Boudica and Her Stories: Narrative Transformations of a Warrior Queen

Boudica and Her Stories: Narrative Transformations of a Warrior Queen

Boudica and Her Stories: Narrative Transformations of a Warrior Queen

Boudica and Her Stories: Narrative Transformations of a Warrior Queen

Synopsis

This book begins with a study of the few ancient texts which provide the source material for all subsequent accounts of the seventh-century British queen Boudica and her ferocious yet ultimately unsuccessful rebellion against the Romans. It shows how their information was assembled over centuries to create the entity we know as Boudica as an individual, including her appearance, personal ties and home life. It follows by discussing their opinions on the atrocities she suffered and committed, their assessment of her fitness for command and chances of victory, and the spiritual, political and national implications of her rebellion, concluding with a brief examination of ways in which writers have invited others to share her story. Are her metamorphoses without limits, governed solely by the requirements of individual authors, or variations on a distinctive theme, generated by a flexible yet enduring narrative pattern?

Excerpt

The first task for anyone writing on the iron age british queen who led a devastating but ill-fated rising against the Romans around ad 60 is deciding what to call her. An investigation of her multifarious names and identities appears in chapter 2; for now, readers should note that, in this book, “Boudica” is the standard form; other forms reflect usage in the texts under discussion. Another term requiring clarification is “Celtic,” which occurs frequently in works examined in this study. It has a widely agreed meaning when applied to a group of languages including Irish and Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Manx, Cornish, and Breton, but its cultural and ethnic connotations are more controversial. It will be used in accordance with the sense employed by the authors cited. Once these preliminaries have been settled, it is time to give a brief account of this book’s purpose and structure, indicate the range of source material, and lay the groundwork for subsequent discussions of the relationships between “history” and other kinds of “story.”

Donald R. Dudley, in his briskly magisterial chapter on Boudica’s cultural heritage, describes a complex situation: “[T]he historical reputation of Boudicca has, over the past five centuries, served several turns. It has been made use of for propaganda for the monarchy of Elizabeth I, for anti-feminism, for imperialism, alike that of the eighteenth century and of its late Victorian heyday, and for the simpler patriotism that identifies itself with all who defend this island against its invaders.” He adds, “There is no reason to suppose that these metamorphoses are at an end.” This implied invitation to elaborate on Dudley’s original findings, and to examine subsequent developments, has been accepted by many scholars over the past forty years. One of the most celebrated books published on Boudica in this period is the historian Antonia Fraser’s inspirational Boadicea’s Chariot: the Warrior Queens, first published in 1988 and most recently reissued in 2002. It starts by examining Boudica’s story in detail, and then relates her story to the exploits of warrior queens in Britain and all over the world, ingeniously combining a developing argument with chronological progression. Since the focus is not constantly on Boudica and her warrior aspect takes priority over the . . .

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