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  • 23

    Britain's 'First Feminist': Boadicea
    History; Posted on: 2008-02-12 17:26:51 [ Printer friendly / Instant flyer ]
    She crucified her enemies and burnt London to the ground.

    Britain's history is rich in fiery queens, and the first such heroine, tall with red hair down to her waist, commanding and brave, was Boadicea, warrior leader of the ancient Britons.

    She lived at the same time as the emperors Claudius and Nero, and led a surprisingly successful British revolt against Roman rule in AD 60-61 (which, for reference, was when St Paul was writing epistles and St Mark composing his Gospel).

    She was a notable orator. Her enemies, the Romans, said her voice was strident, but, as Margaret Thatcher found, any woman seeking to establish authority over an assembly of men is open to this accusation.

    The history we have of her from such a distant epoch is part fact, part fiction, and not much is really known with certainty about her. But her name lives on and her tragedy rings a kind of muffled bell in all of us.

    The Roman historian Tacitus - who wrote within living memory of the rebellion and was therefore nearest to the action in literary terms - records that she was the wife of Prasutagus, king of the Iceni, a tribe in what we now call East Anglia.

    He had made a deal with the Roman conquerors that when he died his co-heirs would be his own two daughters and the Emperor Nero. That way he hoped to preserve his kingdom and his family fortune.

    But, on his death, the Romans ignored the will, flogged Boadicea, raped her daughters and seized all her husband's property and estates. As a result, says Tacitus, the Iceni rose in revolt, backed by the Trinobantes, a tribe from what is now Essex.


    To call Boadicea a "feminist" is of course humorous license. Even more than most white cultures, women in Celtic lands enjoyed a level of freedom unknown in the Third World. The Iceni are thought to have been "matrilineal," with the royal line going down through mothers, which is why the Romans, who were patrilineal, did not acknowledge Boadicea as rightful Queen when Prasutagus died.
    News Source: Daily Mail

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