The Legend of Lady Godiva1 by H.R. Ellis Davidson (1969)

Lady Godiva statueTHE legend of Godiva was recalled to our minds and flared up for a while in the press in 1967, when the City of Coventry celebrated the 900th  anniversary of her death. It is a legend which offers a challenge both to historian and folklorist, for the problem it presents is that of the relationship between historical events, written records and popular tradition. It is the more complicated – and the more interesting for us – because the folklore does not end with the Middle Ages, but has continued to develop in Coventry up to the present day. For all the Godiva Cafes and Cinemas, and the small, flesh-pink figure on a horse which rushes madly round the balcony in the main square every time the clock sounds the hour, there is something here beyond mere commercialism. The eleventh-century Godiva is still reverenced by the people as a great lady, the founder and benefactor of their city, whose story should not be doubted or tampered with. In the Godiva legend we have a complex and fascinating problem of folk tradition, to which this paper offers no more than an introduction; much further remains to be done.

First, Godiva is no mere figure of legend; we know a good deal about her, although there are tantalizing gaps in our knowledge. She was a great lady who ruled Coventry in her own right, the wife of the mighty Earl Leofric of Mercia. Her husband was one of the four great magnates of England, chosen by the Danish  king Cnut to rule over the kingdom which his father Sweyn had conquered, and the only one of the four to come from an Anglo- Saxon ruling family, since Leofric’s father had been ealdorman of Mercia. Cnut was no Norman William, breaking down ancient customs and imposing a harsh rule on a rebellious people; he was wise and tolerant and brought a time of peace and development to England, unfortunately all too brief. He clearly valued Leofric’s friendship and trusted him as a responsible ruler and wise counsellor. The monastic chroniclers all praise Leofric highly, as while at first he seems to have been hostile towards the church, he became one of its outstanding benefactors. Leofric and Godiva had as their friend and confessor a wise and saintly character, AEfic, the Benedictine Prior of Evesham, and it seems that fairly late in his life Leofric had a series of mystical experiences which had a great effect on him. Several dreams or visions of his are recorded, and one of them is especially interesting.2 It is said that he dreamed that he was crossing, in great terror, that narrow bridge over the abyss which is well known in folklore and mythology, and this bridge led him to heaven, where he saw St Paul blessing his celestial congregation. He heard one of them ask what this foul man, Leofric, was doing among them, but another voice replied that he might join them yet, as he had just repented of his sins and would be among them in a certain space of time, apparently foretelling the date of Leofric’s death. The record of this dream, which is found in a MS. written at Worcester of about 1100, is perhaps not wholly irrelevant to the story of Godiva, and I shall return to it later.

Godiva herself is praised by all as a wise, devout and generous lady, famed for her princely gifts to the church, for her devotion to the Virgin Mary, and for her building of Holy Trinity Church near Evesham and founding of the Abbey at Coventry after the first religious house there had been destroyed by the Danes. She owned extensive estates in six Midland counties,3 though whether these came to her as family property or as gifts from her husband we do not know. Her most valuable possession was Coventry,  which in 1086, soon after her death, consisted of sixty-two families owning farms or small-holdings, as well as a number of serfs. She was Lady of Coventry in her own right, and she and her husband appear to have spent at least part of their time there, and are said to be buried there, Leofric in 1057 and Godiva on Io September, 1067. We know this date through a happy discovery of Miss Joan Lancaster, who found a page from a lost statute book in the Bodleian, giving a list of anniversary dates connected with the Abbey.4 When excavations took place on the site of Coventry Abbey in 1967 it was hoped that Godiva’s burial place might be found, but the thirteenth-century builders of St Mary’s Cathedral above the Saxon church had done their work too well.

