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Sunday, 15 May 2011

Cartimandua (Roman British Queen of Brigantes Celts) AD43 - AD69

Brigante Queen Cartimandua of Roman Britain


Because Celtic society enabled woman to hold more powers then most; Celtic ladies are often made Icons. Much of this is due to legend and fascinations - plus, of course, Queen Boadicea of the Iceni Britons. Not all were as bold as Queen Boadicea, but perhaps some were more successful then given credit for. It is difficult to say if Queen Cartimandua was a traitor or someone trying to make the best of a bad situation.  

Cartimandua probably gets a less kind press then she deserves. I think the reason for this is because she does not have the Boadicea glow of the famous Celtic warrior queen. Writers of romantic historical fiction and followers of Celtic myth often present her in less kind ways. On the other hand, she lived in harsh times and perhaps, made tough decisions for the greater good. 


This Celtic queen of Brigantes was in power from 43 AD to 69 AD. She was regent of the Brigantes during the time of the Catuvellauni King Caratacus. He lost his kingdom to the Romans but remained at large trying to rally support to continue fighting the Roman conquerors. Try as he might, the Romans always defeated him when ever he was able to muster support. Finally in 50 AD he fled from the sanctuary he had found in North Wales to the northern kingdom of the Brigantes - ruled by Queen Cartimandua and her husband Venutius. He arrived before Cartimandua requesting sanctuary. Instead, the queen had him bound in chains and handed over to the Romans. She had established good trust with the Romans and had taken power when some of the Brigantes tribe had tried to resist the original conquest, first started by Emperor Claudius in 43 AD.


The section of Brigante tribesman that did resist were defeated by a Roman leader called Publius Ostorius Scapula in 48 AD. Cartimandua might have aided the Romans in some way by restraining tribesman from joining the fight against Rome, or she might have been in power before, and condemned the Brigante sections that did resist. It is difficult to know if she was seizing an opportunity to rule the Brigantes or trying to play intricate politics in difficult situations when already in power. She was probably wise to what the Romans could do and so offered to collaborate and remain regent.

If this was so, why did Caratacus take the chance of standing before Cartimandua and asking for sanctuary? He had been fighting the Romans for a number of years and would surely know that she was allied to the them. Maybe he was trying to reach Caledonia (Today's Scotland) and was captured passing through - who knows?

This act of betraying Caratacus caused a rift among the Briganties and Cartimandua's husband Venutius became opposed to her. He tried to usurp her power and take the Brigante kingdom for himself. This was in 50 AD.

She was able to count on the friendship of a man called Vellocatus who was once a subordinate of her husband Venutius. Also the Romans sent her aid with an army. With the help of Rome and her loyal followers she was able to defeat and drive Venutius away.

The Roman historian Tacitus mentions her as a friend of Rome and for a further 19 years she would remain in control and collaborating with Rome. When the Iceni Queen Boadicea (Boudicca) led her rebellion, Cartimandua would not send Brigante forces to aid the Iceni queen. It is possible that such requests never came to her.

Cartimandua's exiled husband Venutius remained in his sanctuary watching and waiting. Then in 69 AD - some nineteen years after being driven out of the Brigante lands, Rome was weakened by its own internal political strife. It was the year of four Emperors. Venutius launched an invasion of the Brigante lands and Cartimandua could only get limited help from the Roman administration. She was driven out of Brigante and into the sanctuary of Roman held territory. She never returned and history lost account of what became of her.

It is not known exactly when or if Venutius was brought to account for his anti Roman invasion or if he remained their chieftain/king, but the Brigantes would remain un-pacified as a people for several decades to come until the early part of the second century.

Cartimandua faded from history and no one knows when she died. She never reclaimed her kingdom and many Celts believed her to be treacherous. Maybe the Romans thought so too. Perhaps she was no longer of use to them once she fled the Brigante lands. With no confidence in her continued ability to keep the Brigantes in check, she was persuaded to retire into another region of the Empire and live in anonymity.


Sources:

HISTORIC UK

ANCIENT ORIGINS

BBC HISTORY

HISTORICAL ARTICLES


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