Godiva, Lady


Godiva, Lady
   The wife of Earl Leofric of Mercia, and a devout and generous patron of churches and abbeys, she was Lady of Coventry in her own right. She died in 1067 and about a 100 years after her death, Roger of Wendover, a monk of St Alban's, told how this 'saintly countess . . . beloved of God', inspired by the Trinity and the Blessed Virgin, begged her husband to free Coventry from tax, until, angry at her persistence, he told her that if she rode naked across the crowded market-place, he would grant her request. She agreed, but let her hair hang loose, so that 'her whole body was veiled except her fair white legs'. Her husband 'counted this a miracle', and lifted the tax. Later versions, beginning in the 16th century, switch the emphasis from holiness to cleverness; Godiva, it was now said, asked the magistrates to make everyone stay indoors with closed windows as she rode by, which they did, so 'her husband's imagination [was] utterly disappointed'. By 1659, a new character had been added to the legend: Peeping Tom, struck blind for trying to see the naked Godiva.
   Historians are agreed that Godiva and Leof-ric were real people, who may well have remitted some unpopular tax, but the tale shows influence both from saints' legends (pious wife contrasted with cruel husband, modesty miraculously protected), and from folklore motifs. There are several other English local traditions in which some grant or privilege is said to have been won for the community by a great lady's willingness to undergo a humiliating ordeal: to walk barefoot, or ride naked, or crawl on hands and knees round a piece of land which she wishes her husband to donate to charity, for example at *Tichborne (Hampshire) and *St Briavels (Gloucestershire). These may of course be imitations of the Godiva tale, being recorded far later; however, the motif of a clever woman who fulfils seemingly impossible or intolerable conditions by a trick is old and international. So too is the punishment of curiosity by blinding.
   During the Middle Ages Coventry held an annual eight-day fair in Corpus Christi week, which included miracle plays and a procession; after the Reformation, this was replaced by a civic pageant at Midsummer, which was suppressed during the Commonwealth but lavishly revived in the reign of Charles II. From 1678, there are records of a 'Lady Godiva' appearing in the pageant; at first the role was taken by a boy, but from 1765 there was a real woman (fully dressed) on a white horse. Meanwhile, a life-size wooden figure of a man in Tudor armour, the original function of which is unknown, had become famous as 'Peeping Tom'; it was carried in the annual procession, and between whiles displayed in various houses and hotels. It is currently in the Cathedral Lane Shopping Centre. The rowdi-ness and ribald humour of the occasion drew Victorian disapproval, but parades continued intermittently until the 1960s, and were revived in 1996.
   The story of Lady Godiva and Peeping Tom is a great favourite, not merely in Coventry but as a part of English popular culture, the combination of virtue, sexual titillation, and earthy humour having proved irresistible.
   ■ Joan Lancaster, Godiva of Coventry (Coventry, 1967); Hilda R. E. Davidson, Folklore 80 (1969), 107-21; Palmer, 1976: 134-9.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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  • Godiva, Lady — flourished с 1040–1080 Anglo Saxon gentlewoman famous for her legendary ride nude through Coventry, Eng. She was the wife of Leofric, earl of Mercia (d. 1057), with whom she founded a monastery at Coventry. There is no evidence connecting the… …   Universalium

  • Godiva, Lady — (floreció 1040–1080). Dama anglosajona célebre por su legendaria cabalgata desnuda a través de Coventry, Inglaterra. Era la esposa de Leofric, conde de Mercia (m. 1057), con quien fundó un monasterio en Coventry. No existen pruebas que vinculen… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • GODIVA, LADY —    wife of Leofric, Earl of Mercia and Lord of Coventry, who pled in vain with her husband on behalf of the inhabitants of the place for relief from heavy exactions he had laid upon them, till one day he relented and consented he would grant her… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Lady Godiva — Godiva Lady Godiva, par John Collier, 1898 Godiva (Lady Godiva, aussi appelée Godgifu) était une dame saxonne qui, d après la légende, a traversé nue à cheval les rues de Coventry, en Angleterre, vers l an 1000, afin de convaincre son mari de… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Godiva — (izg. godȃjva/ob. godȋva), Lady DEFINICIJA pov. knjiž. anglosaska plemkinja iz 11. st. čuvena po tome što je uvijena samo u svoje duge kose gola projahala kroz grad Coventry kako bi prisilila muža Leofrica da smanji namete svojim podanicima;… …   Hrvatski jezični portal

  • Godiva — Cet article concerne la personnalité. Pour les autres significations, voir Godiva (homonymie). Lady Godiva, par John Collier, 1898 Godiva (Lady Godiva …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Lady Godiva — Para otros usos de este término, véase Godiva. Lady Godiva, por John Collier, ca 1897. Lady Godiva (principios del siglo XI) fue una dama anglosajona, famosa por su belleza y su bondad casada con Leofric (968–1057), conde de Chester y de …   Wikipedia Español

  • Lady Godiva — noun according to legend she rode naked through Coventry in order to persuade her husband not to tax the townspeople so heavily; the only person to look at her as she rode by was a man named Tom and Peeping Tom has become a synonym for voyeur… …   Useful english dictionary

  • lady — ladyhood, n. ladyish, adj. ladyishly, adv. ladyishness, n. ladyless, adj. /lay dee/, n., pl. ladies, adj. n. 1. a woman who is refined, polite, and well spoken: She may be poor and have little education, but she s a real lady. 2. a woman of high… …   Universalium

  • Lady — (Voz inglesa.) ► sustantivo femenino Título británico de honor que se da a las señoras de la nobleza. IRREG. plural ladys tb:ladi * * * lady (ingl.; pronunc. [léidi]) f. *Tratamiento dado en Inglaterra a las señoras de la nobleza. * * * lady.… …   Enciclopedia Universal