Who was Boudicca? Did she exist? How was her image used throughout history? These are some of the questions that historians Juliette Wood, Richard Hingley, and Miranda Aldhouse-Green answer, debate, and theorize over in a BBC podcast. About the only thing they agreed on about Boudicca herself was that (if she existed) she was the leader of an East Anglia tribe called the Iceni. However, there is no conclusive evidence that Boudicca did in fact exist. There is an account of her by a creditable Roman historian, Tacitus, who wrote about her less than a century after her death. There are layers of destruction at the three cities she is said to have destroyed that date to when she was supposed to have been alive. Many coins that are associated with Prasutagus, Boudicca’s husband have been found. That is the only solid evidence that she existed. The evidence that she was a made-up figure or a historical collaboration is just as inconclusive. The famous speech that she delivered on the eve of the final battle between her forces and the Roman army that Tacitus reports on is very Romanized; the final battle that is reports is a classic barbarian army vs. Roman army that is told to reaffirm the Roman image; her name means victory; no one has located her body or the location of the final battle. Each of these arguments can (and were) countered with logical, plausible counter-arguments by the three historians mentioned earlier. The mystery that surrounds Boudicca is a large part of the reason that people throughout British history have used her image to portray a number of ideas.
Queen Elizabeth of the Tudors became queen around the time that Boudicca was rediscovered in Britain. She claimed Boudicca as an ancestor and the images of Elizabeth closely resemble Boudicca. This transmitted Boudicca’s more masculine persona onto Elizabeth. In a later poem, Elizabeth is directly compared to Boudicca in a positive perspective; Boudicca’s negative aspects are dropped leaving Elizabeth to share her strength and confidence. Queen Victoria also uses Boudicca’s image; the image becomes of a good woman, good wife, and good ruler and she actually becomes a symbol of Britain’s imperialism (ironic, since Boudicca was famous for fighting against the Roman imperialism). Boudicca’s image becomes fashionable with Victorian women. There are statues of Boudicca in both London and Wales; in London is a protector (again, ironic, since she once destroyed London) and in Wales a mother. Boudicca is also prominently displayed in a window that was designed and donated to represent all of the women that fundamental shaped Britain. The existence of Boudicca will continue to be a debate in British history. However whether she truly existed as a woman or not, her importance and impact in Britain is unquestionable.