Russell Baker on Warrior Queen
Former New York Times columnist and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Russell Baker has been the host of Masterpiece Theatre since 1993. Mr. Baker introduces each program episode, and his personally researched and written comments add context and background to our understanding of the film we're about to watch. His comments frequently provide a uniquely American perspective on the mores and lifestyles of the British.
More commentaries by Russell Baker, as well as commentaries by his predecessor in the hosting chair, Alistair Cooke, can be found for select programs in The Archive.
Tonight's story takes us into the mist of Britain's earliest history, a time when it is hard to disentangle fact and legend.
That a "warrior queen" -- Queen Boudica, sometimes called Boadicea -- actually existed is fact. That she led a massive uprising against a Roman army of occupation is well established. That Roman legions were severely mauled seems clear. Stories about the extent of slaughter on both sides vary wildly.
The story of that revolt has made Queen Boudica a British legend big enough to rate a large statue at Westminster Bridge in the shadow of Big Ben.
Our story begins in the first century A.D.
The Romans have already been in Britain for a hundred years, but still cannot subdue all its fractious tribes. Elsewhere in this warm-blooded Mediterranean empire, conquered people accept the Pax Romana and send their taxes to Rome.
But these early Britons are tribal people of the chilly north -- too alien to settle peaceably into imperial Roman culture. They enjoy warfare and kill with pleasure. For guidance they look to priest-like figures of the mysterious Druid world who seem to have magical powers and ability to foresee the future.
Now, Warrior Queen.
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