(This is a reprint of an article by Jane Bailey Bain, on her website.)
Boudicca was a striking woman: tall enough to look a warrior in the eyes, with russet hair tumbling to her waist and a voice that rang out like a bugle call. She was married to the king of the Iceni, but she was of royal blood, a queen in her own right. Her name means ‘Victorious’ and she was revered as both a leader and a priestess. Boudicca was a young girl when the Roman legions arrived in Britain. The invaders demanded that the Celts pay tribute tax: their leaders demurred, negotiated, and eventually agreed on a treaty of celsine, a patron-protector relationship. When her husband died, Boudicca became leader of the Iceni people. The Romans took this opportunity to declare Iceni territory their own. They used the usual brutal methods to deal with women and savages. Boudicca was whipped and her daughters ravished. But Boudicca was a true queen, and she was not prepared to accept such treatment of her people.
May Day was the Celtic festival of Beltaine, the Shining Fire. It was a time for the extended clan to assemble for celebration and conference. On this day, livestock were driven through clouds of smoke to purify them for summer pasture. Boudicca, priestess and queen, invoked the power of fire for a different reason. On 1st May 60AD, she led the Iceni in revolt. Dismayed by decades of Roman oppression, other Celtic tribes rallied to her cause. They destroyed Camulodunon (Colchester), captured Londinium and marched on Verulamium (St Albans) amidst scenes of great rejoicing.
The Celts were fearsome warriors: they fought naked apart from a torc (neck ring) and woad tattoos, their hair stiffened with lime into tall spikes. Celtic women were reknowned as even more skilled swordfighters than their menfolk. Boudicca led her people into battle riding in a light chariot, her daughters by her side. The Romans were outnumbered, but their military discipline was superb.
(You can read the rest of this post at Jane’s website…)