Lady Godiva Coventry

The story of Godiva’s ride has been recorded by several Latin chroniclers, the earliest of them Roger of Wendover in the twelfth century and Matthew Paris in the early thirteenth. Both these men were monks at St Albans Abbey, set at an important road junction and therefore well placed for the collection of news and travellers’ tales. Miss Lancaster judges Roger’s version most reliable, and her translation runs as follows :5

The saintly countess … desiring to free the town of Coventry from its burdensome and shameful servitude, often besought the earl, her husband, with earnest prayers, to free the town, by the guidance of the Holy Trinity and of the Holy Mother of God, from this slavery. The earl upbraided her for vainly seeking something so injurious to him and repeatedly forbade her to approach him again on the subject. Nevertheless in her feminine pertinacity she exasperated her husband with her unceasing request and extorted from him the following reply: ‘Mount your horse naked’ he said ‘and ride through the marketplace of the town from one side right to the other while the people are congregated, and when you return you shall claim what you desire.’ And the countess answered: ‘And if I wish to do this, will you give me your permission?’ And the earl said: ‘I will.’ Then the Countess Godiva, beloved of God, on a certain day, as it is said, mounting her horse naked, loosed her hair from its bands and her whole body was veiled except her fair white legs. Her journey done, unseen by a soul,  she returned rejoicing to her husband, who counted it a miracle. Then Earl Leofric granted a charter freeing the city of Coventry from its servitude and confirmed it with his seal.

Of considerable interest too is a sixteenth-century English version6 by Richard Grafton, a Coventry printer and member of parliament for the town in the early years of the reign of Elizabeth I. He says that his story comes from an earlier source, which may be a lost thirteenth-century work by Prior Geoffrey of Coventry:

Gaufride sayth that this gentle and good Lady did not onely for the freeing of the said Citie and satisfying of her husbands pleasure, graunt unto her sayde Husband to ryde as aforesayde: But also called in secret maner (by such as she put speciall trust in) all those that then were Magistrates and rulers of the sayde Citie of Couentrie, and vttered vnto them what good will she bare vnto the sayde Citie, and how shee had moued the Erle her husband to make the same free, the which vpon such condition as is afore mencioned, the sayde Erle graunted vnto her, which the sayde Lady was well contented to doe, requiring of them for the reuerence of womanhed, that at that day and tyme that she should ride (which was made certaine vnto them) that streight commaundement should be geuen throughout all the City, that euerie person should shut in their houses and Wyndowes, and none so hardy to looke out into the streetes, nor remayne in the stretes, vpon a great paine, so that when the tyme came of her out ryding none sawe her, but her husbande and such as were present with him, and she and her Gentlewoman to wayte vpon her galoped thorough the Towne, where the people might here the treading of their Horsse, but they saw her not, and so she returned to her Husbande to the place from whence she came, her honestie saued, her purpose obteyned, her wisedome much commended, and her husbands imagination vtterly disapointed. And shortly after her returne, when shee had arayed and apparelled her selfe in most comely and seemely maner, then shee shewed her selfe openly to the people of the Citie of Couentrie, to the great ioy and maruellous reioysing of all the Citizens and inhabitants of the same, who by her had receyued so great a benefite.

No mention as yet, it may be noted, of Peeping Tom, of whom more will be said later.

Coventry, Lady Godiva and Peeping Tom, 1852.
Coventry, Lady Godiva and Peeping Tom, 1852.

There are other references to Godiva’s achievement in freeing Coventry from taxes. One is an inscription on a fifteenth-century  window of Holy Trinity Church in Coventry,7 said to show Godiva and Leofric, with the words:

I Luriche, for love of thee , Doe make Coventrie toll-free.

Another occurred in a doggerel rhyme which was pinned to the door of St Michael’s Church by local rebels in 1495, complaining of unjust taxes, when Godiva, here called Dame Goode Eve, had made the town free.8 There was clearly an early and well-established tradition that Godiva was responsible for persuading her husband to release the people from an unpopular tax. Now most taxes in Coventry would be Godiva’s own responsibility, as overlord, but there was one royal tax, the detested Heregeld, which in Cnut’s time went to pay for the king’s bodyguard, and this would be collected by Leofric as Earl of Mercia. This tax was finally repealed by Edward the Confessor in 1051, but some time before this the Earls had power to grant relief from it, as happened at Bury St Edmunds.9 Thus there is nothing inherently improbable in a tradition that Leofric released Coventry from payment of a tax at his wife’s request. Moreover we know from the record of his heavenly vision that Leofric had a change of heart, not very long before his death in 1057, and also that he atoned for former harsh treatment of the church, giving back lands that he and his family had taken from Evesham Abbey. It seems to me a possibility at least that the story of Godiva’s ride might have been based on some symbolic act of penance which she performed on her husband’s behalf, perhaps even passing through Coventry as a penitent, not indeed naked but stripped of her marks of rank. The memory of some such act, linked with that of the remission of a tax through her influence, could account for the story as known to Roger of Wendover little more than a century after Godiva’s death.

