His limp and stuttering speech assisted him greatly in creating this image but once he was proclaimed emperor he didn’t fear to show his true (good) self. It must be said that if Claudius had been acting he had done it very well because even his own mother referred to him as an abortion but certainly he turned out to be an excellent emperor.
Under Claudius many public engineering works were undertaken (“Claudius” mineral water is drunk to this day!). He himself enjoyed taking part in the great projects. One of these involved the draining of a lake. When all was ready after 11 years worth of preparatory works he had a great naval battle arranged on the lake, fought by 20,000 convicts and watched upon by the citizens of Rome.
In spite of having no military experienced he left Rome in the year 43 AD to conquer Britain. The people of Rome found this unlikely expedition amusing but he was good and careful to choose his generals well and it is interesting to note that the future emperor Vespasian fought under him. To everyone’s surprise Claudius came back in glory. He was magnanimous and dignified with his vanquished enemies and was the first emperor to grant freedom to an enemy king: Caractacus.
Unfortunately for Claudius he loved women. His fourth marriage is well remembered because his wife Messalina matched his sexual appetite and it is difficult to decide which of them had more extra marital relationships. Apparently she enjoyed sneaking off at nights and working in incognito as a prostitute till morning. Eventually Messalina had to be put to death as she was under suspicion of plotting to take over the throne with her lover. With his fifth marriage he made the mistake of marrying his thirty-year-old niece Agrippina. Agrippina was a particularly power hungry woman who like Augustus’ wife Livia was obsessed with her son’s career. Agrippina grew tired of waiting for her son Nero to become emperor and so she poisoned Claudius with a plate of mushrooms.