No Freedom, No Future, No Boudicca Statue In Norfolk

By Gareth Calway

Boudicca Britain's Dreaming Showcase on You Tube

Prologue: Museum visitor studying Boudicca as statue, its plinth marked BUDDUG. Her speeches are unheard by the Museum visitor.

Museum visitor:

My Muse. Here she is in Cardiff in the Room of National Heroes. Called Buddug. Victory.



Museum visitor: (to Boudicca)

And here she is in Norwich.

(Nothing but a toga on the floor. He picks it up.)

I’m a helpless spectator
In the cell of this conqueror’s Castle
On the breast of a Norfolk rise
Embracing the chill of your downfall
With all my body, with all my heart,
And into my mind steps a beautiful maiden
The spirit of some lost Celtic summer
Touching my skin.


Imagine a rowan, her May leaves wet,
Kissing your shoulder with late spring rain,
Imagine your mind like a moistened bud
Drinking her sweetness. Imagine her leaves
Turned light side up with the weight of her berries
August-heavy in the full milk moon.
Imagine her berries
Spilling their juices like healing oils
Over your November loneliness.
That's how the Mother of Britain loves you.

Boudicca becomes the Thorneycroft statue in Whitehall. Museum visitor does a double take.

Museum visitor:

And here she is in London. Called Boadicea. A Norman monk’s spelling mistake as he copied out the his-story of his Latin fathers.


Why has it taken history so long to give me my right name?

Museum visitor. (puts on the toga)

My Muse has been very patient with me,
Waiting demurely for me to turn to her
From dramas of Romano-British women,
Grammar School Muses,
Muses with quads and Latin mottoes,
Vivianes and Guineveres,
Made up women whose woad comes from Paris,
Whose scent isn't animal
Just tested on animals; whose fabulous
Scarlet and sapphire long silk dresses
Are the art that conceals heart…
But the real Britons fought naked to be ready for death,
Shedding their shawls and tartan trousers,
Wearing their hearts on their chests ,
Their modesty defended only by woad
So (ahem) naked Boudicca
Turns at last, shakes out her fiery locks,
Lifts me up by my bardic lapels, and says

(Boudicca comes to life, seizes his toga. He becomes the Chorus)

The Parados.

Boudicca and Chorus:

Death-black, wide-eyes, blood-red, dyed hair blown back, blade-wheel, cold steel, horse-track, kick back
bold boudicca
let the bared breast ride tonight
cut a chariot dash at the Roman bash
lash a sea wind to their eyes
bad boudicca....
boudicca boudicca boudicca… (she continues. He speaks over her-)


I want to ride that chariot with you.


boudicca boudicca boudicca…


and forces her furious lips on mine.


boudicca boudicca boudicca…


And believe me with that pulse in my throat,
That heart in my mouth
I want to sing her dark voodoo warsong
Like it’s never been sung before!

First Episode: Boudicca at prayer in AD 60


Here she is in her native Icenia in AD 60.


The hammering breath of being here
Arms aloft in the holy grove,
-Oak trees and rowan, hawthorn and misteltoe-,
Naked eyed under the naked stars,
Skinned to the night breeze, naked-weaponed,
Undressed to kill.


I am baring my soul for battle.
I've been angry for years.
I'm not going to put up with having Romans on top of me anymore


My husband King Prasutagus is dead,
Leaving half my queendom to Rome,
Half to our daughters.

But Romans do not recognise women rulers
And the squaddy robber-bankers of its wild west frontier
Scent a killing.
My salt-rich client kingdom is incorporated into the Roman province of Britain
(enter Decianus with a whip)

Enter mighty armoured Romans worthy of their Emperor, Nero.
Skirted anuses fronting the Empire
Behind ‘The Guvnor’ – Suetonius Paulinus.
A disgrace to Rome then and to humanity at any time. (pause)
And a British queen stands up to them! (makes tableau of London statue)
They don’t call me ‘Victory’ for nothing.