Certainly from the outset the story has been influenced by folklore. We shall see how this has happened in the later addition of Peeping Tom, to be discussed below. The early versions already  show resemblances to various familiar folk motifs. First there is the story of the dutiful wife who performs some humiliating task at the bidding of a tyrant husband in order to benefit the common people. At Dunster in Somerset it was said that the wife of a great lord was promised as much land for the people as she could walk round barefoot in a day.10 Sir Roger of Tichborne was reputed to carry the sport of wife-baiting still further: his dying wife was required to crawl round as much land as she could encompass while the torch he held in his hand remained alight, in order to win the piece of land which later provided the Tichborne Dole.11 This type of story seems to have grown up to account for some ancient custom, and the Tichborne story might have been inspired by the place name ‘The Crawls’ or ‘Crawley’, which in fact is said to be derived from Croweleainga Mearce, Crows’ Lea.

Secondly, there are folktales of a clever wife or maid who fulfils seemingly impossible conditions. The Scandinavian heroine Aslaug, reputed daughter of Sigurd the Volsung, was challenged by Ragnar Lothbrok to come to him neither clothed nor naked, and the ingenious girl achieved this by wrapping herself in a fishing net, or, in other versions of this very widespread tale, covering herself, like Godiva, in her long thick hair.12

Thirdly, there are tales of a noble heroine miraculously saved from shame. Some of the early accounts make the point that it seemed miraculous to Leofric that his wife rode unseen by anyone, although in Richard Grafton’s version this is accounted for in a rational way, by good organization and by the devotion which the people felt for their Lady. The most interesting folktale parallel is one quoted by the German scholar Liebricht from the Punjab:13 a human sacrifice was needed to break a spell preventing the people of Chamba from building a canal, and a noble princess volunteered to ride naked along a road and to be beheaded at the end of it. As she set out, a line of trees sprang up miraculously on either side to hide her from view. There are less dramatic examples  from the Arabian Nights of a lady riding unveiled through a city, and of the ruler commanding all the inhabitants to remain inside their houses on pain of death, so that her face should not be seen.


Claims have been made that here we have memories of a pre-Christian tradition of the ritual ride of a naked goddess. On this subject a great deal of nonsense has been written, built up on extremely flimsy foundations. The claims of Robert Graves14 that the story was based on pagan ritual continuing in Mercia up to the eleventh century and whitewashed by the monks into the blameless story of Godiva seem to me to be nothing more than the product of a romantic and uncritical imagination. Even if we turn to the tradition of the May Riding of medieval times, a company led by a lady on a white horse accompanied by her cavalier on a black,15 there does not seem to be the smallest hint of veiled nakedness; on the contrary the lady is splendidly and gaily adorned as befits the spring season. Even earlier pagan periods provide no direct evidence of a naked deity passing on horseback. Small figures of a driving goddess from Bronze Age Denmark, dated 500 years B.C. or earlier, are fairly adequately clad in mini-skirt and necklace;16 as for the goddess Nerthus, beloved of the Graves school, who was said by Tacitus in the first century A.D. to parade through parts of Denmark in her covered wagon, we have no right to assume that the wagon which concealed her presence held a naked priestess or the anthropomorphic figure of a female deity; on the contrary what we know of religious symbolism at this time suggests that she was more likely to be represented by an abstract symbol or in animal form. Much has been made also of various fertility rites, when men or women walk naked through fields at night to make the crops grow or through streams to make the rain come, or take part in witchcraft ceremonies, the removal of shoes and clothes making the link between man and the earth more potent. But here I can see no obvious basis for the Godiva legend. Nor indeed should one assume that there was anything necessarily pagan in the state of nakedness to the Anglo-Saxon or medieval mind. It was told of one tenth- century Abbess of Romsey that she showed her sanctity by standing  naked in a stream at night while she recited the proper psalms for the day;17 those who praised her memory evidently saw nothing shocking either in her ascetism, which horrifies us, or her nudity, which might have upset the Victorians.


