Ever wondered about Lady Godiva? Wonder no more ...
associate the name “Godiva” with a brand of Belgian chocolates, but it was
first popularized as part of a 900-year-old English legend. The original Lady
Godiva was an 11th century noblewoman married to Leofric, the powerful Earl of
Mercia and Lord of Coventry. As the story goes, Godiva was troubled by the
crippling taxes Leofric had levied on the citizens of Coventry. After she
repeatedly asked him to lessen the burden, Leofric quipped that he would lower
taxes only if she rode naked on horseback through the center of town.
Determined to help the public, Godiva stripped off her clothes, climbed on her
horse and galloped through the market square with only her long flowing hair to
cover herself. Before leaving, she ordered the people of Coventry to remain
inside their homes and not peek, but one man, named Tom, couldn’t resist
opening his window to get an eyeful. Upon doing so, this “Peeping Tom” was
struck blind. After finishing her naked ride, Godiva confronted her husband and
demanded that he hold up his end of the bargain. True to his word, Leofric
reduced the people’s debts.
historians consider her nude horseback ride a myth, Lady Godiva—or “Godgifu” as
some sources call her—was indeed a real person from the 11th century. The
historical Godiva was known for her generosity to the church, and along with
Leofric, she helped found a Benedictine monastery in Coventry. Contemporary
accounts of her life note that “Godgifu” was one of only a few female landowners
in England in the 1000s, but they make no mention of a clothes-free horseback
ride. That story appears to have first cropped up some 100 years after her
death in a book by the English monk Roger of Wendover, who was known for
stretching the truth in his writings. The legend of “Peeping Tom,” meanwhile,
didn’t become a part of the tale until the 16th century. The Godiva myth was
later popularized in songs and in verse by the likes of Alfred, Lord Tennyson,
who wrote a famous poem called “Godiva” in 1840.
Clancy's comment: Well, there ya go. Now, ya know.