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Book Review: Boudica

~ Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Book review: Boudica by Vanessa Collingridge

reviewed by Pat Anderson

Boudica’s dust cover describes it as “groundbreaking”, but not in the sense that new information or artifacts have been found. Many know of her justified rebellion (Roman violation of a peace treaty plus rape of her two young daughters), which almost succeeded in driving them out of Britain (AD 60-61). It does begin, however, with what hard archeological and literary evidence does exist for that period.

As we know, most of what was written about the ancient Celts comes from their enemies and is therefore less than flattering. Yet for some reason the Romans were a bit awed with Boudica, and it is their irreconcilability (misogyny) of woman and warrior that has created the persistent thread that has followed her persona ever since, and represents the bulk of this book. Tradition, in all of the ancient world, valued the virgin, the mother, and the granny (maiden, mother, crone or kirk, kinder, kuchen), period! Any other role was unthinkable. Also for some reason, the Romans managed to blend Boudica with Britannia, a Roman war goddess, even creating coins with this new combined image, and in the process, inadvertently giving Britain its name. Even the statue of Boudica, recently erected in central London (complete with daughters, armor and chariot), is attired in Roman classical dress. Ironically, “. . . rule Britannia. . . Britons never, never, never will be slaves. . .” is not necessarily tied to pride in the ancient Britons!

Over the centuries, Boudica’s persona has come and gone from the scene, surfacing when Britain is presented with a female leader. This portion of the book I liken to Dorothy when the farmhouse lands and she emerges into the sunshine and color of the Land of Oz.

Ms. Collingridge explores each instance of British female leadership and its public reception, beginning with Mary Tudor, the “wannabe” mother; Elizabeth I, (virgin/warrior), Mary Queen of Scots. (mother/warrior) who Elizabeth dealt with; fast forward to Victoria (mother) who was not popular until she was a grieving widow. (Incidentally, the public never did like Prince Albert, who literally gave his life to keep England out of the American Civil War!). Moving on, Collingridge covers Elizabeth II (mother) and finally Margaret Thatcher (warrior!).

Additionally, archeology in Britain was explained as beginning in or around the 17th century, and was not science at all, but largely greedy, careless, fortune-seeking plunder. By the time it became a legitimate science, much had been lost or misidentified. However, since Boudica’s tomb has never been found, and/or should she have had the luck of being placed in a bog preservation), she may still be found and we might witness yet another set of revelations! This is a very good read.

You can buy the book through Amazon for $19.67 (the book lists for $26.95).

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