I think most people will have heard of Boudicca and her revolt against Roman occupation of Britain, but how many have heard of Cartimandua, Queen of the Brigantes?
Here is a bit of what is known of her life.
The Brigantes were a Celtic tribe that lived in the North of England. Their territory covered what is now Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cumbria, Northumberland and a little bit of Derbyshire. It was a large territory.
There is little if anything written about how she came to be Queen of the Brigantes, but it is assumed that she was of the Royal family and inherited her position. She was in fact the granddaughter of King Bellnorix. which would give her a claim to the throne.
She was married to a man called Venutius, and when the Romans came in 43 AD she became one of their client kings. The Roman policy was to put a local king in place. This had the dual purpose of letting the people think they were being ruled by their own and of helping secure the territories without having to commit many troops of their own. A clever tactic!
However, in 51 AD, a man named Caractacus, who was leading the resistance to Rome , was defeated in battle. He went to Cartimandua to ask for sanctuary, but instead of granting it, she put him in chains and handed him to the Romans. She gained much wealth as a reward,
This turned her people against her, and when she divorced her husband, Venutius, and married his armour-bearer, Vellocatus, this angered them even more.
Venutius used this anger to incite rebellion against his former wife, and made alliances with other Celtic tribes to invade Brigantia. The queen was lucky, though, and narrowly missed being captured thanks to the intervention of the Romans, who came to the aid of their client monarch.
Venutius waited until 69AD when Rome was in turmoil after the death of Nero. There came a period known as ‘the year of the 4 emperors’ when civil war raged in Rome. The Romans could not afford to send help to Cartimandua.
Cartimandua fled to Deva (Chester) and there she disappears from history. What happened to her? Perhaps there’s a story to be written here. I must think about it.
Thanks to Historic UK, Wikipedia and English Heritage for the help their websites have given me for this post.
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