/ The London Traveler
London — By Andrea Kirkby on August 4, 2009 at 5:22 am
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London Statues: Boadicea, or Boudicca, Queen of the Iceni

This is in some ways a shocking statue to find in London. We don’t have a statue to other invaders, or a statue to the Luftwaffe. And Boadicea set out to destroy London completely – having already burned Colchester to the ground. (It was called Camulodunum in those days.)

Roman governor Gaius Suetonius Paulinus, finding London impossible to fortify against Boadicea’s Iceni, deserted it with his troops. It was burned. (Archaeologists have found a thick layer of burnt debris everywhere on the site of Roman London. ) The inhabitants were massacred. Boadicea then went on to take Verulamium (modern St Albans).

Not an edifying tale – a British war criminal. But in Queen Victoria’s day, Boadicea came to be seen as a freedom fighter against the wicked, decadent power of Rome – and as a forerunner of the Queen, a great British female ruler. Tennyson wrote about her, and a statue was commissioned from Sir Thomas Thornycroft. It stands in one of the most prominent positions in London – opposite the Houses of Parliament.

Thornycroft worked on the statue from 1856 till 1885, but it was brought to its current site at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Notice the vicious scythes attached to the chariot wheels, by the way. They would have cut down Boadicea’s opponents in battle… well, that’s what I was told as a child. But in fact, archaeologists reckon this is just a myth. She’s more likely to have had go-faster stripes, furry dice and a pink nodding dog on the back axle.

Where: Westminster Embankment (map)

Photo by Paulo Ordovesa on flickr

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    4 Comments

  • Megan says:

    It sounds like a nasty bit of violence all the way around, but she wasn’t exactly unprovoked, was she?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boudica

    And the Romans were invaders/occupiers themselves.

  • Andrea says:

    You’re absolutely right – there are two sides to the story. The Romans had made Boudicca’s husband Prasutagus a client king – aiming to take the territory from the Iceni after his death. Boudicca and her daughters were allegedly raped by Roman soldiers, provoking a violent response.

    But as far as London was concerned, it was still a disaster.

  • Robert says:

    she was British, no?
    The Romans were the invaders, from Italy, or Gaul (most recently), no?
    The bit that is shocking is that this great piece of art is half hidden by a junk souvenir shack.
    Given that London has more junk souvenir shacks per square mile than anywhere, you think they would close this one up.
    I’m sure the fellow who vends here won’t be happy to here of my recommendation, nor the MP or Council person who slipped him a license.
    cheers

  • Robert says:

    revision
    she was British, no?
    The Romans were the invaders, from Italy, or Gaul (most recently), no?
    The bit that is shocking is that this great piece of art is half hidden by a junk souvenir shack.
    Given that London has more junk souvenir shacks per square mile than anywhere, you think they should close this one up.
    I’m sure the fellow who vends here won’t be happy to hear of my recommendation, nor the MP or Council person who slipped him the license.
    cheers

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