While I would not support the suggestion that the story of Godiva’s ride has originated either in a folk tale or a processional rite of pre-Christian origin, I would however emphasize the fact that the Coventry processions of a later date have helped to preserve and develop the folklore about Godiva. In the Middle Ages the Coventry Great Fair was a flourishing institution, lasting eight days, and including the performance of the Miracle Plays by the guilds as part of the procession of Corpus Christi in the Mid- summer season. After the dissolution of the guilds and the reformation of the English church, the yearly procession which survived was a sober and restricted affair. But after the Civil War and the Protectorate came the restoration of Charles II, and now the Fair was revived once more with elaborate ceremonial. In 1678 the City Companies were represented by boys, and the city itself by two boys and a standard-bearer, while one boy represented Lady Godiva as the founder of Coventry. As time went on, new figures were added to the procession: black guards in armour; St George, reputed to have been born in Coventry; Bishop Blaize as a Protestant champion; Jason with a golden fleece, standing for the wool trade; Punchinello on a war camel for no obvious reason; a young elephant, inspired by the elephant and castle on the City Arms, and other gimmicks from time to time according to contemporary fashion, to attract the crowds. The Mayor and a host of City officials also took part, while small children, known as ‘followers’. were included in the procession, some so small that they had to be strapped into basket seats on their mounts, causing much competition among the townspeople to get their offspring included among their number. But from 1765 onwards, when Godiva was represented by a lady on a white horse, she proved the greatest attraction. Long before the time came, rumours went round as to who she would be and how much or how little she would wear. The clergy, the Methodists, and the staider citizens  protested against the retention of this dubious custom, while the more patriotic citizens and the general public stoutly defended it as an ancient tradition. The Press never failed to whet the public appetite by hints that this year Godiva would appear just as in Anglo-Saxon times, although records and pictures indicate that she was respectably attired from the beginning, even to a large hat with plumes and an umbrella when the weather proved unkind. She was usually a minor actress or dancer brought in from outside Coventry, and in spite of some indiscreet ladies, who partook of too many stirrup cups at local hostelries, the tradition was kept up throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, in the face of considerable criticism. After 1829 the Mayor and officials ceased to attend, and much of the equipment used in the procession was sold after 1835, so that things were a little less splendid, but the Show Fair continued to be held every few years as funds permitted, the last being in 1962. Meanwhile far from Coventry local Godivas, availing themselves of that useful modern invention, the body stocking, continue to appear at fetes and bazaars, and can still be counted on to cause an occasional traffic- jam, even in these permissive days.


One piece of often repeated folklore about the procession seems to have been initiated by a remark made by the Coventry antiquary W. G. Fretton, which was quoted by Hartland in The Science of Fairy Tales, first published in 1891. Fretton had lived for some years in the village of Southam near Coventry, and is reported to have said – possibly in jest – that there had been a local pro- cession there about which little was known, save for the singular fact that there were two Godivas in the cavalcade, and one of them was black. Fretton does not seem to have included this statement in his published work, and it may well have been based on the existence of a figure like that in a nineteenth-century procession, who was described in a newspaper advertisement as a black lady from the Indies, and who according to one early catalogue18 rode on an elephant, once more no doubt inspired by the City Arms. There seems no grounds whatsoever for the elaborate theories of Robert Graves and Lewis Spence,19 who linked this nebulous  rider with ancient Britons dyed with woad, Black Madonnas and the like, with St George (not brought in until 1764) as a local god, and Robin Hood thrown in for good measure.