First stasimon. Chorus:

Crowded House are singing
"Julius Caesar
and the Roman Empire
couldn't conquer
the blue sky"
and I think of you, Boudicca,
with that same sense
of singing triumph
even though your glory days
were under grey skies
and short-lived
and weren't innocent
or cornflower-pretty
as some Celtic blue summer
and had more to do
with this Norfolk flint
and stubborn soil
than an air of heaven
and even though
Suetonius Paulinus
and the Roman Empire
seized the sunrise
of your three easy wins
as if seizing the flames
of your famous red hair,
and even though
Suetonius Paulinus
and the Roman Empire
crushed your country
if not your body
in his square Roman fist
sowed harvests of hunger
rubbed decades of salt
in your people's wounds

the old word
still sings in my Welsh blood,
in the Norfolk winds
off this unresting sea


2nd Episode.

Decianus cracks his whip


Strange how your cattle protest at our driving them.
And yet no sign of your vaunted gods.

Strange how your women protest at our driving them.
Like cattle.
And yet no sign of your vaunted gods.

Strange how your daughters scream at my centurions sticking them
Like pigs-

I look up in awe naturally of the famous wrath of your gods.
And yet no sign.


This cannot be happening. Gods!
Must we watch like a helpless audience
As the world comes to an end?
Where are you? Why will you not act?


I think you need a Latin lesson.
A lesson you’ll never forget.
Strip her back.

Beat her into submission.(another whipcrack)





I am the queen of the horse people!


What use is a horse to me unless it’s broken!


You think this is pain? Beat me until I feel nothing. Beat me until I forget my innocent girls punished for my sake. Beat me until I forget what a queen feels for her holy grove, her magical confluence of water, sky and lowland, garden-grabbed and wasted. Beat me to death. I will wipe out the Ninth legion, a string of frontier forts, three Roman cities and 70,000 Romans for this.


Beat her until she stops talking. Harder!



Harder! (huge whipcrack) Now – call me Master!

Boudicca (dons a rowan head-dress)

You shouldn’t have done that.

(He whacks his backside in frustration.) 
2nd stasimon. Chorus:

I want to sing about Boudicca because
I love her woad-caked brythonic majesty.
Strict stuffy Latin master Julius Caesar
Named the Britons thus: ‘Pretanni: Painted folk’
While Boudicca played truant in the art room
With blue clays and her bra off. Who
Would you rather spend the afternoon with?
I love her fecundity; the fact
That she wouldn't hide the power
Of earth-words in a Latin fudge like "fecundity".
I love her ferocity. Hell had no fury
Like a matriarch scorned
And, in her lacerated mind, three
Roman colonies catch it, the barracks
Of those ramrod rapists burning down
Over their heads, a riot of hooves
IN THE CITIES OF THE DEAD.... - I love that
Because that's what ought to happen
When any mother's back is flogged by a prick
Like Decianus Catus, any mother's daughter
Plucked and plundered: She ought to be a revenge
Archetype, a maternity myth:
Perhaps she was once. Now she doesn't fit.
She's the round Earth goddess the Romans buried
Under straight roads and patriarchal order,
The fascist composure of the fasces, the drilled
Decimation, the retarded skeletons
In Iceni burial grounds....
She lacked these civilised virtues.
But I still feel the hysteria rising
In her veins, the menstrual flow that crashed
Like the North sea, that stormed her victory
Against the ironskirts, still feel it freeze,
Her chief bard wince, as they flayed her back,
Forced garrison lust on her daughters
Still see that bloody mane came up
In dark knowledge, "You shouldn't have done that."
Then fly for the throat - like a wild voodoo warsong
Strung on a bard's harp -
And tear it to shreds. Right
Now ..... Ha ha ha ha ha....
(out of control) I love
The fact that she went all the way!

(a moment of self-Discovery and Peripety: he - and Boudicca - are hurtling towards destruction)

Third episode.


AD 60. Business as usual on the front line of history. Procurator Decianus Catus laughing all the way to the bank. Provincial governor Suetonius Paulinus in absentia North Walia slaughtering druids and desecrating the Oak Groves of Mona. Doing his bit for the environment.

(wailing tableau of grief and rage) OOOO ….OOOO Uh ho uh ho

When suddenly, out of the blue, (a kick) the sky falls in and the forests erupt again through the nice tiled floors of Colchester.
Boudicca and her hazel-wattled people are in revolt.
The Eastern half of Britain rises with me.

Kick over the wall cuz governors can fall
How can you refuse it?
Let fury have the hour anger can be power
You know that you can use it!

I ‘redevelop’ the Rome Counties. I burn down Colchester, a London left tactically undefended - on the Provincial Governor’s orders- and the old Catavellauni capital of St Albans.
My army gets larger with every victory.

