More Boudicca!

I’ve just finished Rosemary Sutcliff’s Song for a Dark Queen. It was fantastic! It describes the life and last battle of Boudicca, Queen of the Iceni.

Blogger Anne posted a great comment to my last post, with a link to a fascinating article about the historical knowledge of Boudicca, written by Margaret Donsbach. Here’s the link to the full article –

And here is some of the article –

Boudica – Celtic War Queen Who Challenged Rome

She slaughtered a Roman army. She torched Londinium, leaving a charred layer almost half a meter thick that can still be traced under modern London. According to the Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus, her army killed as many as 70,000 civilians in Londinium, Verulamium and Camulodunum, rushing ‘to cut throats, hang, burn, and crucify. Who was she? Why was she so angry?

Most of Boudica’s life is shrouded in mystery. She was born around AD 25 to a royal family in Celtic Britain, and as a young woman she married Prasutagus, who later became king (a term adopted by the Celts, but as practiced by them, more of an elected chief) of the Iceni tribe. They had two daughters, probably born during the few years immediately after the Roman conquest in ad 43. She may have been Iceni herself, a cousin of Prasutagus, and she may have had druidic training. Even the color of her hair is mysterious. Another Roman historian, Cassius Dio — who wrote long after she died — described it with a word translators have rendered as fair, tawny, and even flaming red, though Dio probably intended his audience to picture it as golden-blonde with perhaps a reddish tinge. Her name meant victory.


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. 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. 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!

Channing Tatum interviewed on filming The Eagle (of the Ninth)

Channing Tatum was interviewed earlier in the year by ITN about the filming of  The Eagle, an adaptation of Rosemary Sutcliff’s children’s novel The Eagle of the Ninth.
Channing Tatum: I’ll never film in Scotland again!
Uploaded by itnnews. – Watch the latest news videos.

Rosemary Sutcliff and the South Downs

Award winning children’s novelist Rosemary Sutcliff lived most of her life in Sussex. Some of her stories are set in the county and mention the South Downs, a large protected area of Sussex countryside. I discovered that she is in the ‘featured writers’ section of, along with H.G Wells, Rudyard Kipling and Virginia Woolf.

For much of her adult life she lived in Walberton. The remains of Iron Age forts, Roman villas and Norman castles in the county inspired her to set many of her stories in Sussex.

Warrior Scarlet is set in the Iron Age. Some of the action takes place near Cissbury Ring. At one point, the hero, Drem, fails his test to become a warrior and is sent off to be a shepherd. Sheep on the Downs were looked after in a very similar way until about 100 years or so ago. The South Downs Society paid for the restoration of a traditional wheeled shepherd’s hut in 1980 and for a shepherd’s room in 1989, both at the Weald and Downland Museum.

In The Witch’s Brat the hero is thrown out of his tribe and walks along the South Downs to Winchester. Here he finds shelter in the New Minster, better known as Winchester Cathedral. He ends up in London where he helps with the setting up of St. Bartholomew’s hospital.

Rosemary Sutcliff’s Roman Britain

Classic children’s historical novelist Rosemary Sutcliff was inspired to write many books set in Roman Britain, including The Eagle of the Ninth, now a major motion picture (or film in UK English!).

I found this great old map of Roman Britain on Wikipedia, which includes the names of British tribes, Roman towns and the Routes of Caesar’s expeditions from 55 to 54 BC.

Source: Wikipedia on Roman Britain