Boudica Was Victorious Boudica Was Victorious
“Queen Boudica”, John Opie, 1793. National Portrait Gallery (public domain)

Boudica Was Victorious

Roman Britain’s Warrior Queen
Andrzej Kula
time 9 minutes

What was it about the queen of the Celtic Iceni tribe that earned her a monument in the very heart of the city she once razed to the ground? Whether Boudica is already triumphant or still on the attack, it’s hard to tell. She holds her left hand high up and brandishes a spear in the right one. The horses that pull her chariot stand on their hind legs, front limbs raised as if getting ready to leap, jump over an obstacle, or fight off an attacker. There are scythe blades attached to each wheel. Boudica’s two daughters are sitting behind her in the chariot. The inscription on the plinth under Thomas Thornycroft’s statue reads as follows: ‘Boadicea [Boudicca]. Queen of the Iceni who died A.D. 61 after defending her people against the Roman invader.’

It doesn’t get more London than this. When standing in front of the Celtic warrior queen, you have the Thames to the right, with a view of the London Eye on the other bank of the river, built to celebrate the turn of the millennium. Behind you is the Palace of Westminster (better known as the Houses of Parliament) and another symbol of Great Britain: Big Ben.

Even though the monument depicts a historical figure from the 1st century CE, both the statue and Boudica herself are more than fit to comment on the modern world. In 2005, Banksy put a wheel clamp on the Iceni queen’s chariot – maybe to draw our memory towards Boudica, or perhaps just as a joke. A decade later, during the Brexit campaign and following Britain’s negotiations with the EU, Boudica’s image was eagerly exploited by journalists and experts alike. Tom Holland of The New York Times thought the statue to be proof of British Euroscepticism; UK newspapers made references to Boudica during Theresa May’s time in Number 10, and in Chris Riddell’s caricature in The Guardian, a nappy-wearing Boris Johnson rode a chariot not unlike that of the rebel queen, with a ‘NO DEAL BREXIT’ inscription in the front. Boudica


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