Not long after the Roman conquest of Britain in AD 43, Boudicca became the Queen of the Iceni (a powerful tribe in modern-day Norfolk).
In AD 60, she led her warriors in a revolt against Britain’s Roman rulers and was initially very successful. Her forces utterly destroyed the cities of Camulodunum (Colchester), Londinium (London) and Verulamium (St Albans), and amassed a huge following of other Britons looking to throw off Roman control.
She was finally defeated in a battle to the north-west of London, somewhere along Watling Street. Roman sources claim that a force of only 10,000 soldiers stood against 230,000 warriors – which is most likely exaggerated but there is no question that she had hugely superior numbers.
In his 1937 book Boadicea – Warrior Queen of the Britons, Lewis Spence suggested, with no real evidence, that the opposing armies had fought on land now occupied by the railway stations of King’s Cross and St Pancras.
The Roman historian Cassius Dio, writing over a century after the battle, suggested that, in defeat, Boudicca “fell ill and died” before her followers put on a lavish burial. In truth, this seems unlikely, as Dio provides no source for the claim and, in the aftermath of the revolt, the Iceni fell victim to brutal and relentless reprisals.
This hasn’t prevented people searching for a grave, and the myth that her final resting place lies somewhere beneath platforms 9 and 10 of King’s Cross – probably thanks to Spence’s book – is still popular.
Given this specific location, the story appears to have inspired JK Rowling, who famously placed the departure point of the Hogwarts Express at King’s Cross Platform 9¾. It is unclear whether the 2,000-year-old Queen has ever attended Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.