|Who is it?
|11th-century Anglo-Saxon noblewoman
Lady Godiva, the famous 11th-century Anglo-Saxon noblewoman in British history, has an estimated net worth of $1.1 million in 2024. Despite living centuries ago, her wealth has been calculated based on the assets and lands she possessed during her time. Known for her legendary ride through Coventry to protest against her husband's oppressive taxes, Lady Godiva's story has transcended time, making her a symbol of courage and resistance. While her monetary value may seem modest compared to modern standards, her legacy as an iconic figure in British history remains priceless.
A modified version of the story was given by printer Richard Grafton, later elected MP for Coventry. According to his Chronicle of England (1569), "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. Grafton was an ardent Protestant and sanitized the earlier story.
The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry maintains a permanent exhibition on the subject. The oldest painting was commissioned by the County of the City of Coventry in 1586 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".
The ballad "Leoffricus" in the Percy Folio (ca. 1650) conforms to Grafton's version, saying that Lady Godiva performed her ride to remove the customs paid on horses, and that the town's officers ordered the townsfolk to "shutt their dore, & clap their windowes downe," and remain indoors on the day of her ride.
William Dugdale (1656) says that a window with representations of Leofric and Godiva was placed in Trinity Church, Coventry, about the time of Richard II.
W. Reader dates the first Godiva procession to 1677, but other sources date the first parade to 1678, and on that year a lad from the household of James Swinnerton enacted the role of Lady Godiva.
There is also said to be a letter from pre-1700, stating that the peeper was actually Action (pronounced Actæon?), Lady Godiva's groom.
The English Dictionary of National Biography (D.N.B.) gives a meticulous account of the literary sources. The Historian Paul de Rapin (1732) reported the Coventry lore that Lady Godiva performed her ride while "commanding all Persons to keep within Doors and from their Windows, on pain of Death" but one man could not refrain from looking and it "cost him his life"; Rapin further reported that the town commemorates this with a "Statue of a Man looking out of a Window."
Next, Thomas Pennant in Journey from Chester to London (1782) recounted how "the curiosity of a certain taylor overcoming his fear, he took a single peep". Pennant noted that the person enacting Godiva in the procession was not fully naked of course, but wore "silk, closely fitted to her limbs", which had a colour resembling the skin's complexion. (In Chester's time around 1782 silk was worn, but the annotator of the 1811 edition noted that a cotton garment had since replaced the silk fabric.) According to the D.N.B., the oldest document that mentions "Peeping Tom" by name is a record in Coventry's official annals, dating to 11 June 1773, documenting that the city issued a new wig and paint for the wooden effigy.
According to an 1826 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. 1685). The same Writer felt the legend had to be subsequent to william Dugdale (d. 1686) since he made no mention of it in his works that discussed Coventry at full length. (The story of the tailor and the use of a wooden effigy may be as old as the 17th century, but the effigy may not have always been called "Tom". See 1773 date below, and the alternate suggested name "Action".)
John Collier's Lady Godiva was bequeathed by social reformer Thomas Hancock Nunn. When he died in 1937, 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.
The New York-based rock group The Velvet Underground recorded a song "Lady Godiva's Operation" for their 1968 album White Light/White Heat.
Lady Godiva was the first feminist icon mentioned in the lyrics of "And Then There's Maude," the theme song for the American television series Maude (1972–1978).
Simply Red had a single in 1992 from The Montreux EP called "Lady Godiva's Room", which peaked on the UK charts at number 11.
The Bare Witch Project |(19 Sep. 2004) |TV Episode | TV-PG | 42 min | Drama, Fantasy, Mystery When a Magic School student summons Lady Godiva, the entire status of women changes in the Charmed Ones' reality. The sisters must keep Lord Dyson from killing her before she can return to the past and complete her famous ride.
Extreme metal band Heaven Shall Burn used the legend of Lady Godiva for the song "Godiva" from their 2013 album Veto.
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.