Bathild – c.626 – 680 – Burgundy and Neustria

Britain, England, France

Bathild

Of uncertain origins, Bathild’s curious life appears to have begun in East Anglia, Britain, where she possibly born into a noble family. Whatever the circumstances of her upbringing, she was at some point uprooted and sold into slavery – possibly as a result of the war for the throne of East Anglia.

Still a little girl, Bathild now found herself a very long way from home, in Neustria (part of modern day France), where she entered service in the household of Erchinoald, a powerful Frankish nobleman.

The story goes that Bathild grew up into the ideal medieval woman – beautiful, modest, subservient and pious. When Erchinoald’s wife died, he was keen to make Bathild his wife. Unfortunately for him, Bathild was uninterested in the man who had bought her as a child, and hid herself away until he found someone else to marry.

Eventually (though the details are murky) Bathild got a much better offer of marriage – Clovis II, king of Burgundy and Neustria. This time, she said yes.

Like all good medieval Christian queens, Bathild engaged in public acts of charity. She donated enough money to the church to found two Abbeys, Corbie and Chelles – and possibly three others. She also had three sons, Clotaire, Childeric and Theuderic.

Their eldest son was only five years old when Clovis died, leaving little Clotaire on the throne, but Bathild in charge. As queen regent she really came into her own. She was an intelligent and capable politician, even handling an attempted coup.

Baldehilde_seal_from_ring_A

Bathild’s seal matrix (sourcesource)

Her greatest triumph was the abolition of Christian slavery – something which must have been very dear to her heart. Historical sources also write that she worked to free children who had been sold into slavery by paying for them herself and giving them their freedom.

All three of Bathild’s sons became kings – Clotaire of Neustria, Childeric of Austrasia and Theuderic of Burgundy. Satisfied that she had done her job, Bathild retired to the Abbey she had founded in Chelles, where she lived peacefully until the end of her life.

 

 

 


References:

Bathild Seal Matrix – Norfolk Museum

On Wikipedia:

Eanswith – c.614 – c.640 – Kent, England

Britain, England

Eanswith

Eanswith (sometimes Eanswythe or Eanswide) was an Anglo Saxon princess who founded the first nunnery in England.

She was the granddaughter of Bertha of Kent, and her family were the first Anglo-Saxon royals to convert to Christianity – at the time a very new religion. Kent was a powerful kingdom and Eanswith would have been one of the most highborn women in England.

Eanswith was clearly beloved by her father, King Eabald, who helped finance her plans to build the nunnery. He also listened to his daughter when she refused a proposal of marriage from a neighbouring prince.

The Benedictine Folkestone priory was completed in about 630, and Eanswith quickly moved in and adopted a monastic lifestyle, along with a number of other women. It was the first religious settlement for women in the British Isles.

After her death in 640, Eanswith was canonised as a saint by the Catholic Church. Her feast day is celebrated on 12th September.

Unfortunately the site founded by Eanswith eventually eroded into the sea, though a second building, Folkestone Priory, was constructed further inland in 1137. This site included a church dedicated to St Mary and St Eanswith, and contains Eanswith’s remains.


References:

Woman under Monasticism Lina Eckenstein

A Companion to British Literature, Volume 1: Medieval Literature, 700 – 1450Heesok Chang, Robert DeMaria, Jr., Samantha Zacher

On Wikipedia:

Bertha of Kent – c.565 – c.601 – Canterbury, England

Britain, England, France

20160511_230058-1

Bertha (sometimes Aldeberge) was a Frankish princess who became queen of Kent. Her influence contributed to the adoption of Christianity in Anglo-Saxon England.

Born and raised in Tours, France, Bertha was raised a Christian. Her marriage to King Æthelberht of Kent, an English pagan, was conditional on her being permitted to continue to practice her faith.