Procurator Deci-anus Catus finds himself staring at the end of civitas as he knew it.
Norfolk, the guardsvan of Roman history, ploughing her fleet pony and wickerwork chariot through the heart of London.
He flees in the nick of time to Gaul. His smacked Roman backside smarting with the humiliation.

(Decianus stares, clutches buttocks, swivels, exits, looking behind in comic horror.)

Boudicca: I think we know who wears the trousers in this relationship!

3rd stasimon. Chorus:

The Anarchy Tour. AD 60… Or 61?
If you can remember it, maan, you weren’t there.
We’d gone down an absolute storm at Camolodunum
They were calling it Dun Camulus - the old British name - in her honour.
Never mind the Romans:
Here Comes Boudicca and the Banshees
Here Come the Stranglers. Here Come the Damned.
To town near you. Now.
The sound of the suburbs
Rocked to its foundations, show homes stomped to a cinder,
Whooshed in the fire that flamed from her loins.

(sings) There is no safe European home,
This is no vestal vallium Rome.
Boudicca Boudicca Boudicca Boudicca…

Knocking the Ninth Legion dead near Lincoln,

(sings) Heads and dugs will rock and roll …
And Roman dudes will bleed.

All of them
Except that plodding heavy metal joke they call a cavalry - the alae-
Who scarpered. ...
Now we're on the road again - the Roman road, straight as a sword
To little old Londinos on the Father of Rivers,
Londinos, named for the ancient British word for wild
Londinos named for the ancient British god of light and harvest,
Londinos, the Britain the Britons have lost
In vitae imperium
Nil futurus Nil liberatus tedius librium Londinium. (laughs)

Never Mind the Pansy's People and Pseudo-Greeko dreaming
Disguising the Roman bankers and the new-rich salemen scheming,
Never mind the fat cats in their new-rich concrete flats
Never mind the Roman tick-accountants and marts
Never mind the admin blocks with power-skirted guards
Never mind the humdrumming Boredom Now
Here Comes The Pogo with Death and Co.
Here Comes Blood Spitting Anger Joe

(sings) London's Burning!

And then the big Farewell at the St Alban’s Empire.
And then goodnight Verulamium!

4th episode.

Boudicca (in her chariot):

Now, as a summer dawn paints the ripening Iceni corn a battle-blood red,
(arms herself) I turn my attention to Provincial Governor Suetonius Paulinus…
This seasoned professional soldier,
marching hotfoot from his rout of Welsh tribes in the West,
concentrates his army at a place never really identified
but possibly near Fenny Stratford on Watling Street.
Despite my eloquent passion
for annihilating every last Roman in Britain,
some of the tribes I have united beneath me
now go home with their war loot,
thinking enough has been done.

(addressing her war host)

‘We British are used to women commanders in war.
I speak to you not as an aristocrat but as a woman of the people.
A woman of yourselves.
Think how many of you there are, and why we are fighting.
Then you will win the battle, or die.
That is what I, a woman, plan to do – let the men live in slavery if they want.’

(narrating the battle) Suetonius chooses a position in a narrow defile, protected from behind by forest
Sure that there would be no cover for ambushes.
(as herself, a savage war cry) YAH!
(as Suetonius) ‘Pay no attention to the noise and empty threats these savages make.
There are more women than soldiers in their ranks.
They are not warlike and they are badly armed.
They fight in the birthday suits!
The famous blood in their lime-bleached hair is the juice of rowan berries!
When they see the weapons and courage of troops,
They will turn and run.
Keep the ranks. Throw your javelins. Strike with your shield bosses.
Then drive on.
After the second javelin,
Close ranks for the testudo.’

TESTUDO! A giant... sword-jabbing... tortoise... formation,
A 6 deep, 4 square human armoured vehicle
Defensive and offensive,
Tightly shielded on all sides.
The nearest the Romans could get to a tank.
And my ‘tactics’?
Never Mind the testudo![the moment of hybris]

You’re just another Roman dude with a lot of hot ash why doncha

[Discovery and Peripety- reversal]

My warriors, the customary male hordes swollen with raging women
Swarmed into the vice of the defile
And up towards that butcher’s yard of javelin volleys,
Every volley adding dead or javelin-struck Britons
To the labours of the lines behind.
Maybe after they’d slithered through the first half dozen
Dead and writhing, the passion for vengeance faded.
Then that Roman tank rolled forward and tin-opened
Our whole helpless throng against the wagon line.
The kids stopped watching Mam and Dad win the final dream victory
And became the meat in the sandwich of the final bloody screaming defeat.
Ballista bolts embedded in the backbones of British war dead
Instead of lots of Roman skeletons without heads.
All I had room left to do was chariot charge my own people….

