Jan Surasky

Discussion Questions

  1. Boudicca has just turned sixteen when the novel opens. She is very much a free spirit and rebels inwardly against the pomp and ceremony of royal life. How does the author show Boudicca’s rebellion? Also, how does Boudicca actually handle her royal duty?
  2. As Boudicca leaves Diviticus and runs down to the banks of the Devon River she searches for Linnea who has been her friend since early childhood. Linnea is the daughter of a farmer, a way of life described as very simple, all about subsistence, with long hours of labor. Despite the difficult life Linnea was born into, what is her character like? What does it show about Boudicca that despite her royal birth she embraces Linnea as a friend?
  3. Nature plays a large part throughout the entire novel. It is very much present as Boudicca runs down the hill beneath her palace toward the beautiful Devon River and roams the countryside as a teenager on her beloved pony Tricerbantes. It continues throughout as Queen Boudicca picnics with her daughters in the countryside and surrounds the many precious meetings she has with Venutius. It is there contrasting the horror of the many battles Boudicca leads, and surrounds the characters as they make their final decisions in the novel. Why do you think the author chose to feature nature so prominently?
  4. Boudicca is attracted to Venutius and he to her and the two spend many happy and carefree times together. But, true to her royal heritage Boudicca must wed a tribal chieftain of her father’s choosing. Boudicca’s father promised her he would not make an alliance for her with someone she did not like. Did he keep his promise? What was the impact of Boudicca’s arranged marriage on Venutius? On Boudicca?
  5. Prasutagus is a very kind and thoughtful husband to Boudicca and she returns his caring. But, she does not agree with his political views when he decides to make a pact with the Romans when they invade Briton, giving up all rights to bear arms and bearing the burden of severe taxes to go into the Roman coffers, rather than fight for their freedom as her friend and chieftain Caractacus has done for several years. She remains a dutifully silent wife on the matter. Do you think she made the right decision?
  6. Boudicca is delighted at the birth of both her daughters and spends many happy hours travelling the countryside, picnicking and enjoying idle time together with them as they grow. How do you think she handled her relationship with them given her many royal duties as queen of a very large and wealthy tribe?
  7. The Romans honored the pact that Prasutagus made with them during his lifetime as a client-king of the Roman empire after the Roman army invaded Briton. In his will he left half of his great wealth to the Roman emperor and half to his daughters in the hope that this would protect Boudicca and the Iceni people from Rome after his death. But, it did not. What did these decisions say about the character of Prasutagus? How did Boudicca differ from her husband in these matters?
  8. When the Roman veterans’ colony of Camulodunum attacked the Iceni after the death of Prasutagus, and humiliated Boudicca publicly by flogging her in front of her tribespeople, how did she take the attack? What did breaking the pact that they had honored with Prasutagus and attacking Boudicca say about the Romans’ attitude toward women?
  9. During the attack upon her, Boudicca thought of the pain of the beating but her first thoughts were also of the safety of her daughters. How did she respond when she found them and realized they had been attacked?
  10. After the attack Boudicca saw to it that her daughters were nursed back to health with the help of a group of Iceni women. But, when she herself recovered, she enlisted the help of retired Iceni warriors who had not been taken as slaves by the Romans to teach her the art of battle. She also took her daughters into battle with her to ride alongside her. What message did that send to her daughters? What message did it send to the Romans?
  11. Women were not warriors in Celtic society. Boudicca’s reasons for fighting the Roman invaders were very clear. She was avenging her public flogging, the vicious attack upon her young daughters, and fighting for the freedom from oppression for the tribes of her beloved countryside. She had to convince the thousands of warriors who were all men to follow her. What do you think convinced the warriors to follow Boudicca into battle?
  12. Boudicca gained a lot of victories, including freeing Londinium, the largest port city in Briton. But, due to the superior military training and strength of the Roman army, she eventually lost the battle, making the decision to take her own life so the Celts who survived would have a symbol of valor than one of humiliation in a queen who would be dragged about the streets of Rome and jeered at and finally put to death in disgrace. Boudicca’s valiant rebellion was the last before Rome actually took over England. Rome obviously won the physical war. But Rome as a conquering power declined centuries ago and we still celebrate Boudicca in story, poetry, and song and with her statue prominently displayed over the River Thames in London. Who do you think won the war of ideas?
  13. In this book, the author depicts Boudicca as just another teenager, albeit a royal one, roaming her countryside and enjoying all the beauties of nature the British lands have to offer. As a queen she is rather placid, going along with her husband’s political views and decisions rather than interjecting her own which are opposite to the views of her husband on the invasion of Rome. But, when the slothful veterans of the nearby town of Camulodunum decide to take advantage of her widowed state and break the pact which Rome had sealed with her late husband, she rebels and leads an army to near victory. There were many atrocities practiced against the numerous tribes Rome conquered in the many lands they invaded. What do you think made Boudicca stand up to the Romans rather than take a docile stand which obviously most of the conquered victims of Rome’s invasions took?
  14. Boudicca is depicted in most writings as a fierce warrior, often depicting her as a fierce hunter as early as the age of seven. Yet, there is no knowledge of this since the only known writings we have of Boudicca have been written by the Romans many years after the facts and deal only with her rebellion against the Roman army. Yet, this author depicts Boudicca as a normal youth without warrior-like tendencies and even depicts her as a normal and tender wife and mother without fierce tendencies. Why do you think people have assumed she was fierce at the age of seven? Do you think that writers have assumed all famous generals, all of whom were male, throughout history have been fierce hunters at the age of seven?
  15. Courage comes in many forms, often showing itself in the smallest detail. It is not only famous great deeds that make up courage. Often, people show great courage every day, even in the smallest way. Do you think that courage is inborn, as many people would have us believe by depicting Boudicca as fierce from early childhood? Or, do you think it resides in every one of us, ready to show itself when we make a decision to call on it?
  16. Boudicca made the decision to take her own life so the Celts would have a symbol of courage rather than one of disgrace and defeat. She also cared for the safety of her daughters as she did this. As the author tells us in the endnote, Boudicca’s battle was the last fought against the Romans before complete defeat, when many Celts escaped the Romans by fleeing to what is now Ireland. The Celts who remained in what is now England became “Romanized”, sublimating their culture to that of the Romans. What do you think Boudicca’s legacy to history and humanity was? What do you think the Celts’ legacy to humanity was?