| Our Island Story|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|A child's history of England from earliest legendary times delightfully retold. Beginning with the stories of Albion and Brutus, it relates all the interesting legends and hero tales in which the history of England abounds through the end of the reign of Queen Victoria. Ages 9-12 |
THE STORY OF A WARRIOR QUEEN
 ALTHOUGH the Britons had lost their great general
Caractacus, still they would not yield to the Roman tyrants.
Soon another brave leader arose. This leader was a woman.
Her name was Boadicea, and she was a queen. She ruled over
that part of the country which is now called Norfolk and
As I said before, the Romans were a very greedy people. They
wanted to take away the freedom of Britain and make the
island into a Roman province. They also wanted to get all
the money and possessions which belonged to the Britons for
The husband of Boadicea knew how greedy the Romans were, and
when he was about to die he became very sad. He was afraid
that the Roman Emperor would rob his wife and daughters of
all their money, when he was no longer there to take care of
them. So, to prevent this, he made the Emperor a present of
half of his money and lands, and gave the other half to his
wife and children. Then he died happy, thinking that his
dear ones would be left in peace.
But the greedy Romans were not pleased with only half of the
dead king's wealth. They wanted the whole. So they came and
took it by force. Boadicea was a very brave woman. She was
not afraid of the Romans, and
 she tried to make them give
back what they had stolen from her.
Then these cruel, wicked men laughed at her. And because she
was a woman and had, they thought, no one to protect her,
they beat her with rods and were rude to her daughters.
But although the Romans were clever, they sometimes did
stupid things. They thought very little of their own women,
and they did not understand that many of the women of
Britain were as brave and as wise as the men, and quite as
difficult to conquer.
After Boadicea had been so cruelly and unjustly treated, she
burned with anger against the Romans. Her heart was full
only of thoughts of revenge. She called her people together,
and, standing on a mound of earth so that they could see and
hear her, she made a speech to them. She told them first how
shamefully the Romans had behaved to her, their Queen. Then,
like Caractacus, she reminded them how their forefathers had
fought against Julius Cæsar, and had driven the Romans away
for a time at least. "Is it not better to be poor and free
than to have great wealth and be slaves?" she asked. "And
the Romans take not only our freedom but our wealth. They
want to make us both slaves and beggars. Let us rise. O
brothers and sisters, let us rise, and drive these robbers
out of our land! Let us kill them every one! Let us teach
them that they are no better than hares and foxes, and no
match for greyhounds! We will fight, and if we cannot
conquer, then let us die—yes, every one of us—die
rather than submit."
Queen Boadicea looked so beautiful and fierce as she stood
there, with her blue eyes flashing, and her golden hair
blowing round her in the wind, that the hearts of her people
were filled with love for her, and anger against
 the Romans.
As she spoke, fierce desires for revenge grew in them. They
had hated their Roman conquerors before, now the hatred
became a madness.
So, when Boadicea had finished speaking, a cry of rage rose
from the Britons. They beat upon their shields with their
swords, and swore to avenge their Queen, to fight and die
for her and for their country.
Then Boadicea, leaning with one hand upon her spear, and
lifting the other to heaven—prayed. She prayed to the
goddess of war, and her prayer was as fierce as her speech,
for she had never heard of a God who taught men to forgive
As she stood there praying, Boadicea looked more beautiful
than ever. Her proud head was thrown back and the sun shone
upon her lovely hair and upon the golden band which bound
her forehead. Her dark cloak, slipping from her shoulders,
showed the splendid robe she wore beneath, and the thick and
heavy chain of gold round her neck. At her feet knelt her
daughters, sobbing with hope and fear.
It was a grand and awful moment, and deep silence fell upon
the warriors as they listened to the solemn words. Then,
with wild cries, they marched forward to battle, forgetful
of everything but revenge.
The battles which followed were terrible indeed. The words
of Queen Boadicea had stirred the Britons until they were
mad with thoughts of revenge, and hopes of freedom. They
gave no mercy, and they asked none. They utterly destroyed
the towns of London and of St. Albans, or Verulamium as it
was then called, killing every one, man, woman and child.
Again and again the Romans were defeated, till it almost
seemed as if the Britons really would succeed in driving
them out of the country. Boadicea herself led
 the soldiers,
encouraging them with her brave words. "It is better to die
with honour than to live in slavery," she said. "I am a
woman, but I would rather die than yield. Will you follow
me, men?" and of course the men followed her gladly.
"WILL YOU FOLLOW ME MEN?"
At last the Roman leader was so downcast with his many
defeats that he went himself to the British camp, bearing in
his hand a green branch as a sign of peace. When Boadicea
was told that an ambassador from the Romans wished to speak
to her, she replied proudly, "My sword alone shall speak to
the Romans." And when the Roman leader asked for peace, she
answered, "You shall have peace, peace, but no submission. A
British heart will choose death rather than lose liberty.
There can be peace only if you promise to leave the
Of course the Romans would not promise to go away from
Britain, so the war continued, and for a time the Britons
But their triumph did not last long. The Roman soldiers were
better armed and better drilled than the British. There came
a dark day when the Britons were utterly defeated and many
thousands were slain.
When Boadicea saw that all hope was gone, she called her
daughters to her. "My children," she said sadly, as she took
them by the hand and drew them towards her, "my children, it
has not pleased the gods of battle to deliver us from the
power of the Romans. But there is yet one
way of escape." Tears were in her blue eyes
as she kissed her daughters. She
was no longer a queen of fury but a loving mother.
Then taking a golden cup in her hands, "Drink," she said
The eldest daughter obeyed proudly and gladly, but
 the younger one was afraid. "Must I, mother?" she asked timidly.
"Yes, dear one," said Boadicea gently. "I too will drink,
and we shall meet again."
When the Roman soldiers burst in upon them, they found the
great queen dead, with her daughters in her arms.
She had poisoned both herself and them, rather than that
they should fall again into the hands of the Romans.
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