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The Weekend Australian

1 May 2004


Friday, May 7

Queen's grievance

Warrior Women: Boudicca
9.30pm, Discovery Channel

IF you fancy seeing former Xena babe Lucy Lawless's face smeared with semen, then you'd better tune into this documentary about Iceni ball-buster Boudicca. In fact, semen or no semen, Lawless _ who plays host _ is the most redeeming face in this low budget, low production value history lesson.

The final in a five-part series that included episodes on some of history's lesser known warrior women _ including Apache seer Lozen, Irish pirate Grace O'Malley and the fittingly or fatefully named Chinese fighter Wang Cong 'Er _ it includes interviews with academics and historians, battle re-enactments and costuming on the cheap: Romans surely didn't wear Hanes T-shirts.

Redhead Boudicca (pronounced Boo-dika), so-called after the Celtic goddess of victory, was born about AD30 to an aristocratic Celtic family. At 18 she married Prasutagus, king of the Iceni in southeast Britain, and two daughters followed. The Iceni were a client kingdom of Rome following Claudius's invasion in AD43, but because Prasutagus kept good relations with the Roman ruler he was able to maintain his peaceful rule.

However, these were the days when Roman foreign policy was genocide and Roman home policy was patriarchal _ women had no rights under Roman law and were considered the property of fathers and husbands.

So when Prasutagus died in AD60, Rome _ as expected _ refused to recognise Boudicca or her daughters as rightful heirs.

Soldiers soon arrived at Boudicca's door demanding Prasutagus's belongings and the repayment of loans. When Boudicca was unable to pay, she was tied up and whipped by Roman soldiers while her daughters were raped nearby.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and the Romans really shouldn't have messed around with this one.

Following the Romans' departure, there is a rare moment of good re-enactment, when an angry Boudicca smashes an urn of wine over the floor. Then she decides to kick some Roman arse.

Boudicca mustered an army of nearly 100,000 and using her woman's wits led her first attack on the Roman retirement town of Colchester.

After obliterating 1500 Roman pensioners she moved on to invade London, burning the city to the ground and massacring its 10,000 inhabitants. Even today, 4m below London, a layer of charred earth remains and is known by scientists as the Boudicca destruction layer.

What a woman.

Still, it's the gorgeous Lawless who steals the show, even though she spends most of the program speaking from a moving chariot, which the poor cameraperson seems to have difficulty in tracking. (``There she goes now ... woops ... right, right ... left, left ... where's Lucy gone?'')

And the semen?

Well, it's really not that sordid. In an act of true professionalism, Lawless has her face covered in war paint, which in Boudicca's time was made from blue pigment mixed with a binding agent of semen.

Perhaps the Iceni foolishly thought it a powerful substance.

It's good to stay at home on a Friday evening, but it's really not worth tuning into this kind of budget broadcasting, especially when you have to listen to people such as Paul Sealey from the Colchester Museum who _ obviously resentful of Boudicca's destruction of his town _ intends to smear our heroine's good name by labelling her an ethnic cleanser.

So let's not ruin a happy ending by mentioning Boudicca's defeat and death. And let's ignore Sealey, who calls it a spectacular failure.

Let's instead remember that if you mess with a woman, ye shall not go unpunished.

A final word: Boudicca is often misspelled as Boadicea. According to Lawless, this is the fault of the humble candle, which failed to provide enough light for late-night scribes who, blind in the dark, mistook the ``u'' for an ``a'' and the second ``c'' for an ``e''. - Jodie Minus



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