Boudicca (Boadicea) was born into the aristocracy. Little otherwise is known of her—some researchers even say that her true name is unknown, that her followers named her Boudiga for the Celtic goddess of victory, which the Romans Latinized as Boudicca.
Around 48 c.e., she became the wife of Prasutagus, king of the Iceni (50–60 c.e.), a Celtic tribe in modern East Anglia in eastern Britain. Boudicca bore Prasutagus two daughters.
The Iceni were among the tribes that had submitted to Julius Caesar after his invasions of 55 and 54 b.c.e. The Iceni prospered through trade with the Roman Empire between 65 b.c.e. and 61 c.e.
The Romans invaded Britain in 43 c.e. and made Prasutagus a client. In 60 c.e., with Roman forces busy fighting the Druids in Wales, the Iceni rebelled. Claudius, needing a quick popularity boost at home, sent 60,000 troops to Gaul.
The Iceni reaffirmed their submission, and Prasutagus kept his crown. Rome gave him military protection, funding and loans, employment, and education—as well as serfdom, slavery, and subordination.
The daughters’ names are unknown, but they were teens when Prasutagus died in 60 c.e. Boudicca became either queen or regent of the Iceni and guardian of the daughters’ inheritance.
Prasutagus left his daughters half his wealth, enough to cover dowries plus Roman taxes, tributes, and other expenses. He gave half his wealth to Rome to fulfill his client-ruler obligation.
Nero seized all his property because it was illegal to will to others over the emperor. Rome also drove Iceni nobles from their lands, enslaved and plundered, and demanded return of money given for the upkeep of the Iceni court. Boudicca protested.
The Romans took her hostage, stripped her, and “put her to the rods.” Meanwhile, Roman soldiers raped the daughters. Once freed, Boudicca led the Iceni, Trinivantes, and several tribes in a rebellion that lasted several months. The Iceni minted large numbers of silver coins to finance the rising of 60–61 c.e.
Boudicca was ruthless. Her army of 100,000 proud and warlike Celts gave no quarter. Men and women together, they had fought the Romans for centuries and earned Roman respect. Reportedly, one Roman legion refused to fight her.
Boudicca’s forces destroyed Londinium (London), Verulamium (St. Albans), and Camulodunum (Colchester) and killed thousands before the Roman governor, Suetonius Paullinus, crushed the rising. In the final battle the Romans massacred Celtic warriors and camp followers alike. Boudicca took poison. The rebellion killed more than 100,000 people.
After the defeat the Romans relocated the Iceni to Caistor-by-Norwich (also Caistor St. Edmunds) on the river Tas.