Movie Review:  One Of The Most Fascinating Women You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Release date:  2008Movie

Review, short version:  Two thumbs up.

Review, long version:

If you like learning about something about which you know nothing – and I do – then watching Warrior Queen Boudica would be an hour and 40 minutes well spent.

If you think you’ve maybe heard of Boudica but aren’t sure, it may be because she’s also variously referred to as Boudicca, Boadicea, Boudicea, and Buddug.  For the sake of my sanity, I’ll stick with Boudica.

Information about Boudica comes from Roman scholars, primarily Tacitus (56 AD-120 AD) and Cassius Dio (163 AD-c. 235 AD).  The big events in Boudica’s life happened in 60 AD – Tacitus was age four or five, and Cassius Dio wasn’t born until 100+ years later.  So it’s tempting to wonder if Boudica actually existed, or if her story is the stuff of legend.

1200px-Ma CroppedBut, since many scholars accept her story as true, let’s do the same.

Boudica was married to Prasutagus, king of the Iceni, an ancient Celtic tribe that once inhabited Eastern Britain (on map, in red).  The Romans had conquered Britain, but Prasutagus had an arrangement with his rulers – he remained king, but only as an ally of the Romans.

In 60 AD, when Boudica was probably in her 30s, Prasutagus died without a male heir.  The Romans tore up the agreement, annexed his kingdom and confiscated his family’s land and property.  To make sure the message was understood – and perhaps because Queen Boudica objected – the Romans flogged her and raped her two daughters.

What the Romans hadn’t counted on was the loyalty of the Iceni to their queen.  When Boudica decided to rebel against the Romans in 60 AD, the Iceni rallied behind her, and together they started kicking some serious Roman ass:

Boudica’s siege of the temple of Claudius in Camulodunum (Colchester).  Artist unknown, 19th century.
  • They defeated the Ninth Roman Legion, a group of highly trained and heavily armed professional soldiers, an unimaginable feat by “savages” lead by a “mere” woman.
  • They destroyed Camulodunum (modern Colchester), the capital of Roman Britain, and massacred its inhabitants.
  • They did much the same to Londinium (London) and Verulamium (modern St. Albans).

Tacitus claimed that the Britons massacred some 70,000 Romans and pro-Roman Britons before the Roman legions finally defeated Boudica and her army.

The fate of Boudica and her daughters is unknown, though the widely accepted belief is in their suicide to avoid capture.

We don’t know what Boudica looked like, and the one dissonant note in the film was how she was portrayed, or rather – how she was dressed.  I don’t think appearing in a bustier – that showed her tan line! – added to the story:


Otherwise, I learned a lot, and that made me want to learn more, and that’s a good thing.

For example, that perhaps our rebel Queen got the last word.

Now considered a folk hero, this 19th century statue honoring Boudica and her daughters resides near Westminster Pier in London…

One of the cities she burned to the ground:


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