Today, she is mainly remembered for a legend dating back at least to the 13th century, in which she rode naked—covered only in her long hair—through the streets of Coventry to gain a remission of the oppressive taxation that her husband, Leofric, imposed on his tenants. The name "Peeping Tom" for a voyeur originates from later versions of this legend, in which a man named Thomas watched her ride and was struck blind or dead.
Godiva was the wife of Leofric , Earl of Mercia. They had nine children; one son was Aelfgar. Godiva's name occurs in charters and the Domesday survey , though the spelling varies. Since the name was a popular one, there are contemporaries of the same name. If she is the same Godiva who appears in the history of Ely Abbey , the Liber Eliensis , written at the end of the 12th century, then she was a widow when Leofric married her. Both Leofric and Godiva were generous benefactors to religious houses.
In Leofric founded and endowed a Benedictine monastery at Coventry  on the site of a nunnery destroyed by the Danes in Writing in the 12th century, Roger of Wendover credits Godiva as the persuasive force behind this act. In the s, her name is coupled with that of her husband on a grant of land to the monastery of St. The manor of Woolhope in Herefordshire , along with four others, was given to the cathedral at Hereford before the Norman Conquest by the benefactresses Wulviva and Godiva—usually held to be this Godiva and her sister.
The church there has a 20th-century stained glass window representing them. Her signature, Ego Godiva Comitissa diu istud desideravi [I, The Countess Godiva, have desired this for a long time], appears on a charter purportedly given by Thorold of Bucknall to the Benedictine monastery of Spalding.
However, this charter is considered spurious by many historians. See Lucy of Bolingbroke. After Leofric's death in , his widow lived on until sometime between the Norman Conquest of and She is mentioned in the Domesday survey as one of the few Anglo-Saxons and the only woman to remain a major landholder shortly after the conquest. By the time of this great survey in , Godiva had died, but her former lands are listed, although now held by others. The place where Godiva was buried has been a matter of debate.
According to the account in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography , "There is no reason to doubt that she was buried with her husband at Coventry, despite the assertion of the Evesham chronicle that she lay in Holy Trinity, Evesham. The legend of the nude ride is first recorded in the 13th century, in the Flores Historiarum and the adaptation of it by Roger of Wendover.
Despite its considerable age, it is not regarded as plausible by modern historians,  nor is it mentioned in the two centuries intervening between Godiva's death and its first appearance, while her generous donations to the church receive various mentions. According to the typical version of the story,   Lady Godiva took pity on the people of Coventry, who were suffering grievously under her husband's oppressive taxation. Lady Godiva appealed again and again to her husband, who obstinately refused to remit the tolls.
At last, weary of her entreaties, he said he would grant her request if she would strip naked and ride on a horse through the streets of the town. Lady Godiva took him at his word, and after issuing a proclamation that all persons should stay indoors and shut their windows, she rode through the town, clothed only in her long hair. Just one person in the town, a tailor ever afterwards known as Peeping Tom , disobeyed her proclamation in what is the most famous instance of voyeurism.
Some historians have discerned elements of pagan fertility rituals in the Godiva story, whereby a young " May Queen " was led to the sacred Cofa's tree , perhaps to celebrate the renewal of spring. In a chronicle written in the s, Richard Grafton claimed the version given in Flores Historiarum originated from a "lost chronicle" written between and by the Prior of the monastery of Coventry. Other attempts to find a more plausible rationale for the legend include one based on the custom at the time for penitents to make a public procession in their shift , a sleeveless white garment similar to a slip today and one which was certainly considered "underwear".
Thus Godiva might have actually travelled through town as a penitent, in her shift. Godiva's story could have passed into folk history to be recorded in a romanticised version. Another theory has it that Lady Godiva's "nakedness" might refer to her riding through the streets stripped of her jewellery, the trademark of her upper class rank. However, these attempts to reconcile known facts with legend are both weak; in the era of the earliest accounts, the word "naked" is only known to mean "without any clothing whatsoever".
