Monday, 29 April 2013

Could Boudicca the warrior queen have met Cartimandua of Brigantes before her suicide?









How long before Boudicca poisoned herself

During the final days of Boudicca, after her defeat by Suetonius and his Roman Army, what could the Iceni warrior queen have possibly done? She was not too far from the southern boarders of the Brigante where another Queen ruled. This was the Queen known as Cartimandua and it is very probable that she would not entertain helping Boudicca in anyway. Cartimandua had given another rebel chieftain named Caractacus to the Romans when he sought sanctuary in the Brigante.

It is believed that Boudicca escaped the battlefield after the defeat of her rebellion and this theory must carry some weight because Rome would have written of such a thing if her body was found among the slain.

If she went into hiding and poisoned herself she remains a myth and for a writer of historical fiction one can milk such a grey area of ‘ifs’ and ‘maybes.’ How long did she remain before taking her poison?

Cartimandua’s dilemma
Surely Queen Cartimandua of Brigantes would have been very concerned by the dreaded warrior queen’s success. As a Roman ally she must have been praying to any Gods that they might hear her pleas. What of her divorced and spurned husband Venutius? He had been driven from the Brigante because of his intolerance towards her friendship with Rome. Surely he did not remain inactive while Boudicca and her Iceni went on the rampage.

The Brigante are a bit of a grey area during Boudicca’s rebellion. Queen Cartimandua was long established as Brigante sovereign by this time and ruled for a further eight years after Boudicca’s demise.

If I could go back in time I would dearly love to interview Cartimandua – more so than Boudicca. She must have had, or had access to; a strong degree of political expertise for she seems to have kept a huge temperamental power at bay to the south and a mischief making ex-husband away to the north.  For well over twenty five years, she was able to keep Rome at ease by collaborating and being a buffer between her divorced ex-husband, in exile in Caledonia among the Picts. Did she really play one off against the other - stroking and pleasing the wolf of Rome while scolding and beating the weasel in Caledonia? If she did, all this must have broken down briefly during Boudicca’s rebellion. For a short space of time in 61 AD, Cartimandua must have been faced with a terrible dilemma. Boudicca looked as though she might win.

With Boudicca to the south and Venutius to the north, Cartimandua must have become anxious because of her Roman friendship – a circumstance that would have no merit among any Britons of the rebellion once Rome was driven off of the Isle.

It is therefore feasible that she may have gone to her southern boarders to stop her people from rallying to Boudicca’s cause. When Boudicca did lose her final battle, Cartimandua may have enjoyed a brief time of adulation from the Brigante commoners. Rome was not going to take revenge on them.

Maybe Cartimandua was more substantial then history portrays her. I can’t help feeling that this Brigante queen may have been more cunning then Boudicca. She may have used Rome as much as Rome used her. Even under civil strife – eight years latter – during the Year of the Four Emperors in 69 AD, Rome thought enough of Cartimandua to send help and bring her south when the empire was consumed in civil war.

All we know is that Cartimandua was allowed to go into exile in mainland Europe while Rome sorted out its civil strife, leaving the Brigante under Venutius to simmer and await Rome’s more special attention in 71 AD. None know what became of Cartimandua as she went into exile. She fades from history and becomes virtually unknown.

I often wondered if Boudicca and Cartimandua may have met between the days of the warrior queen’s defeat and her taking the poison elixir that took her to the afterlife, from where she screams out at us with her story of monumental failure.

But what of Cartimandua – the durable sovereign that reigned for more than twenty five years and even escaped to tell the tale after her eventual demise. I would really love to have had a chat with Queen Cartimandua of the Brigantes.

















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