Following her move to Canterbury, Kent, Bertha began work to restore a Christian church in the city. There had been a church in Canterbury during the Roman occupation of Britain, but it had been destroyed during the Saxon invasions and was in a state of ruin by the time Bertha arrived.

StBerthaStatue-stMartinChurchCanterbury2

Wooden statue of Bertha inside St Martin’s Church (source)

Bertha used the restored church as her private chapel and dedicated it to Saint Martin of Tours. St Martins is still standing today, and is the oldest church in the English-speaking world.

In 596 Canterbury was visited by Augustine, Gregorian monk sent by Pope Gregory I to convert the English. Bertha received Augustine warmly and encouraged him to settle in Canterbury, where he went on to found a monastery and became the first Archbishop of Canterbury in 567.

Thanks to Bertha’s early influence, Canterbury remains the seat of the Church of England.

King Æthelberht eventually converted to Christianity himself, and the couple had two children, Eabald and Æthelburg.

Bertha was canonised as a saint; her feast day is on 1st May.


References:

Ecclesiastical History of the English People: Book 1 – Bede

Queen Bertha: Canterbury Historical and Archaeological Society

On Wikipedia:

 

Cartimandua – 43 – 69 – Britain

Britain, England

Cartimandua

Cartimandua lived around the same time as the more famous Celtic queen Boudica, during the second Roman conquest of Britain. While Boudica’s circumstances forced her to fight back against Roman occupation, Cartimandua enjoyed a generally friendly and profitable relationship with Rome.

Map_of_the_Territory_of_the_Brigantes.svg

The territory of the Brigantes

Ruler of the Brigantes tribe in northern England, Cartimandua was queen in her own right (not through her husband or son). She came to power at a very turbulent time for Iron Age Britain, as the Emperor Claudius had invaded in 43. The less developed native Celts had never faced anything like the Roman army and were quickly subdued.

Either Cartimandua’s father or the queen herself chose to co-operate with the Romans rather than revolt. As a result, the Brigantes enjoyed wealth and protection. Among the Britons who did revolt was Caractacus, king of the Catuvellauni tribe. After his resistance was defeated in Wales, Caractacus fled to seek sanctuary from Cartimandua – who promptly handed him over to the Roman’s in chains.

This even further cemented her loyalty to Rome, as Caractacus was bought back to Rome for Claudius’ triumphal parade and Cartimandua was richly rewarded.

Cartimandua (1)

Cartimandua presents Caractacus to the Romans

The queen was married to a man named Venutius, who became a figurehead of the British resistance after the capture of Caractacus. Whether for political or personal reasons, Cartimandua divorced him and quickly remarried his armour-bearer Vollocatus instead. She and Venutius became sworn emenies.

In 57, Cartimandua seized Venutius’ family and held them hostage – but this would not stop him. He built up a resistance army to make war against Cartimandua and the Roman invaders. The Roman army had anticipated this and sent units to assist the queen, enabling her to retain her throne.

However, Venutius simply bided his time. In 69 the Roman empire was in turmoil due to civil war. Taking advantage of this instability, Venutius launched abother attack. This time, there weren’t enough troops to protect Cartimandua, and her only choice was to flee, leaving Venutius to usurp her.

After this episode, Cartimandua disappears from historical record.

The bulk of what we know about Cartimandua comes from the Roman historian Tacitus, who describes her as ‘treacherous’ for handing Caractactus to the Romans, and sexually wanton for divorcing her royal husband in favour of a common soldier.


In fiction:

Daughters of Fire by Barbara Erskine features Cartimandua as a main character.


References:

On Wikipedia:


Image credits:

Map of the Territory of the Brigantes” by England_Celtic_tribes_-_North_and_Midlands.png: self-createdderivative work: Jpb1301 (talk) – England_Celtic_tribes_-_North_and_Midlands.png.

Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Cartimandua” by Francesco Bartolozzi (publisher/printer; printmaker; Italian; British; Male; 1728 – 1815)

Boudica – d. 60/61 – Norfolk, Britain

Britain

Trigger Warning: Rape

“She was huge of frame, terrifying of aspect, and with a harsh voice. A great mass of bright red hair fell to her knees… Now she grasped a spear, to strike fear into all who watched her……”

Boudicca

The enduring image of Boudica, warrior queen of the Celts, needs no introduction. Fierce and heroic, this remarkable woman remains vivid in our imaginations today.

Boadicea Haranguing The Britons. John Opie, R.A. (1761-1807). Oil On Canvas.

Boadicea Haranguing The Britons. John Opie, R.A. (1761-1807). Oil On Canvas.

She was queen of the Iceni tribe in ancient Britain and her territory covered roughly the modern day county of Norfolk. She is described as having been tall with long red hair falling past her waist. Roman historians Tacitus and Cassius Dio ‘generously’ describe her as possessed of greater intelligence than often belongs to women.

Boudica was the wife of Prasutagus, the Iceni king. Though Britain had been under Roman occupation for many years, the Iceni tribe had remained proudly independent, allies to Rome but not under Roman control. Prasutagus died a very wealthy man and in his will left his territory to both the Roman emperor (Nero) and his wife and two daughters.

Unfortunately for Boudica, the Romans did not recognise women’s inheritance. As Prasutagus had left no sons, the will was ignored and the Iceni kingdom annexed. The Roman army was brutal, taking the land by force and enslaving the local nobility. The terror did not stop there; Boudica herself was publicly flogged and her two daughters were raped by Roman soldiers.

Humiliated, abused and devastated, the Iceni sought help from neighbouring tribe the Queen_Boadicea2Trinovantes to organise a revolt. Boudica, who had lost so much and who was filled with rage at the Romans, was chosen as their leader.

Cassius Dio writes about an interesting episode in which Boudica acted as a kind of oracle or priestess, releasing a hare from the folds of her dress and interpreting the direction in which in ran as a positive omen. She also invoked Andraste, the ancient British goddess of victory, saying:

“I thank you, Andraste, and call upon you as woman speaking to woman … I beg you for victory and preservation of liberty.”

Boudica’s army first targeted Camulodunum (Colchester, Essex), which had been the Trinovantian capital but was now a Roman colony. The city was poorly defended and the furious Celts demolished it in two days. Commander Quintus Petillius Cerialis’s legion was destroyed, and he escaped with only a few cavalry.

The Celts next set their sights on Londinium (London). At the time, this city was only 20 years old, but a popular and busy centre of trade. The Roman Governor of Britain, Suetonius had heard about Boudica’s triumph in Colchester and was on his way to Londinium from Wales. Nervous and lacking numbers, Suetonius chose to order the Romans to abandon Londinium rather than attempt to defend it.

800px-Pictures_of_English_History_Plate_IV_-_Boadicea_and_Her_Army

Like Colchester, London was wiped out and burnt to the ground and any remaining settlers were slaughtered on sight. The rebel army led by Boudica next moved on to Verulanium (St Albans) and did the same.

Historians today estimate that between seventy and eighty thousand people were killed in the destruction of the three settlements at Colchester, London and St Albans. Boudica took no prisoners, and Tacitus writes that she was interested only in slaughtering as many Romans as possible. They also reclaimed the sacred spaces which had been taken from them, including the groves of Andraste.

While the rebels were still in St Albans, Suetonius was regrouping. He had called in every legion close enough and amassed an army of ten thousand. The experienced General then held firm at a location on the Roman road known as Watling Street and waited for Boudica’s army.

When the rebels came to attack, they had greater numbers, but when it came to combat skills and technique the Romans had them beaten. At first the Romans stood their ground, throwing volleys of javelins at the Britons who rushed at the Roman lines. Then they advanced in wedge formation at Boudica’s second wave.

