The Iceni are a large eastern British tribe. In Sutcliff's fiction they are nominally matriarchal and associated with female characters, of whom the most notable is Boudicca.

Timeline Edit

  • Iron Age (Sun Horse, Moon Horse) – Established as a horse-breeding matriarchal kingdom in eastern Britain.
  • 5 generations before 100 BCE (SHMH) – Queen's younger son conquers the High Chalk.
  • 100 BCE (SHMH) – Iceni of the High Chalk conquered by the Atribates, migrate to Argyll.
  • 43 CE (Song for a Dark Queen) – Roman conquest
  • 49 CE (SFADQ) – Disarmament, minor revolt.
  • 61 CE (SFADQ) – Boudiccan revolt.
  • 117 CE (The Eagle of the Ninth) – Revolt.
  • 126 CE (EOTN) – Valaria and Cottia are Romanised.
  • c. 450 CE (The Lantern Bearers) – Jutes are settled in "old Iceni territory".

Sun Horse, Moon Horse (100 BCE)Edit

The clan of Fortress Hill are an offshoot of the Iceni whose founding ancestor was a younger son of an Icenian queen. They are conquered and nearly wiped out by The Atrebates, but allowed to go free and migrate north to become The Epidii.

  • (1), [history] "Five times the life of a man, the Strong Place had crouched there, ever since the young men of the tribe, following a queen's youngest son, had come thrusting along the Downs from the vast flat grasslands far to the north-east, to find new lands for themselves in the way of young men all the world over. They had brought their women and their children and their horse herds with them. They were of the Iceni, the Horse People, breeders and breakers of horses, counting their wealth not in gold, but in stallions and rough-coated two-year-olds and foaling mares, and trained chariot teams."
  • (2) [matrineality] "It was a fine thing to have sons, but among Lubrin's people, kingship and chieftainship did not pass down from father to son, but were carried down by the daughters to the men they married. Tigernann was chieftain because he was married to the old chief's daughter, the Woman of the Clan. Now he had a daughter of his own, and so his line would carry on the chieftainship after him; and the clan feasted accordingly."
  • (3) [warrior training] "Every spring, on the day after the Beltane fires had burned out, the boys of the clan who had turned nine since last Beltane entered the Boys' House, the long low building at the lower end of the chieftain's forecourt, to begin their warrior training. There were many things they must learn and skills they must master; skills of the war spear and the horse herd and the hunting trail. They had to learn the use of sword and spear and sling; how to kill and how to suffer pain with a shut mouth. They had to learn how to keep a whole herd on the move, and cut out a single colt for branding from among a cloud of flying yearlings. They had to learn how to build a chariot, for every one of the Men's Side must serve as a charioteer in his early years before he became a chariot-warrior himself, and every charioteer must be able to mend or replace the worn of broken parts of the chariot he drove. They must be able to break and train a chariot team as well as drive it. They must learn from the priest, Ishtoreth of the Oak, how to read and write the word-magic cut on peeled willow-rods; and from Sinnoch they must learn by heart the songs that held within them the history of their people. And all these things and many more they must master in just seven years."
  • (3) [dress] "[Saba's] hair was gathered into an embroidered net, as many women of the Iceni wore it."
  • "no woman of the clan could go to a husband's hearth before she was turned fourteen." (5).
  • "There were so few of them [going north], less than two hundred to the youngest child." (12).
  • Worship Epona the Mother of Foals.

Song for a Dark Queen (60 CE)Edit

The Iceni are a horse-breeding tribe of eastern Britain, north of the Trinovantes and Catuvellauni and south of the Parisi. They live in clans, with a King who rules by right of marriage to the Queen (though he continues to rule after her death) (1). The future King is selected for the Royal Daughter when she is in her early teens, by the chief of the Oak Priests in a magic sleep during the Choosing Feast (2). The Royal Daughter becomes Queen after the deaths of both her parents, and her husband becomes King by the Oak Priest touching his forehead with a spear. Dead monarchs are cremated and laid in a long mound, the Royal Place of Sleep, with grave goods to serve them in the next world (3).

King and Queen sit in on the Council, which they cannot overrule. The King appears to be the executive, and gains prestige by accomplishments in warfare and by begetting Royal Daughters to carry on the Queen's line.

The Queen has Priestly duties. She wears a silver moon headdress and white mare's hide on certain occasions, is crowned in a mask, and offers Epona a sacrifice of grain and milk on the full moon on behalf of the kingdom, as ordinary women do for their households (7). The Iceni celebrate the Corn Feast at harvest time with the sacrifice of the Corn King, an enthroned sheaf of grain (14).

Iceni horse herds are handled by "free men of the people", not slaves. (7)

Boudicca the young Queen marries Prasutagus, the son of a wealthy chieftain of the closely-allied Parisi (3). The Iceni submit to a client kingdom relationship to the Roman emperor Claudius and are partially disarmed by the governor of Britain (4). Prasutagus leaves half his personal wealth to the emperor Nero, which the Romans, unaware that the Iceni are matrilineal, interpret as leaving his kingdom outright (6).

