Enjoy reading the English tale about Lady Godiva
Lady Godiva (in Old English Godgifu,meant “gift of God”; Godiva was the Latinised form) is a key figure in the history of Coventry, a city in England. The original Lady Godiva was an 11th century noblewoman married to Leofric, the powerful Earl of Mercia and Lord of Coventry. The historical Countess Godiva was known for her generosity to the church, and along with Leofric, she helped found a Benedictine monastery in Coventry.
The Legend of Lady Godiva
Once upon a time in the city of Coventry in England, there lived a lord known as Leofric, a selfish and haughty man who loved only his own possessions. Among these were his enormous mansion, his gardens, his horses and his dogs. Leofric also claimed he loved his wife, a young woman named Godiva, who was most beautiful, with flowing golden hair and a gentle nature. She was a woman easy to love, but sad to say, Leofric loved her as he loved his home and his gardens. That is, he thought of his Lady Godiva as but another possession.
In order to maintain his estate, Leofric, as was the custom in those days, taxed the peasants on his land and those in the town, for the town was part of his domain. This was a matter of concern to Lady Godiva, who cared about the plight of the peasants and the townspeople, with whom she had become friendly.
When Lady Godiva grew weary of her husband’s controlling nature, she escaped by riding upon her strong white steed through the countryside and into the town. She loved to talk with the people there, and the townspeople looked forward to her visits, for she was friendly and gentle, and enjoyed listening to their daily concerns and gossip. Sometimes she would offer rides upon her horse to the children; always she would stop to chat with shopkeepers and washerwomen.
One day Lady Godiva set off on her horse. She trotted into town and waved to the first shopkeeper she saw, but this day he did not smile or wave. “How odd,” she said. “Perhaps he has troubles at home.” She rode on, but as she saw more and more people, she noticed that everyone was sad. No one smiled or waved, and even the children looked glum.
Puzzled by this strange sadness that cloaked the town, Lady Godiva stopped to see the baker, who was a special friend of hers. “Tell me,” she said, “why is everyone in Coventry so sad today?”
The baker was surprised. “Surely you know what your husband has done,” he said. “He has doubled our taxes. Already we are struggling, and now we will be even poorer.”
When Lady Godiva heard this news, she was furious. “I’ll ride home immediately and tell my husband that he must not do this,” she said, and galloped home.
When she arrived at the mansion, she quickly dismounted and strode into her husband’s study. “Husband,” she said angrily, “I want to speak with you.”
He turned and glowered at her. “And I wish to speak to you,” he said. “You will never go into town dressed that way again. How dare you wear such shabby clothing in public! You are the wife of a lord, and you will dress accordingly from this day on.”
Lady Godiva drew herself up and glared at her husband. “I don’t care what you think of my clothing,” she said in a tone she had never before used. “And I want you to explain to me why you have doubled the people’s taxes. This is a crime!”
“How dare you speak to your husband this way,” Leofric cried. “My business is none of a lady’s business. You tend to a woman’s duty, and I shall tend to a man’s. Taxes are my business. Looking like the wife of a lord is yours.”
Lady Godiva could stand this no longer and felt her temper rising. “The people need money to eat! If you don’t lower the taxes, I will …”
Lord Leofric laughed. “You will what?” he asked. “What threat do you propose?”
Now Lady Godiva knew what would most shame her husband. She had had enough. “You shall see,” she said. She ran outside, mounted her horse, and galloped back to town. There, in the town square, she posted a notice:
“If Lord Leofric, my husband, does not lower his taxes by Saturday noon, I, Lady Godiva, promise I will ride through the streets of Coventry wearing no clothes at all!”
Within the hour news spread by word of mouth throughout the town of Lady Godiva’s challenge to her husband. And when Lord Leofric heard, he howled with laughter. “She will do no such thing,” he said. “No woman would dare to shame me this way.”
The townspeople were certain Lord Leofric would lower their taxes now. Surely he would not allow his wife to appear naked in public. And so they waited, hoping to learn any day that their taxes were to be lowered.
But the days passed and no word came. On Friday evening, the townspeople realized the lovely Lady Godiva would have to carry out her promise. Because they loved her, they wanted to do something. So that very night they gathered in the town square to decide what to do to help her.
Ten minutes before noon on Saturday, all the people of the town left the streets and entered their homes and their shops. There they pulled the curtains, drew the blinds, turned their backs to their doors and windows. When the town clock chimed 12 times, they heard the hooves of Lady Godiva’s steed on the cobblestone streets, and they knew Lady Godiva had kept her promise, that she was riding through their streets covered only by her long, golden hair.
However, one man, now known as Peeping Tom, disobeyed the instructions and couldn’t help looking out at Godiva riding through Coventry on the horse. Upon doing so, the legend goes, he 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.
People of the town promised themselves that her name would never be forgotten and that always she would be remembered as a brave and kind woman of her word. The legend of Lady Godiva inspires many people.
The statue of Lady Godiva in Coventry. The clock with Lady Godiva and Peeping Tom
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