The Naked Truth
The deep air listen’d round her as she rode,
And all the low wind hardly breathed for fear.
Alfred Lord Tennyson, the poem GODIVA, 1842
My mountain Granny would swaller her chaw of tobacco if this discovery had been made in her lifetime. She wouldn’t appreciate a fully-growed female traipsing through town in her birthday suit.
But here it was, thank you Ancestry.com, one of my Grandma Flossie’s long ago grandmothers was Lady Godifu, wife of Leofric, Earl of Mercia, commonly referred to as Lady Godiva of Coventry! This will make me smile for a month.
Her story (or myth as some insist) is the tale of a nagging wife. Her husband taxed nearly everything the peasants had. The day he levied a tax on manure, she lit into him about giving the people a break.
Old Leofric. feeling safe that his beautiful, religious wife would not take him up on his offer, proposed that if she would ride in the altogether through town he would take the taxes off everything but horses.
She asked if she had his permission. He said “Goeth for it”. And she did.
It is part of the myth-story that Leofric ordered all people inside with shutters closed as she rode through town. This one good fellow, Thomas the Tailor, drilled a little peep-hole in the shutters so he could get an eyeful. Recognize that guy? Peeping Tom?
Lady Godiva arranged her very long hair like a veil over her body, so that only her legs were revealed. She was accompanied by two lovely ladies on horses. Must have been a sight. But of course, old Tom, was the only one who could tell us. And he didn’t live to tell the tale.
Since my daughtger is blonde, and now we all can claim Grandma Godiva, I think I favor this painting by Leighton. The red-haired version by Collier is the most often used to illustrate her story. Whatever. Isn’t it a kick in the pants!