The Roman chroniclers Tacitus and Dion Cassius describe her as a warrior with long red hair, great intelligence and great charisma. Tall and strong, with a stern look and an authoritative voice.
She was the proud queen of the Iceni, a tribe settled in East Anglia, in the area now comprising the regions of Norfolk and Suffolk. Her name means Victory in the Celtic language and she was the warlord who led the rebellion against Rome.
Born into an aristocratic family, she was soon married to the king of the Iceni, Prasutago. The kingdom had been a client of Rome, i.e. an ally during the invasion of the time of Emperor Claudius, around the year 43. In return, the king had signed a pact declaring the Roman emperor as co-heir to the Icenian kingdom. Prasutago and Boudicca had only female offspring. For the Iceni, any of their daughters could take the crown after the king’s death, but the Romans only contemplated succession by agnation.
When Prasutago died without male offspring, Rome acted as if it had annexed the land and did not recognise the sovereign’s daughters as legitimate heirs. The dead king had ruled by borrowing and his unpayable debt was passed on to his subjects. Bankrupt, the Romans ravaged neighbouring villages for their tribute and resorted to ferocious pillaging and extreme violence.
As punishment, the queen of the Iceni was stripped naked and flogged in front of her people as she witnessed the rape of her daughters. The shame and public scorn to which the Britannic tribe was subjected was criticised even in Rome itself.