|Queen Cartimandua of Brigante|
Why is Queen Boudicca given this glorious celebrity due to her rebellion against the Roman Empire that lasted little more than a few months? She was disastrous for Britain and probably caused the deaths of thousands due to her killing spree and Roman retribution afterwards.
QueenCartimandua of the Brigante ruled from around 43 AD to 69 AD and was usurped by her divorced husband Venutius during the ‘Year of Four Emperors’ when Rome was in civil turmoil over which person would become emperor. The fact that this little-known Ancient British queen ruled for more than 25 years against Boudicca’s single year - if that; always baffles me. Surely Cartimandua was shrewd and successful during her time of rule for she was able to play off the wolf against the weasel for many years while she sat in the middle and kept Rome at bay for a quarter of a century.
|Add captionQueen Boudicca of Iceni|
Both ancient British queens had husbands; Boudicca’s collaborated with Rome, but when he died; the Iceni queen entered into conflict with the empire. Cartimandua, on the other hand, had a husband who wanted to rebel against Rome and she betrayed him and exiled the man in favour of Rome.
Boudicca echoes in eternity because of Roman historians who wrote of her murderous rampage, yet Cartimandua barely merits mention because she was the friend of Rome and played the empire off against her exiled husband Venutius who never gave up trying to claim the Brigante for himself. Cartimandua is often written off as a traitor, yet it could be argued that she protected her people from slavery and held Rome at arm’s length like this.
QueenCartimandua of Brigantes must have been shrewd to be able to rule and keep Rome at bay for 25+ years, but none of this seems to be acknowledged because Roman historians only wrote of valiant foes and not friends. For Romans; Cartimandua was not interesting enough, which is a great shame because this durable ruler must have had some tales to tell over a twenty-five year period of troubled rule. What was she thinking when Boudicca ruled the Iceni and it looked as though she would beat the Roman Empire and drive them form Britain?
Cartimandua’s exiled husband probably had sanctuary in Caledonia among the Picts to the north. The Brigante queen must have been in a desperate situation knowing if Boudicca defeated Suetonius and his last Roman soldiers to the south; she (Cartimandua) would have enemies on two fronts and none from Rome to help her. She must have prevailed through many desperate times. Was she an anti-hero? Was the Brigante Queen Cartimandua evil or good? What perspective do we put her in?
There must have been many in the Brigante who had their liberty kept safe during her fraternisation with Rome, while many of Boudicca’s Iceni would have lost theirs because of the violent rebellion they were encouraged upon.
I’m not trying to condemn the Iceni for rebelling, because they may have had no choice and I’m not denying Queen Boudicca her monument for trying, but there was a cost that is overshadowed by the myth of Boudicca. Perhaps Cartimandua paid the cost of protecting her people by being derided as a traitor?
When Cartimandua was driven into exile by her returning divorced husband; the Romans persuaded her to go into peaceful exile in mainland Europe. Later, Venutius lost his great Brigante hill forts as the Romans spent the next forty years viciously putting the Brigantes down. Venutius as the King of the Brigante led his people upon the same path of doom as the Iceni. Eventually, they paid the same price, but not under Cartimandua who seemed to be able to keep Rome at arm’s length for so long.
Venutius was overrun by Rome in 71 AD. No one knows what happened to him, yet the Brigante people were in line for Roman retribution to come. They must have wished Cartimandua never left.