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She crucified her enemies and burnt London to the ground. Meet Britain's first feminist, Boadicea
She lived at the same time as the emperors Claudius and Nero, and led a surprisingly successful British revolt against Roman rule in AD60-61 (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.
Queen of mean: Alex Kingston as Boadicea for ITV
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.
This army of Britons destroyed the Roman colony at Colchester, annihilated the ninth Roman legion, which came to relieve the town, and forced the Roman Governor of Britain, Paulinus, to evacuate London, which was also destroyed. Seventy thousand Romans were killed.
The rampaging Britons targeted places where "loot was richest and protection weakest," wrote Tacitus. "They could not wait to cut throats, hang, burn and crucify, as though avenging, in advance, the retribution that was on its way."
It duly arrived. Paulinus collected 10,000 troops and lured the Britons into a pitched battle on grounds of his choosing, at a place Tacitus does not identify but seems to have been somewhere in the Midlands.
The Britons congregated in huge numbers, on foot and horseback, and "their confidence was so great that they brought their wives with them to see the victory, installing them in carts stationed at the edges of the battlefield."
Boadicea (or Boudica as she is more often called these days) is said to have driven round all the tribes in a chariot with her daughters in front of her, and addressed them in a fighting speech with marked feminist over-tones.
She showed them her bruised body and outraged daughters, and ended with the rallying cry: "Win this battle or perish. That is what I, a woman, plan to do. Let the men live in slavery if they will."