Lady Godiva: Fiction or Bare Facts

Today’s tune: Santana with Mana, Corazon Espinado (Pierced heart)

On May 31, 1678 Lady Godiva’s legendary ride was commemorated in the Godiva Procession in Coventry, England.  The real life Godiva was a woman named Godgifu, “God gift”.  She lived in the 11th century and was an Anglo-Saxon noblewoman married to Leofric, Earl of Mercia.  Godiva and Leofric were generous benefactors to many religious houses and in 1043 Leofric founded a monastery at Coventry on the site of a nunnery destroyed by the Danes in 1016 (Hey, how about building another nunnery??).

In Godiva’s lifetime, she gave many gifts of jewels, gold and silver to the city of Coventry and other neighboring monasteries.  She is believed to have died between 1066 and 1086.

What about her ride?  The story tells that Lady Godiva took pity on the people of Coventry staggering beneath the oppressive taxes set by her husband.  She pleaded with Leofric to lessen their burden and revoke the tolls, but he refused.  Godiva persisted, and exasperated and weary of her pleas, Leofric announced that he would remit the taxes when she rode a horse, naked, through the town of Coventry at high noon.  Lady Godiva accepted his challenge, after delivering a proclamation that all the residents of the town should remain indoors with their shutters barred to protect her modesty.  She then rode through the town, clothed only in her beautiful long hair.

It gets even more interesting because it seems there is a sub-plot connected to this famous tale.  Around the 17th century, the additional appearance of a tailor named Tom surfaced.  Tom disobeyed the order not to look by boring a hole into his shutters and he watched as Godiva passed by (no kidding, can you imagine too many men following that order today? Sorry guys, but my instincts tell me I’m right about this one).  Anyway, the voyeuristic Tom was struck blind. (Oh, so sad.) In the end, Godiva’s husband kept his word and the taxes were abolished.

Factually, it was customary for people seeking penance to publically ride or walk through the streets in their shifts, “a garment similar to a slip” and considered “underwear”.  Perhaps, some scholars have speculated, Godiva did ride through Coventry in her shift. Some also think her “naked” ride was one without the jewels that an upper class lady would wear to mark her noble rank.

Fiction or fact, Lady Godiva has haunted history as a model of courage, beauty and rebelliousness, something many of us encounter or aspire to at one time or another in our lives. It is a romantic and bold symbol of a righteous heart.  As for Tom, well, isn’t he the “bad boy” of the story, and a titillating example of the daring rule breaker?  However, the story ends with Lady Godiva a hero and Peeping Tom a villain punished for his sin.  Poor Tom.

As for me—I’m going shopping for a shift or maybe a long wig!

Buon Compleanno, Collin!!!

About cinzia8

Published writer and teacher.
This entry was posted in Happenings—Posts. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Lady Godiva: Fiction or Bare Facts

  1. Susan says:

    Hey, thanks for the background on Lady Godiva. I think I heard the story sometime long ago (back in the Bronze Age, probably…), and I’ve always liked that painting.


  2. La Tedesca says:

    This makes me want to eat chocolate…. Thank you for educating us!! 🙂


  3. cinzia8 says:

    La Tedesca, Your Italian is quite good. How did you know that this might be your title? LOL
    I also love chocolate!!


  4. Gail says:

    Very educational!


  5. hocuspocus13 says:

    Reblogged this on hocuspocus13 and commented:
    jinxx xoxo


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