Historical Notes: Boadicea's bones under Platform 10

TAKING A photograph of the drab old Platform 10 at King's Cross station, I told a quick-witted chap that Boadicea's bones lay buried under it. He quipped, "Did she die waiting for a train to Royston?"

Yes, well, in Boadicea's time it was no joke. (You say Boudicca? Fair enough.) By some historical opinions she nearly threw Nero's hated Romans out of Britain at that very spot - "Queen's Cross" would perhaps be a better name for what should really be one of England's greatest shrines.

Upon his death in AD 60 her husband Prasutagus, king of the Iceni, who occupied what is now roughly East Anglia, left half of his fortune to his wife Boadicea and their two daughters and the other half to Nero, then emperor of Rome. Nero immediately ordered his soldiers to seize her wealth and sovereign land. Upon her protest she and her daughters were brutally scourged and her daughters also raped. There was already outrage and even active rebellion against Roman tyranny and taxation among British tribes but no concerted, strongly led action had yet been taken. Queen Boadicea, with her neighbouring tribe of Trinobantes, at last managed to spark the explosive ire of tribal leaders.

She has been described (perhaps by the Roman historian Tacitus) as having a commanding stature and appearance. Long yellow hair streamed down over her shoulders, and her dress was a many-coloured tunic fastened round the waist by a chain of gold.

History suggests she had the blessing of the Druids in her uprising. In fact, the Roman governor of Britain, Suetonius Paulinus, had already decided that he could never rule the country unless they were exterminated. He was now in the North Wales island Mona (Anglesey) with a large army slaughtering the Druids. Meanwhile, Boadicea with a large force of her own and of other tribes that joined her was trampling all before her. She had one burning wish - to see every Roman legion cut to pieces and hurled back into the sea. Marching to Colchester, she not only laid it to waste with fire and sword but also slaughtered a whole legion that came to relieve the garrison.

One Roman weakness in Britain was that many centres were held almost entirely by retired soldiers. They were perfectly capable of collecting taxes and quelling small revolts, but a determined force such as Boadicea's was completely beyond their ability to contain. From Colchester her by now vast force of battle chariots with long knives fixed to the wheel hubs sacked the important Roman centre of Verulamium (St Albans). She then took and destroyed London.

The present area of King's Cross used to be called Battle Bridge and it is here that excavations for the present railway station unearthed evidence of Roman battle equipment. Suetonius had by this time hastened back from Anglesey with a force of barely 10,000 men.

He was seriously concerned, not only about problems of keeping his legions fed but with the vast potential threat of Boadicea's growing capability of carrying out her unswerving aim of defeating the Romans. Wherever she had fought she showed no mercy, killing all and taking no prisoners. Britain torn from the grip of Rome was a distinct possibility! Boadicea's forces would far outnumber Suetonius' in direct combat. There was surely a distinct suggestion of fear and chaos among his soldiers, their phalanxes remorselessly cut down by Boadicea's flashing chariot-knives. In the end, however, Roman military training and discipline won the day.

Her ignominious and cruel fate now in the hands of the Romans, Boadicea and her daughters are said historically to have taken poison on the battlefield when the outcome was no longer in doubt. So today, there lie her bones, under Platform 10. We should tread gently o'er that ground.

Douglas Greenwood is the author of `Who's Buried Where in England' (Constable, 26 July, pounds 9.99)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future