Queen Boudicca of the Iceni Tribe

Rosemary Sutcliff was absolutely passionate about ancient Britain. In her classic children’s novel Song for a Dark Queen, she writes about Queen Boudicca, the leader of a British tribe called the Iceni, who famously led a revolt against the invading Roman army in 47 AD.

I’m reading Song for a Dark Queen at the moment and as always, Rosemary Sutcliff’s storytelling is impeccable. She captures the time and the people so vividly that you really feel she was there .

The story is told by Boudicca’s harpist, Cadwan. Cadwan is the bard of the Iceni, he witnesses the battles and decisions of the tribe and writes songs, that will be passed down through the ages. Being a musician myself, I’m fascinated by how songs could be used as a form of record for a pre-literate culture. It makes me wonder if any ancient songs from this time might exist in a folk song, somewhere in Britain.

I’m early on in the book, but am intrigued about the historical evidence of Queen Boudicca and the Iceni. In preliminary research, I’ve discovered that the Iceni occupied Norfolk and North West Suffolk. Roman-Britain.org describes the tribe as “a monarchic society state, geographically separated from their western neighbours the Coritani by uninhabitable fenland. They were bordered to the south by the Atrebates.”

Archaelogical evidence has been found in the form of large gold coins, which are believed to have been worn round the necks of the Iceni. Sheshen-eceni.co.uk has some fascinating information on the coins of the Eceni.

The Iceni minted their coins from about  50 BC until the Roman conquest in 43 AD. These were usually silver coins with a patterned face on one side (obverse), with a horse on the reverse. The Icenian hoard of coins found at Eriswell in Suffolk also included a number of clay moulds which the Iceni used to mint their coins. Several of the coins found have legends such as ECE, ED, EDN and ‘ECEN’ (possibly the tribal name, or a personal name, or perhaps these were the names of mint sites), and also ‘ANTED’ believed to be an abbreviation of (king) Antedios ruler of the Iceni AD 25 – 48…..

This is just the beginning of my research and as I write this, I’m discovering incredible facts about the Iceni, Queen Boudicca and The Celtic people. More posts are to follow, and any information is greatly appreciated!

5 thoughts on “Queen Boudicca of the Iceni Tribe

  1. Margaret Donsbach’s article on HistoryNet gives an excellent overview:

    “Boudica: Celtic War Queen Who Challenged Rome”.

    One of the great unsolved mysteries of Roman Britain is the site where Boudica’s forces met those of Roman governor, Gaius Suetonius Paulinus, and were destroyed. Sutcliff covers this battle from the British angle in ”Song of a Dark Queen”, and it is vividly described from the Roman point of view by George Shipway in his novel about Paulinus, “Imperial Governor”>

    Archaeologists are now investigating whether computerised terrain analysis based on Tactitus’ commentary can be used to locate Boudica’s last battlefield.



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