The Roman Victor comics have a field day:

‘It was a glorious victory.
Like the good old days.
Some estimate as many as 80,000 British dead.
There were only 400 Romans killed and scarcely more wounded.’

My revolt is broken. Britain falls apart again into separate tribes. The Iceni are hunted down as ringleaders all the way back to Thornham in Norfolk. History is written by the Victor. Roman fathers write the match report in woman-fearing monasteries for the next 2000 years.

4th stasimon. Chorus:

She is history not myth but remember
History is written by the vicar
And she neither wrote nor won.
No freedom, no future, no fun.

Rome had to win or lose an Empire,
Britain had to win or simply expire,
And with it the Western horizon,
No freedom, no future, no fun.

Procurator Decianus Catus
Spoke down his nose, spoke down his anus,
"The Emperor claims the dead king's kingdom"
No freedom, no future, no fun.

There’s no future in your Roman dream,
Your traffic lanes and your shopping schemes,
Your soapless baths and your manly steam,
The Iceni queen bee is making free
With your city!

She danced to the wardrums, warhooves, hornwhine,
Exhorting, as Romans were drilled into line,
Her race to fling back the squares of London:
No freedom, no future, no fun.

Now her rebels hole up, where home is none,
On roots thin as hope and a dream of Britain,
Hunted through nettles and thorns, their soles stung:
No freedom, no future, no fun.

Her hard core Iceni's last stand and fall
Is the longest, fiercest, stubbornest of all
But is crushed - like flint - in The Battle of Thornham:
No freedom, no future, no fun.

There’s no future in your Roman dream,
Your traffic lanes and your shopping schemes,
Your soapless baths and your manly steam,
The Iceni queen bee is making free
With your city!

"Our Roman matrons have a place too
In a civilised home: I could offer you
A place in mine: dresses, baths, decorum:"
No freedom, no future, no fun.

Death-and-glory queens, country dragons
(Become) Whores of fashion in Camolodunum,
In Roman roses their own scent gone,
No freedom, no future, no fun.

The salts that she sowed in the Squareheads' wounds
Return in a wash that will sour our lands
But they couldn’t chain her to the History of Rome:
She chariots a tide in Whitehall home.

There’s no future in your Roman dream,
Your traffic lanes and your shopping schemes,
Your soapless baths and your manly steam,
The Iceni queen bee is making free
With your city!

5th episode

After the war, the two faces of defeat.
(donning the toga)
Mine is either a Vestal Virgin cameo as Mater Brittanicas
- Ha! (throwing it off) I wouldn’t have been seen dead in gear like that! -
Or great bonking barbarian breasts and a barmy army!-

My savage image is in galleries everywhere.

‘She was huge of frame, terrifying of aspect, with piercing eyes and a harsh voice,
A great mass of red hair hanging down to below her waist –
Round her neck was a large gold torc.’

‘The Cleopatra-Medusa head of state,
The dysfunctional woman in power,
The crazy schoolgirl out of her place,
-Demanding centre stage in her own story.’

‘She wasn’t interested in the civilised commerce of war-
Selling prisoners of slaves-
Only in sword and gibbet, fire and cross,’
-Punishments learned from the Romans.

My noble image stands in the capitals of two British nations.
Little Briton made great against evil odds.

But in my own country,
In Norwich’s Norman castle?
On Lynn’s holy strand,
Her magical confluence of water, sky and lowland? Where is my monument?

Where are the monuments of the Iceni?
Wiped off the face of the earth.
Written out of history,
Written into the Iron Age earth
In gold, salt, fire, sword, famine,
Ethnic cleansing, abandoned farms, overgrown fields,
Ungathered harvests, absent seed corn,
A 50 year break in village occupation
Then a shift to new Roman ground,
New ceramics, new culture, new agriculture,
An Encyclopaedia Britannica of Roman invasion.

The earth groans:

(crouched pose)‘The retarded development and modest character of Romano-British remains in Norfolk suggest the severity with which the Iceni were crushed.’

5th stasimon. Chorus:


We're the restless ghosts in the winds and rains,
Funneling the valleys, sweeping the plains,
Inlets and warrens that run underground,
Unbridled pathways, unquiet streams,
Haunted hidden corners of rootless sound,
Hives of Iceni, dead and unqueened,
By bronzebreasted redcrests violently weaned
We're the baby who wails for her dead mother's breast.


We are dead keening women, whispering grass,
The breath in the lilac and bluebells, the blast
Through the pale yellow oak leaves, hawthorns
And nettles. And that shout, queen of warriors,
From your victory chariot with your triumphant
Horsemen around you! And that salt chill of a winter's
Reprisals that blighted twice twenty summers.
We're the mother who wails for her new baby's death.


We are the cries in the corn, the harrowings hooted
Under moons of hunger, in the squeals of the hunted,
The creaking of geese through night-forest fears,
The unresting dunes and the moaning wave-break,
We're the memory that's cankered two thousand years
Of Celtic blood with an unhealing ache,
We're the oracles lost in the noise diggers make.
We're the dead daughters wailing for the end of the world.

The Chorus ‘exits’ - becomes the Museum Visitor looking at her hunched pose.

The Wild West frontier cowboys I fought won no honour in Rome. Suetonius was recalled for excessive bloodlust – quite a feat on the front line of empire but he never quite made the distinction between ruling people and killing them.

King Caractacus asked in Rome
Why, with all its glory, it needed our humble huts?
They tried to make me a footnote too on that long Roman march.
But they could not find me, bury me
chain me,
Drag my defeat through the streets of Rome…

(Boudicca makes the statues described)

Which is why I can be
Your white goddess walking between Celtic daughters in Cardiff,

Why I can ride your moving, oak-gracious
There-and-not-there at the heart of Government,
Iron coach to nowhere the Victorians invented for me in Whitehall,
The details all wrong, the spirit spot on:
The mother of Britain giving the mother of battles
to the frontier cowboys of Nero.

Why I must have a statue in Icenia
Or have as little honour in my own country
As Suetonius and Decianus got in Rome!

I have waited nearly two thousand years.
The sands of my patience have run out.
If I do not have such honour now,
I will pursue you like a fury
Unable to rest, forgive or forget.
I will infect this holy country
With diffidence and faithlessness.
I will make your Felicity a Dolores,
Your Fidelity a Jezebel,
Your Victoria a victim.
I will make Joyce and Vicky’s Britain-Dreaming
A Little England without the sky in its veins.
I will sink your lowlands into the ocean,
Bleach your soil with chemicals and salts
And empty your homes of children.
I will cause them to be invaded
By holiday tribes from Colchester and St Albans.
I will make your beaches a London on sea.
I will uproot your sea henges.
(with the toga)
I will teach my twisted speech
To the young believers.
I will train your blue eyed men
To be holiday homers.
I will turn your farms into museums,
Your stock and ploughshares
Into stocks and shares.
I will make your children believe that all Romans were like Nero
And that none of my daughters stood against them.
That to do so is unbalanced, unfeminine,
A pungent scorch on pure white linen.
My fevers and fumes will haunt you forever.

Chorus: What must we do to stop these horrors?

Boudicca: Honour me here, at the heart of Icenia,
In the heart of my people.
Put my story on the national curriculum.
Make me a statue.

(making the statues described)

The maddened mother making a chariot stand
on the stolen innocence of her children.

The matriarch martyr dying for her people.

The great British rebel with a cause.

A Norfolk hero-tale, a wild, turning North Sea tide,

The woman


down .

(pause. Enter Vicky into the museum. She looks at the statue)


Let Norfolk schoolgirls sing my song
Of the unsung hero-mother.


Vicky Briton:

Boudicca got a lot of Romans
Hanging out in the Styx;
The Woad Goddess goes to school
Where they teach her how to be nix.

She’s the Mother of Britain’s
Biblical kicks
Against the odds,
Against the pricks.

She’s the crazy moon
In a gurly whirl
The finest hour
Of the Norfolk girl!

