Lady Godiva

(c. 1049–1080)

Lady Godiva


Lady Godiva, in the year 1057, exasperated her husband by persistently pleading with him to reduce the taxes on the people of Coventry. To silence her, he declared he would do so only if she rode naked through the town’s market place. The 17-year-old Godiva called his bluff and set out for the town the next day on horseback, completely naked. However, by concealing most of her body with her long and copious hair, she preserved both her own modesty and her husband’s pride, enabling him to reduce the taxes without loss of face.

A later embellishment of this almost certainly apocryphal tale suggests that Lady Godiva made a pact with the townspeople that they would remain indoors, behind shuttered windows, if they wanted their taxes reduced. Everyone complied except a tailor called Tom. This prurient citizen peeped through his curtains and was instantly struck blind (or, in some versions, dead). Poor voyeuristic Tom, blind or dead as the case may be, left the epithet “a peeping Tom” as a permanent legacy to the English language.

Biographical Note: 

Lady Godiva was an English noblewoman

More Information: 

Read more about this legend.

Painting Info

“Lady Godiva” by John Collier, ca 1898. More info about this painting.