“What’s in a name?” opined a portly Englishman recently, whose entire family had been handed ASBOs for verbally abusing their neighbours. This sort of stoic ignorance blights the English, much like bad hair or David Cameron, and it’s been going on for centuries.
Boudicca was a Celtic warrior queen, a bloodthirsty battle-axe who massacred her way through Colchester, London and St Albans in 60AD (see a video on Roman Colchester here). By the time she’d been defeated at the mysterious Battle of Watling Street a year later, all three cities lay in tatters, and 80,000 were dead. Not a forgettable character really, and one whose credentials as a British poster-girl have come under considerable scrutiny.
Yet so much remains unknown about Boudicca – like, for example, how she died, where she’s buried now (beneath Kings Cross station?) or the whereabouts of her epic defeat. However, I’m happy to clear up one issue right now: she’s definitely not called Boadicea.
“Boadicea is wrong, it should be Boudicca,” says Mark Hassall, a retired archaeologist and orator in our latest Ancient World in London video on the Iceni queen. “Manuscript readings of the Roman historians say Boudicca. But in the course of transmission the ‘u’ turned into an ‘a’, and the second ‘c’ turned into an ‘e’. So that’s why we get Bow-ah-diss-eyah.” A quick glance at the web confirms what Mark is quick to point out: Boudicca’s name comes from the Celtic word ‘bouda’, meaning ‘victory’, which means that she’s actually called Queen Victoria!
Boudicca may not ring as romantically to our Latinised ears as Boadicea, and there may be a road in London called Boadicea Street, but as Wyclef Jean says, two wrongs don’t make a right. So remember: there’s only one psychopathic Celtic warrior queen in British history, and her name’s Boudicca. Incidentally what would you burn down if you were Boudicca? .