The Cultural and Ideological Significance of Representations of Boudica During the Reigns of Elizabeth I and James I
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This study follows the trail of Boudica from her rediscovery in Classical texts by the humanist scholars of the fifteenth century to her didactic and nationalist representations by Italian, English, Welsh and Scottish historians such as Polydore Virgil, Hector Boece, Humphrey Llwyd, Raphael Holinshed, John Stow, William Camden, John Speed and Edmund Bolton. In the literary domain her story was appropriated under Elizabeth I and James I by poets and playwrights who included James Aske, Edmund Spenser, Ben Jonson, William Shakespeare, A. Gent and John Fletcher. As a political, religious and military figure in the middle of the first century AD this Celtic and regional queen of Norfolk is placed at the beginning of British history. In a gesture of revenge and despair she had united a great number of British tribes and opposed the Roman Empire in a tragic effort to obtain liberty for her family and her people. Focusing on both the literary and non-literary texts I aim to show how the frequent manipulation and circulation of Boudica's story in the early modern period contributed to the polemical expression and development of English and British national identities, imperial aspirations and gender politics which continue even today. I demonstrate how such heated debate led to the emergence of a polyvalent national icon, that of Boadicea, Celtic warrior of the British Empire, religious figurehead, mother to the nation and ardent feminist, defending the land, women, the nation and national identity. Today Boudica’s story is that of a foundation myth which has taken its place in national memory alongside Britannia; Boudica’s statue stands outside the Houses of Parliament in London as a testament to Britain’s imperial aspirations under Queen Victoria whilst the maternal statue of her protecting her two young daughters claims a Welsh haven in Cardiff.
PhD in English