Ride ride, I wanna ride,
Ride ride, a riot on my horse,
Woad woad, a-whoa woad,
Blow whoa, a riot on my horn!

She’s the fury in Janus’s office
Sown with the wildest oats,
She’s a wild goose-chasing sky,
The whiff of burning boats.

She’s the country queen
With the world in sway
Who blooms and blows
It all away.

She’s the crazy moon
In a gurly whirl
The finest hour
Of the Norfolk girl!

Ride ride, I wanna ride,
Ride ride, a riot on my horse,
Woad woad, a-whoa woad,
Blow whoa, a riot on my horn!


This is agit prop theatre. It campaigns for a Boudicca statue in Norfolk, Boudicca’s county, if not its capital of Norwich then in the capital of its Watery West, Lynn.
Boudicca is surely our most exciting heroine, the ultimate British icon. The bladed wheels of that (historically dubious) chariot have thrilled me since I was a schoolboy.
She is the British Clytemnestra. If her story (and the flawed greatness of the character established through the plot of her history-challenging fury and revolt) isn’t worthy of a Greek tragedy, that noblest and most exciting of all theatre, then no story and no hero is. The formal structure adopted - The Prologue; The Parados (Entry of the Chorus) 5 Episodes twinned with 5 Stasimons (Choral Songs) and the Exodos (the final scene) – is that of Greek tragedy as is the poetic, verse-based representation of action.
Ancient Greeks wouldn’t know what we mean by ‘literature’. It was religious festival - rich in ritual and symbol – and a kind of civic ceremony, a declaration of citizenship, something like the opening of our Parliament only with real pity and terror and in the presence of real gods. The masks and danced choreography of the Chorus grew out of something more charged, primitive and primal, something never quite sublimated: our deepest instincts, drives, rages. All brought out into the open by the drama in a catharsis which those pogoing with me to the Clash’s Safe European Home at the LCR at UEA in 1977 (or was it 1976?) might remember.

Rebel, rebel… (EDP Weekend cover story, Dec 2013)

I’ve done a lot of Boudicca storytelling around Norfolk and beyond since I wrote my verse tragedy ‘Boudicca; Britain’s Dreaming’ in 1996. (The nod to punk dissidence continues in the 2013 version, called The Clash Between Boudicca and Rome.) There is a lot of interest in Norfolk’s ancient queen out there, and it’s growing, though basic knowledge, even on her home-ground, is patchy.

That’s not surprising. She is not a required part of the school history curriculum, not even in Norfolk. Eminent archaeologists will tell you ‘we know so little about her.’ Historians that ‘history is written by the victor and Boudicca neither wrote nor won.’

Historiographers - and critics of her magnificent but ahistorical statues in London and Cardiff  - say she has become ‘a figure of myth’ and romance, her real story and personality ‘lost in the method of her portrayal, associated with folklore and legends.’

All true. But even legends have to start somewhere. And unlike that Celtic-Norman/pagan-Christian myth ‘King’ Arthur or even his downmarket rival as national hero – the relatively historicised thirteenth century-ish anti-Norman post-Saxon outlaw Robin Hood – there is a real time, place and date for Boudicca. Iron Age Icenia (modern Norfolk, Suffolk and parts of Cambridgeshire) AD 60-61.

And a narrative. The Roman incorporation of the wealthy client kingdom of Icenia into the Roman province of Britain in AD 60; the queen’s flogging; the rape of her daughters; the enslaving of her nobles; the theft of her cattle; the putting of matriarchal women in their place.

Boudicca’s subsequent rebellion united the tribes of Eastern Britain seething under this sort of thing and came close to driving the Romans out. It shook the Empire.

Yes, the narrative is based mostly in secondary sources – the Roman accounts of the sympathetic Tacitus and the lurid Dio, imbibed ever since as part of our 2000 year Roman heritage.

But this has been increasingly seasoned with the story written in the earth itself. The evidence of slaughtered Britons with ballista bolts in their backs; of punitive salt sowed into rich Iceni lands, the marks left by distinctly unsavoury Procurator Decianus Catus acting for Emperor Nero - and of Suetonius Paulinus, a Provincial General recalled and reprimanded ‘for excessive bloodlust’ (quite a feat on the front line of Empire.)

And for the Iceni the brutality continued. As Encyclopaedia Britannica puts it ‘the retarded development and modest character of Romano-British remains in Norfolk suggest the severity with the Iceni were crushed.’

