Boudicca is one of ancient Britain’s biggest names: she’s even got her own statue overlooking Parliament. (Click to watch the Boudicca video) But for all today’s archaeological breakthroughs, we still don’t know where she’s buried right now. In fact, we don’t even know where she and the Romans played out a bloody denouement to the rebellion at the Battle of Watling Street. Even Tacitus and Cassius Dio, the Roman historians who chronicled the event, can’t agree whether she committed suicide or fell victim to illness.
So where is Boudicca today, apart from the government’s doorstep? A host of elaborate locations have been mooted over the years, but one I’ve noticed, while working on our Boudicca Ancient World in London video, leaps out more than others. A 1937 book by Lewis Spence called Boadicea, Warrior Queen of the Britons placed the Battle of Watling Street in the valley now occupied by Kings Cross and St Pancras Stations. Spence even made diagrams of the battle itself, but he built his argument on some pretty shaky evidence, with no archaeological clout whatsoever backing his claim.
Still, who knew truth to get in the way of a good story? Spence’s book was popular, and his theories spread like a bad fart. His bright idea may have had something to do with an old town called Battle Bridge, an ancient crossing of the River Fleet which stood on the site hundreds of years previously.
Yet to his credit Spence never actually said Boudicca was buried beneath the station; that appears to be thanks to the local media, delighted at their five seconds in the spotlight. Just after the Second World War the plot thickened when someone even hand-picked which platforms she was buried under! It’s nine and 10, by the way. A panel at the station celebrates this ‘fact’, as does nearby Boadicea Street.
Is Boudicca being crushed by the commuter run each day? Methinks not. The sad truth is that despite the epic nature of the battle – Dio claims there were over 200,000 Celts – we still don’t know where Boudicca met her bloody match. Some historians place the battle in the Midlands, others as far south as Surrey. I, like all of you I suspect, would love to think that Boudicca is buried under the 7.14 to Manchester Picadilly. Sadly it seems, we just ain’t got a clue.
Check out our Ancient World in Londonvideo on Roman Colchester, one of the three cities Boudicca burnt to the ground. Keep checking in to our AWiL video page, where we’ll shortly be bringing you a special feature on Boudicca herself