Today's Britain isn't the only edition of the Sceptered Isle that featured kick-ass queens (shout-out to Queen Elizabeth!). Here are the two fiercest femmes of ancient Albion, one on either side of the Roman dilemma. Boudicca, a rebel against the Romans, was perhaps the most famous woman to emerge from ancient Britain. During the reign of Emperor Claudius, Boudicca was queen of the Iceni tribe in eastern England. She was "chiefly instrumental in rousing the natives and persuading them to fight the Romans," according to Cassius Dio, who was "possessed of greater intelligence than often belongs to women."
All I want for my birthday is a big Boudy...
Boudicca hated the Romans for good reason. Tacitus recorded that her late husband had bequeathed his kingdom to the Romans, only to see it raped and pillaged; she was whipped and her daughters violated. Pretty much enslaved by the Romans, the Iceni rose up against the invaders around 60 C.E. and even destroyed London. But her victory didn't last long after her defeat at the Battle of Watling Street; Boudicca herself may have committed suicide by poison or died of a bad illness.
Boudicca wasn't the only royal dame to rule over a British tribe during the Roman era. A queen of the Brigantes in York, Cartimandua was a good friend to the Romans - at least at first; she and her husband Venutius even handed over a rebel British ruler to her Roman pals! But when Carty and Venutius went through some marital troubles in the 50s C.E., she didn't treat her former in-laws too well. She and her hubby reconciled, but only for about fifteen years.
Cartimandua hands over the British rebel leader Caractacus to the Romans.
Venutius and Cartimandua split again, and Carty took as her lover one of Venutius's subordinates, a guy named Vellocatus. The annoyingly colonialist Tacitus gossiped that "her house was at once shaken by this scandalous act." Venutius and Cartimandua's tribe was split, and Cartimandua brought in the Romans for help in 69 C.E.; the Romans won the war, saving Carty's life, but lost the battle, leaving the royal throne to Venutius. We don't know Cartimandua's fate after the Romans saved her life, but not her throne, but Venutius didn't survive and thrive for a while.