their people. To keep their right to their own land. To preserve their religion and their right to practice it. And we're fighting it because... we're here, because it's our job... professional pride, really. Not enough, is it?


Roman Soldier: This bloody awful country. It gets to your nerves. Summer, winter, you're chilled to the bone.
Boudica: [appearing with a torch] Let me warm it up for you.

Boudica: This might be our last night together.
Dervalloc: Yes. Just like every night.


External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

Simple English

[[File:|thumb|Statue of Boudica]] Boudica, also spelled Boudicca, known by the Romans as Boudicea (died 60/61 AD) was the queen of the Celtic Iceni people in Norfolk in the eastern part of Britain.

Her husband was one of the British kings who tried to get along with the Romans as they invaded Britain. When he died, the Romans ignored his will and stole Boudica's lands and abused her and her two daughters.

She is most famous for leading her people in uprisings against the Roman Empire who controlled the island of Britain at the time. She first attacked what is now Colchester, later burnt Londinium (now London) to the ground and was somewhat successful in her efforts. Hearing of this, the Romans gathered a larger army and there was a battle. Sensing that she was going to be defeated, Boudica chose to commit suicide rather than be taken as a slave.

A statue of Boudica was put up in the Westminster area of London in 1902.

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