WHAT’S IN A NAME?
Boadicea, Boudica, Boudicca, Bodicca, Budiga, Buddag, Bunduca, Voadicia, Voada, Θρίαμβος (Thríamvos) are just some of the names attributed to the queen. The last name is a Greek version which means triumph. The other Latin and Celtic or Gaelic versions roughly mean ‘victory’ or ‘she brings victory’. With these descriptions, although the legend has it that she was wife to King Presutagus, even if she had not been a Queen Boudica would be a great name for a war leader. Assuming that Boudica was in her thirties at the time of the revolt AD60/61 she would have been born around AD30. It must have been remarkable foresight on the part of her parents to call their child ‘She brings victory’ at least thirteen years before the Roman occupation began in AD43. Of course, the Iceni were continually fighting other British tribes off and on so the name may have been apt. Alternatively, in the absence of any contemporary evidence, the name Boudica (or Boadicea) could simply have been given to her by the Roman writers.
Continuing with the name though, over 1400 years after the revolt in King James IV of Scotland’s made Hector Böece the first principal of the new Aberdeen University. In 1527, Böece published his History of the Scottish People in which he transposed the Boudican rebellion to Scotland renaming the heroine ‘Voada’. Meanwhile in England, during the latter days of his reign King Henry VII encouraged an Italian the Polydore Virgil to write a history of England. Virgil was familiar with Boece’s work, published his Anglia Historia in 1534. In it he used the name ‘Voadicea’. In 1577, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the author Raphael Holinshed also referred to Voadicea in his Chronicles, whilst the poet Edmund Spenser sympathetically referred to Bundaca in two of his poems and Boadicea was featured in a play by Ben Johnson.
It is perhaps curious that Boadicea/Boudica was completely ignored by Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s only incursion into that period of early British history was Cymbeline a ‘tragedy’ vaguely based on Cunobelinus the King of the Catuvellauni. Although the real King Cunobelinus died before the Roman invasion of AD43, Shakespeare happily added Romans into the Cymbeline story.
The first biography of Boudica came in 1591 from an Italian living in England, Petruccio Ubaldini, The Lives of the Noble Ladies of the Kingdom of England and Scotland. In this work he suggests Boudica was in fact two women, Voadicea and Bunduica. Voadicea was described as honourable and noble, whereas Bunduica was savage and cruel.
In 1611, John Speed in his History of Great Britaine referred to Boudica, Voadica and Boduo. Later the story of Bonduca was told in a play by John Fletcher, performed by Shakespeare’s The King’s Men in 1613. The play was adapted several times over the next 100 years.
The writings about Boudica varied wildly in their portrayals. Some described her as the dominant figure whilst others had her as a subsidiary character. In the 1670s John Milton the poet and author was most uncomplimentary about the insurrection describing the rebels as barbarians without foresight, confused, impotent and led by a wild distracted woman. Yet other poets had different opinions. At a time of the imminent loss of the American Colonies, the poet William Cowper in 1782 published a glowing tribute to Boadicea in his Boadicea an Ode. Yet, despite whatever was written from the Tudor period onwards all authors drew inspiration from the chronicles of the two Roman authors or later works lifted from them.
As the 19th century dawned, the name Boadicea seems to have become established. It continued to be used into and throughout Victorian times without question and then into the 20th century until the 1960s without challenge – but that was about to change.
Sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970’s, we can’t be specific on the date, a group of scholars, led by the late Prof Kenneth Jackson, a Celtic language specialist decided that there had been a typo in one of translations in the Middle Ages from a manuscript by the Roman author Tacitus. Thus, Boadicea was to become Boudica spelt with one or two Cs and this has been the accepted use ever since.
The name change led to confusion. As early as 1937, the author Lewis Spence who penned Boadicea, Warrior Queen of the Britons wrote ‘Scholars would not have us say Boadicea, but Boudica. Just over 30 years later, the late James Maurice Scott published a detailed account entitled, BOADICEA, Queen of the Iceni who died in AD61 after leading her people against the Roman Invader. In his preface he wrote: –
Scholars are now agreed that the person with whom this book is concerned should be named Boudicca or perhaps Boudica being a derivation from the Welsh buddug or more ancient buddig – both meaning victory. Despite the scholarly advice Scott (and also Spense) stuck with Boadicea. Scott summed up and commented dryly, with Boadicea as the title, some may be critical, but at least everyone will know what the book is about! That was back in 1969. Over the following 50 years the scholarly advice was heeded and today Boudica spelt with a single c or a double c is generally accepted.
Coming soon – watch this space
The Riddle of Boudica
A new book from Essex Hundred Publications
Also check out our short video, BOUDICA’S LAMENT,
And there is specialist talk too!
The Riddle of Boudica
Essex Hundred Publications. Books, written, designed and printed in Essex. Available from bookshops, book wholesalers, direct from the publisher or online