Watling Street, Northamptonshire

Watling Street, Northamptonshire

Boudica famously rode a chariot into battle, with her daughters at her side. She also positioned lines of wagons and women at the back of the battlefield as a last line of defence. As the Romans came towards them, the terrified Britons attempted to escape, but were trapped by their own families and forced into the wagon ring where they were slaughtered.

Boudica died around this time, though accounts vary. Tacitus wrote that she poisoned herself rather than face capture, Dio says that she died of an illness and was given a queens burial. The crisis that the Celtic queen had caused in Britain shook Rome and the emperor Nero nearly considered abandoning Britain altogether.

Interestingly, Boudica’s rebellion was almost forgotten by history. It wasn’t until the Victorian era that her story became legend. Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote the poem Boadicea and it became fashionable to name ships after the fallen queen.

Ironically, a statue to commemorate Boudica stands next to Westminster bridge in London, the city she razed to the ground.


Pronunciation:

The name Boudica most probably derives from the Celtic word boudīka, meaning “victorious”, that in turn is derived from bouda, “victory” (cf. Irish bua (Classical Irish buadh), Buaidheach, Welsh buddugoliaeth).

The closest English equivalent to the vowel in the first syllable is the ‘ow’ in “bow-and-arrow”. The modern English pronunciation is bo-dik-ah.


In fiction:

Books:

  • One of the viewpoint characters of Ian Watson’s novel Oracle is an eyewitness to her defeat.
  • Ruled Britannia is an alternate history novel by Harry Turtledove in which Shakespeare writes a play called Boudica.
  • The Doctor Who audio play The Wrath of the Iceni takes place during Boudica’s uprising against the Romans. Boudica is portrayed by Ella Kenion.
  • The 2012 vampire novel Hide Me Among the Graves by Tim Powers depicts Boadicea as one of the two head vampires menacing Victorian Europe.Plays, Films and Television:
  • Bonduca, or the British Heroine is a 1695 musical play by Henry Purcell
  • Bonduca is a Jacobean tragi-comedy by John Fletcher. It was acted by the King’s Men c. 1613, and published in 1647.
  • Boadicea is a 1928 film, in which Boudica is portrayed by Phyllis Neilson-Terry.
  • Boudica (US title Warrior Queen) is a 2003 film written by Andrew Davies and starring Alex Kingston as Boudica.
  • Warrior Queen was a 1978 TV series, starring Siân Phillips as Boudica.
  • The Viking Queen is a 1967 adventure film set in ancient Britain, in which the role of ‘Queen Salina’ is based upon the historical figure of Boudica.
  • In the fictional world of Ghosts of Albion, ‘Queen Bodicea’ is one of three Ghosts who once were mystical protectors of Albion and assists the current protectors with advice and knowledge.
  • Television series Bonekickers dedicated an hour to Boudica in the episode named The Eternal Fire.

Video Games:

  • In 2013 video game Ryse: Son of Rome Boudica appears as a heavily fictionalized character.
  • She appears as a Rider-class Servant in the 2015 mobile game Fate/Grand Order.

Music:

Boudica has also been the primary subject of songs by Irish singer/songwriter Enya, Dutch soprano Petra Berger, Scottish singer/songwriter Steve McDonald, English metal band Bal-SagothFaith and the MuseMason and Róisín Murphy, and Dreams in the Witching House.

In Science:

In 2003 an LTR retrotransposon from the genome of the human blood fluke “Schistosoma mansoni” was named “Boudicca”.


References:

The AnnalsTacitus

Roman History – Cassius Dio


Image credits:

Queen Boudica by John Opie” by John Opie – Easy Art.

Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Queen Boadicea2” by Anonymous – True Stories of Wonderful Deeds: Pictures and Stories for Little Folk.

Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Pictures of English History Plate IV – Boadicea and Her Army” by Joseph Martin Kronheim (1810–96)[1] – →This file has been extracted from another file: Pictures of English History – Plates I to IV.jpg.

Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Watling Street Northamptonshire” by Ian Rob.

Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons