women leaders

Boudica

This weeks Illustrated Woman in History was illustrated by Alexandra McCarthy and the biography was written by Chris Morris. It is featured in the second issue of the Illustrated Women in History zine. 

Boudica was a queen of the Iceni tribe. She led a short yet brutal uprising against the Roman Empire occupying Britain.

Boudica’s hate of the Romans was close to her heart; her people had suffered greatly at the hands of the occupying Romans. Under Roman Law, Boudica, as a woman, had no right to inherit her husband’s property. Prasutagus hoped to safeguard Boudica’s position by voluntarily leaving half of his property to the Emporer Nero. After the death of Prastatgus, the Romans reneged on their agreements and alliance with the Iceni, annexing their kingdom.

Boudica was then further humiliated when the Romans demanded repayments of their loans. She was flogged and beaten and her daughters were raped. The final straw was when the Romans launched a campaign to take the island of Anglesey, a sacred place to the Britons and home to druids.

In retribution, Boudica united many prominent tribes and mustered a force of as many of 100,000. Celtic rules allowed women to rule as queens in their own right. The fact that Boudica was leading her people into battle made her an highly unusual and deeply unsettling enemy for the Romans.

They started by engaging in guerrilla warfare against the Romans, striking and razing both Camulondunum (modern day Colchester), Londinium (modern day London) and Verulamium (modern day St Albarns). It’s estimated that as many as 80,000 Romans and Britons were killed in these raids.

Her victories against the Romans were short lived, for she had never directly engaged the Romans in the field and on their terms. Overconfident, Boudica and her allies attacked the Romans in what would come to be known as the battle of Watling Street.

The Romans picked this site as both of their flanks were covered by heavily wooded area; it also meant that Boudica’s army could not bring their full numbers to bear. Even with a significant numerical advantage, they could not break the Roman army. In another tactical blunder, the supply carts and wagons and even the families of the British warriors were deployed close to the battle, this proved disastrous, as the British had no effective way to retreat and this led to an overwhelming Roman victory.

An estimated 80,000 Britons died at the battle, Boudica is thought to have either died in the battle, of an illness or by killing herself to avoid capture.

Due to the events leading up to the battle of Watling Street, Emporer Nero considered withdrawing from Britain altogether. However, the defeat of Boudica ensured Roman rule in southern Britain.

You can see more of Alexandra McCarthy’s work on www.1-in-100.co.uk and follower her on Instagram @alexs_illustrations

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