Boadicea was one of a batch of large frigates ordered in 1795, all of which were of largest of their type, and the majority of which were to the draught of captured French ships, the Navy then being under the sway of Middleton and the French school of thought, a school supposing that the design of warships in France was of a higher quality. She was built to the draught of Imperieuse, a 40-gun ship completed in 1787 and captured in October 1793. Changes were made to the shape of the topsides, and the scantlings and fastenings were strengthened to reflect British practice. She retained her shallow French hull form, and as a result the holds and magazines were considered cramped.
Boadicea commissioned under Captain Richard Keats for service in the Channel Fleet, and experienced active service on this station for several years, including capturing the Spanish ship Union (22 guns) on 14 August 1797. She served under Captain Charles Rowley from 1801, in charge of a light squadron on the Atlantic coast of France and Spain. In 1803 Captain John Maitland commanded the ship in the Channel. In company with HMS Dryad she fell in with four French line-of-battle ships off Ferrol which had escaped from the Battle of Trafalgar under Rear-Admiral Pierre Dumanoir le Pelley. The two ships tried to lead the enemy into the path of a Royal Navy squadron by firing rockets but lost them a short time after their signals had been seen by Sir Richard Strachan. Neither Boadicea nor Dryad therefore shared in the Battle of Cape Ortegal, in which all four French ships were captured. In the autumn of 1806 Boadicea was employed protecting the whale fishery in the Davis Strait followed by service on the Irish station in 1807.
In 1808 Captain John Hatley, sailed in the Boadicea from Portsmouth for the Indian Ocean. The ship served in the long campaign to capture Mauritius. In August 1809 off Mauritius she lost her bowsprit and foremast in a collision. In September 1809 she served in a squadron of frigates and sloops in the expedition against St Paul's, on the Isle of Bourbon (Reunion), with Captain Josias Rowley the senior officer aboard Raisonnable, 64. The detachment landed without alarming the batteries which were stormed and carried. The rest of the squadron then stood into the bay and exchanged fire with the French frigate Caroline, 46. Soon the batteries, town and shipping were all in British hands for the total loss of 22 killed, 76 wounded and 4 missing.
Captain Rowley moved to Boadicea and on the 7 July 1810, and with three other frigates he escorted a force of 1,650 European soldiers and 1,600 Sepoys from Madras and 1,000 from Rodriguez to capture Réunion, the island surrendering on 9 July 1810. Under Captain Rowley Boadicea then took part in a series of separate actions against a number of French frigates and other vessels, during which a British squadron was defeated in a failed attack on Grand Port, Mauritius, the British HMS Africaine, 38, was damaged, the British Ceylon, 38, was recaptured and the French Venus captured. On 21 November 1810 Vice Admiral Bertie led a large fleet of warships and transports to attack Mauritius, the French surrendering on the 7 December 1810. Captain Rowley and the Boadicea returned to England with Vice Admiral Bertie's dispatches.
"Average under sail, not recording more than 9kts close hauled and 11.5kts off the wind, good sea boat ... tolerably handy in staying and wearing." She received extensions to her gripe and another 4 inches onto her false keel, suggesting a lack of weatherliness as built.
Boadicea is Jack Aubrey's command in the book The Mauritius Command, which follows the events of the historical Mauritius campaign, with Aubrey replacing the historical commander of Boadicea, Josias Rowley.