Monday, 28 January 2008

Britannia ... or Boudica ?

A bit of consternation in Little Britain that Britannia is to be removed from the 50p coin.

Apparently it's 'political correctness gone mad again' and an attack on British values.
Tory historian, Churchill hagiographer and British Empire cheerleader Andrew Roberts has lent some intellectual gravitas to the cause.

But why the fuss ?

Britannia was the invention of a repressive superpower who gave the name to these islands when we were a far flung colony, and created a quasi-goddesss as its personification. (I’m talking of course about the Romans not the Americans, they are far less colourful and prefer to call us simply ‘Yuurp’).

She then fell into disuse for a long time until it was politically expedient in the seventeenth century to find something to tie together the new and far from united kingdoms of England and Scotland. So one of Charles II’s mistresses posed for the design that was used on the farthing coin. Ironically once things had gone full circle for Britain, from Roman colony to world superpower, ‘Rule Britannia’ became the theme tune for our own brand of imperialism.

Over the years she may have become confused in the national psyche with Boudica, a confusion that the Romans would have found highly ironic. But in Boudica there really is a genuine national icon worthy of commemoration.

A female war leader who took ferocious revenge against injustice and came close to driving out a tyrannical empire. A proto-femminist with wild red hair and probably tattoos as well. I suspect that Andrew Roberts and company would not have approved of her at all.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Isn't it funny how all these things Daily Mail readers tout as being part of our long and glorious traditions really are nothing of the sort. Starting with Christmas, a Victorian invention, brought over from Germany . . .