Telling this story in drama and poetry against the grain of our still very Roman civilisation can be like banging your head against Hadrian’s Wall.

All through the Middle Ages, Latin cautionary tales warning against ‘hysterical’ women as heads of State persisted in monks’ Latin tales and patriarchal Christianity.

The fact that the name ‘Boadicea’ (and all the corruptions of this that followed – Voada, Voadicia, Bonduca, Bunduca, Bonduica, Boadicia) entered the monastery annals in the twelfth century and that this monk’s spelling mistake was still being taught in the 1960s suggests a lack for reverence for a figure who united the British in arms for the first time and who, but for the enduring propaganda of the victors, might have been called the mother of a nation.

What’s in a name? ‘Boadicea’ has a romantic sound perfect for the Thornyecroft statue in Whitehall, if not in proper history, and my audiences often cling to it. But it’s wrong.

Perhaps it’s easier to get it right in Wales. The ancient British word ‘Buddug’ preserved in modern Welsh, the name engraved on her statue in Cardiff town hall, means ‘Victory.’ It’s intriguing that our Norfolk ‘Victoria’s fame grew and her statue appeared in London during the reign of that other Queen Victoria, and became a symbol of ‘British courage in adversity’ and of the ‘mother of a nation.’ Until then Boudicca had been a footnote in Roman history or at best a walk-on part in her own drama.

But why does Boudicca the ancient queen of Norfolk have a statue in Whitehall, at the heart of government, in a London she razed to the ground and another in a Wales she probably never visited - but nothing in Norwich?

That’s a rhetorical question. But it gets answered. 1. History is written by the victor. Unlike Nelson and Churchill, she lost. 

But what is history but the telling of stories that embody what we believe?

2. She is a Celt, venerated in a museum of Welsh heroes in Cardiff.

But so was King Arthur. And this Celt was as Norfolk as the centuries of Iceni buried in our soil.

3. She is a woman. And unlike the ancient Celts, we are unused to women commanders in war and more forgiving of righteous violence committed by male heroes.

But any mother will understand her outrage.

Norwich museum has a Roman exhibition coming soon and is rightly proud to be getting it. Rome remains one of the pillars of Western civilisation, the guardian of Greek classicism and (after a grim start persecuting it) of Christianity and certainly of law and order. Its feats of engineering and building were advanced beyond the native British imagination, arguably until the Industrial revolution. Its literature and art remain beacons. It has lasted beyond its own millennium.

But the squaddies and robber-bankers of its wild west frontier in AD 60 in Icenia were a disgrace, both to the later Rome and to humanity at any time. To spare the feelings of our listeners, the fact that Boudicca’s violated daughters were children is glossed over, though this of course then skews our understanding of the reprisals, and slants the story implacably in favour of the Romans.

These were Romans worthy of Nero. Beasts disguised by Roman culture, not representative of it. And a British queen challenged them.

She was ultimately outwitted by a futuristic military machine beyond her and her people, yes, but she achieved glorious successes against them on behalf of a very British spirit of defiance against the odds. Her war-painted amateur warriors – fighting for their lives and way of life, death-day naked except for woad and hair dyed with rowan berries – the men’s hair bleached with lime -  defeated a fearsomely armed, professional Roman legion outside Lincoln, out-horsing the Roman cavalry with native horsemanship. And while the bladed wheels are a myth, the light holly-wood chariots are as exciting now as they were to my ten year old self.

Norfolk is certainly Nelson’s county and I love seeing that on the county signs as I come home. But let me try this on you: Icenia– Boudicca’s region. Let’s have that on the region’s signs. A reminder of that irrepressible moment when Norfolk, Suffolk and parts of Cambridgeshire ‘did different’ for all the right reasons.

And let’s have a statue to her in Norwich rooted in her real history and her own soil, a statue that ‘does different.’ With ‘Boudicca’ engraved on its plinth.

If my audiences are anything to go by – especially women and those of a ‘folk’ persuasion (and the Bank Holiday drinker at Flitcham last May demanding a march on County Hall for a Boudicca statue now) it’s time. Meanwhile I’ll keep staging my tale with the help of my woad-faced, spikily red-haired, corn/pony-tailed Boudicca created for me by a Norfolk art teacher nearly 20 years ago.

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