Cambridge Historical Reader: Primary - Cambridge Press

The Story of Queen Boadicea

Two thousand years ago, the country in which we live, and to which we are proud to belong, was very different from what it is to-day. It was then called Britain, as now; but, instead of being one of the richest and most powerful of countries, it was scarcely known to the rest of the world.

Far away from Britain there was the great city and empire of Rome. The Romans, as its people were called, were very brave and skilful in war, and had conquered nearly all the other nations of the world.

So we find that, at last, they sent a large army, in hundreds of ships, to add our island home to their already large empire.

The Britons fought bravely against their powerful foes; but, instead of always fighting side by side, they were often quarrelling among themselves. Now, there were many kings or chiefs in our land, each ruling over a tribe, as it was called.

One of these tribes, the Iceni, lived in that part of our country now known as Norfolk and Suffolk. The chief of that tribe had made friends with the Romans, and, when he died, he left half of his money and lands to them, and the other half to his queen, Boadicea, and her daughters.

He thought that, by doing this, his queen and daughters would be kindly treated by the Romans; but this was not the case.

Not content with what they had already, the Romans seized the property of queen Boadicea; and it is said that they even went so far as to beat her and her daughters with rods. They also behaved very cruelly to her people.



You can understand how insulted the brave queen would feel, at being treated in this way. She called her subjects together, and, when they heard the story of her wrongs, they were eager to march against the Romans.

The Romans had already built some towns, and it was against three of these, London, Colchester and St Albans, that the fierce Britons marched. The Roman army was away in another part of Britain, and these towns were defended only by some old soldiers.

They were quite unable to stand against the fierce attacks of the angry Britons, who not only destroyed these three towns, but also killed all the men, women and children living in them.

When the Roman general heard the bad news, he set out at once with his army to meet the Britons. Queen Boadicea heard of his coming, and ordered her men to make a strong camp, in what is now called Epping Forest.

It was not long before the Roman army drew near, and a camp was quickly made, not far from that of queen Boadicea. Both armies at once got ready to fight.

Before the battle began, queen Boadicea made a great speech to her men. She stood in a war chariot, spear in hand, with a bright collar of gold round her neck, showing that she was a queen.

She said to her troops, "Are you willing to remain the slaves of the Romans, or do you wish to be free men? Do not fear them—they are few in number, and you are as brave as they."

The brave words of their queen put new life into the Britons, and they felt quite sure they would beat the Romans easily. So sure were they, that they allowed their women and children to watch the fight, from a number of wagons at the rear.

The Roman soldiers went into the fight in splendid order, and, brave as the Britons were, they were, in the end, forced to flee. This they could not do very well, as the wagons at the rear barred their way.

So a terrible slaughter took place, the Romans killing women, children and even the cattle of their enemies. They could not forget the sad sight which they had seen in London of houses burned, and their friends cruelly murdered.

We are not quite sure what became of the brave queen; but most people think that she put an end to her life by taking poison, rather than fall into the hands of the Romans.

A writer of that time tells us that the Roman governor, after winning this great victory, was more cruel than before; but still the Britons would not give in. So, at last, a kind governor was sent from Rome, and, in a short time, the Britons laid down their arms.

Before many years had passed, they were quite good friends with their Roman masters. They copied the Roman dress, and learned how to build better houses and streets.

From Rome, too, came fruit and flowers, such as the apple and plum, the rose and the violet: and, best of all, the Britons forsook their old gods and became Christians.