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The Battle of Watling Street


Julius Caesar first came to Britain in 55BC but decided not to invade. For the following ninety-eight years, or so, the Empire traded with the Britons, but its soldiers were still suspicious of the inhabitants and their strange traditions. Subsequent Emperors considered invading Britannia, but despite three planned invasions by Augustus, it was Claudius who pressed ahead in AD43.

The Roman Army in Britain was drawn up mainly of Italians, Spanish and French troops. The Romans faced fierce opposition, and in AD50, the most famous resistance leader, Caratacus, was captured and taken to Rome, presumably to be killed after a triumphal parade. But surprisingly, after giving an impassioned speech to the Senate, Caratacus was allowed to go free and lived the rest of his life in peace in Rome.

Back in Britannia, Prasatagus, King of the Iceni tribe, ruled as a nominally independent ally of Rome. When he died, in AD60 OR 61, he left his kingdom equally to his two daughters and the Roman Emperor. Inexplicably, the Romans repaid this act by flogging his wife, Boudica, and raping their two daughters.

Outraged, the Iceni rose in revolution and, led by Boudica, marched on Camulodunum (modern-day Colchester), the Roman capital of Britannia at the time. They followed up their victory by destroying Londinium (London) and Verulamium (St Albans), killing tens of thousands of Romana-Britons on the way.

The Governor of Britannia, Gaius Suetonius Paulinus, quickly raised an army of just 10,000 men to stop the rebellion, far less than what he needed. However, superbly equipped and well-trained, they marched from Isla Mona (Anglesey) to an area somewhere on the Roman road known as Watling Street. Boudica, on the other hand, had amassed a huge army of 100,000 troops and, although they were badly equipped, she was confident of an easy victory.


The Romans took up a strategically excellent position in a narrow gorge, forcing the much larger Celtic force to funnel down the battlefield, thereby negating the massive disparity in numbers. However, the superior tactics of Paulinus meant his legionaries overwhelmed Boudica’s army, and the Romans slaughtered not only the warriors and women but also the children and even the pack animals.

The only accounts of the battle are by Roman historians, and remarkably, it is estimated that the Iceni suffered 80,000 deaths against the Romans 400. This ended the Boudican rebellion, and she is believed to have subsequently taken her own life.

Boudica’s resistance set the standard for the Country that would grow to have the largest Empire the world has ever seen. The Queen of the Iceni has gone down in history as the first real British hero, and her statue stands proudly in London today.

The Battle of Watling Street

As part of our commemorative coins and medals collection, you can now get this wonderful tribute to the Battle of Watling Street, layered in beautiful 24 Carat Gold from just £14.99. For more information, click the button below.

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