A modified version of the story was given by printer Richard Grafton , later elected MP for Coventry. According to his Chronicle of England , "Leofricus" had already exempted the people of Coventry from "any maner of Tolle, Except onely of Horses", so that Godiva "Godina" in text had agreed to the naked ride just to win relief for this horse tax. And as a condition, she required the officials of Coventry to forbid the populace "upon a great pain" from watching her, and to shut themselves in and shutter all windows on the day of her ride.
The ballad "Leoffricus" in the Percy Folio ca. The story of Peeping Tom, who alone among the townsfolk spied on the Lady Godiva's naked ride, probably did not originate in literature, but came about through popular lore in the locality of Coventry.
Reference by 17th-century chroniclers has been claimed,  but all the published accounts are 18th-century or later. According to an article submitted by someone well versed in local history and identifying himself as W.
Reader,  there was already a well-established tradition that there was a certain tailor who had spied on Lady Godiva, and that at the annual Trinity Great Fair now called the Godiva Festival featuring the Godiva processions "a grotesque figure called Peeping Tom" would be set on display, and it was a wooden statue carved from oak. The author has dated this effigy , based on the style of armour he is shown wearing, from the reign of Charles II d.
The same writer felt the legend had to be subsequent to William Dugdale d. See date below, and the alternate suggested name "Action". Reader dates the first Godiva procession to ,  but other sources date the first parade to , and on that year a lad from the household of James Swinnerton enacted the role of Lady Godiva.
Next, Thomas Pennant in Journey from Chester to London recounted: "[T]he curiosity of a certain taylor overcoming his fear, he took a single peep".
Additional legend proclaims that Peeping Tom was later struck blind as heavenly punishment, or that the townspeople took the matter in their own hands and blinded him.
The oldest painting was commissioned by the County of the City of Coventry in and produced by Adam van Noort , a refugee Flemish artist. His painting depicts a "voluptuously displayed" Lady Godiva against the background of a "fantastical Italianate Coventry". In addition the Gallery has collected many Victorian interpretations of the subject described by Marina Warner as "an oddly composed Landseer , a swooning Watts and a sumptuous Alfred Woolmer ".
When he died in , the Pre-Raphaelite -style painting was offered to the Corporation of Hampstead. He specified in his will that should his bequest be refused by Hampstead presumably on grounds of propriety the painting was then to be offered to Coventry.
The painting now hangs in the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. Jules Joseph Lefebvre , Lady Godiva , Lady Godiva at Maidstone Museum. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other uses, see Godiva disambiguation. For other uses, see Peeping Tom disambiguation. England portal. Main article: Lady Godiva in popular culture. Coventry: A Century of News. Coventry Evening Telegraph. Retrieved 30 January Diplomatarium anglicum aevi saxonici: A collection of English charters. London: MacMillan. Darlington, P.
McGurk and J. Bray Clarendon Press: Oxford , pp. Cornell, , pp. Keats-Rohan , Domesday People: A prosopography of persons occurring in English documents — , vol.
Antiquities of Warwickshire. Harvard Magazine. Retrieved 5 March Godiva of Coventry. With a chapter on the folk tradition of the story by H. Ellis Davidson.
Coventry [Eng. Journal of Medieval History. Archived from the original on 16 March Retrieved 16 March BBC News. Grafton, Richard London: P. The Gentleman's Magazine. Dugdale, even hints at the circumstance in question. We may safely, therefore, appropriate it to the reign of Charles II". Sydney, Science of Fairy Tales , , p.
D:"31 May , being the great Fair at Coventry.. Pennant Journey from Chester to London calls him 'a certain taylor. Rapin de Thoyras; N. Tindal Thomas tr. The History of England. Retrieved 26 July Coxe, Henry O. Rogeri de Wendover, Chronica, sive Flores Historiarum. London: H. Bohn, p.