Death of a City (TCB) (60 CE)Edit

As explained by the British slave Cordaella, the Iceni are a client people of Rome who follow the Old Ways, that is, their royal succession is matrilineal. They come into conflict with Rome when the emperor seizes their territory on the death of their King, and the Queen destroys three Roman cities before her defeat.

The Eagle of the Ninth (126 CE)Edit

Cottia and her aunt Valaria are Romanised Iceni. Though in later works like Sun Horse, Moon Horse and Song for a Dark Queen the Iceni are pointedly matrilineal, in The Eagle of the Ninth Cottia has been sent away to her mother's sister after her mother's remarriage, as her new husband is willing to welcome his stepsons, but not a stepdaughter.

  • 'My father's big stallion was descended from Prydfirth, the beloved of King Prasutogus,' said Cottia. 'We are all horse-breeders, we of the Iceni, from the King downward – when we had a king.'
  • [Family life] 'I expect that all is well with my mother,' said Cottia, matter-of-factly. 'There was a hunter who wanted her always, but her parents gave her to my father. And when my father went West of the Sunset, she went to the hunter, and there was no room in his house for me. It was different with my brothers, of course. It is always different with boys. So my mother gave me to Aunt Valaria, who has no children of her own.'
  • '[Men] of the [Ninth] Legion carried out the procurator's orders to dispossess the Queen of the Iceni. Her name was Boudicca, maybe you have heard of her? [...] When at last the rising failed, the Queen took poison, and maybe her death gave potency to her cursing.' – Guern
  • 'Trajan died, and the tribes rose. Barely had we settled with the Brigantes and the Iceni when we were ordered up into Valentia to hammer the Caledonians.' – Guern

The Lantern Bearers (c. 450 CE) Edit

The Fen country, now held by Jute settlers, is remembered as former Iceni territory. Where or who the Iceni now are is unmentioned.

  • (1) 'When Vortigern called in that Saxon war band and settled them in the old Iceni territory to hold off the Picts, five – no, six years ago, everyone wagged their heads and said it was the end of Britain.' – Aquila
  • "For the hordes of Hengest were on the move, not as a swift, forward thrust this time, but as a slow, inflowing tide. They were moving down from the fens of the old Iceni territory, and up from the bride-gift lands of the south-east to the upper Tamesis Valley..."


  • Arviragus
  • Baruch
  • Boudicca
  • Brach
  • Bran
  • Brockmail
  • Bryn
  • Cadog
  • Cadwan
  • Caer
  • Cassal
  • Cerdic
  • Corfil
  • Cottia
  • Dara
  • Duatha
  • Drochmail
  • Essylt
  • Gault the Bronzesmith
  • Gretorix Hard-Council
  • Ishtoreth
  • Kuno
  • Lubrin Dhu
  • Meradoc Wide-Mouth
  • Merddyn
  • Nessan
  • Saba
  • Sinnoch
  • Teleri
  • Tigernann
  • Vadrex
  • Valaria
  • Urien


  • Iceni territory (the Fen country; East Anglia)
    • The Royal Garth (1) at the king's summer steading. Foaling runs and pens and stables; hedge and oak woods and marsh pools; Women's Quarters; grazing lands, salt marshes seawards, oak woods inland
      • Guest-huts, Hall, Royal Village, in-pasture below, Weapon Court before the Hall (2).
      • Royal House of Sleep (3), columbarium grave mound
    • The High Chalk (3), "a ridgeway linking us to the outside world." (3)
    • Forest clearings of the Oak Priests (3)
    • Island of the nine thorn trees (10), where Boudicca holds her secret war councils
  • The High Chalk (1), the (North) Downs (White Horse Vale, Oxfordshire)
    • The Fortress Hill, the Strong Place, dun of the Chieftain, a triple-walled turf fortress on the highest point of the chalk, containing a timber hall (1). East of the pass through the Chalk (5).
    • The valley, farms of most of the clan
    • The woods, steadings and hiding places for livestock
    • Other strongpoints, outposts, used as corrals
    • The horse runs to the west of the dun
    • The Boys' House (3), part of the Chieftain's dun
    • "A great wych-elm on the edge of one of the forest clearings" (3), Lubrin's childhood refuge, on the opposite side of the valley north of Fortress Hill
    • The Ridgeway (3), with "the way of the Horse People that shadowed it along the lower slopes" that cross an "ancient" north-south trade road
    • the sacred grove (4), nine apple trees in a sheltered hollow of the Chalk
    • The Dragon Hill (9), a hill below and to the left [east] of Fortress Hill, housing a dragon and a magic spear, above which the White Horse is built
    • The White Horse (9), built on the northward slope of the Chalk below Fortress Hill