Prehistory ends with the Romans and the introduction of the written word into our islands. We only know the personal names of a few 1st century Britons from the time of the Roman occupation of Britain, two of them are women, Boudicca and Cartimandua.
At the time of the Roman invasion Cartimandua, Queen of the Brigantes, was a ruler in her own right, and the living symbol of Brigantia , a tribal alliance that covered much of northern England. She is the first recorded British Queen and her royal palace is thought to have been at Stanwick, four miles south of the River Tees.
We do not know a great deal about Cartimandua but the Romans must have considered her a very important figure as they chose to maintain good relations with her. She ruled The Brigantes for twenty six years during a time of massive social upheaval and military occupation.
Roman historian, Tacitus’s account of Cartimandua is brief and not very complimentary but it does give us a glimpse into the life of an extraordinary northern British woman in the 1st Century. The fact that she managed to keep her throne, and maintain a relative peace for more than a quarter of a century during a time of war and rebellion, implys that she was a powerful leader during a period when society was rapidly changing
Apart from an account in Tacitus’s Histories there is no archaeological evidence that Cartimandua ever existed. There is a possibility that her life passed into oral history as Gwenhwyfar the wife of King Arthur and was recorded by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his work The History of the Kings of Britain.