If we search for links between the processions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and the Corpus Christi procession before the Reformation, there is more reason to suggest the figure of Eve as a possible prototype of the later Godiva. The characters from the Miracle Plays continued to appear in Coventry as late as 1591, and among Biblical figures there are records of an Adam and Eve, although no play about them survives.20 Eve would be played by a boy, like the first Godiva after the Restoration, and one wonders if a memory of her appearance, covered by her long hair, together with the similarity of names, could have prompted a demand for Godiva as a secular substitute; she is called ‘Dame Goode Eve’ in the rhyme of 1495.


It was in the course of the eighteenth century that another figure first appeared with Godiva in the procession which has been indissolubly linked with her ever since, that of Peeping Tom. The first reference to him appears in a note written in the margin of a copy of Camden’s Brittania now in Birmingham Public Library.21 This records that in 1659 the owner of the book saw a statue in Coventry which he was told represented the man who was struck blind for trying to see Godiva as she rode past. This sounds like a local joke, and it is probable that the statue in question is the wooden figure which can be seen in a glass case in the somewhat incongruous setting of the Leofric Hotel, the famous Peeping Tom of Coventry. He is a lifesize figure of a man in helmet and body armour of early Tudor style, his arms cut off at the elbow and his body somewhat hacked about, carved from a single piece of oak with his arms fastened on by pegs, and originally painted. His head is slightly to one side and his mouth open in a rather agonized grimace, while his eyes do indeed appear to be blind because the painted eyeballs have vanished, which might account for the story told about him. The position of his feet is of someone advancing to attack, and it was suggested by  Reader that he was a carved figure of one of the warrior saints, either St George or St Michael, from a Coventry church.22 The position of the arms, it may be noted, is not that of a warrior brandishing a spear or a sword, but on the other hand Thomas Burbidge in his pamphlet, A Brief Account of the Origin and Mode of conducting the Show Fair, refers to a man in armour carried before Godiva in the procession ‘with a shield in one hand on which was painted St George killing the dragon and a drawn sword in the other’. He calls this ‘a gigantic figure’, and it is difficult to know whether this may have been the wooden man who still survives or if so, what was his origin. Another suggestion made recently to me is that this could be a figure from a medieval clock.23 Whatever his origin, he became a famous treasure of the city. We are told that in 1765 the effigy of Peeping Tom was painted and his wig dressed so that he could be carried in the procession.24 Later on, with a large cocked hat on his head, he was set up in the window of a house in Greyfriars St where Alderman Owen lived, then moved to the house of the antiquary, Thomas Sharp, and finally in 1812 to the King’s Head Inn. He can be seen in this position in various nineteenth-century pictures of the procession. In the early part of the century it seems that a human actor in the procession instead of an effigy represented the wicked man who had peeped at Godiva, for he is described in an early pamphlet25 as a Merry Andrew, diverting the populace with his profane conceits, and he was pulled along in his little house on a wagon, popping in and out of the window to amuse the crowds. There was some disapproval of this vulgar addition, and we are told in another pamphlet later in the century:26

Peeping Tom has been left off for many years. The last poor fellow who was drawn about the town, being taken very ill immediately on his coming out of the house, and dying very soon after in a most shocking manner, has intimidated others from carrying on the burlesque.

Tom’s sad fate sounds like another piece of moral folklore.

Coventry's oldest statue of Peeping Tom dates from the late 1600s
Coventry’s oldest statue of Peeping Tom dates from the late 1600s.

So popular did the wooden Tom become, that at least four copies were made of him which can still be seen. One in painted concrete was set up in the Peeping Tom Inn in Hertford St (originally the Railway Inn), and is now in the Coventry Museum. Another, in painted plaster with a heavy core, stood for many years in a tobacconist’s shop in Smithford St, and was then given to the father of the present owner of Agar’s shoe shop in Corporation St, where he can occasionally be seen on display.27 A third, very fine model, said to be of varnished beeswax, is the treasured possession of Mr Frank West, an elderly gentleman living in Coventry, who claims that it has been in his family for zoo years but does not know who made it.28 This figure was carried in the procession of 1962. The fourth figure is the only one whose date and origin are known. He was carved in stone by the Ormerod Brothers, a firm of Coventry sculptors, for the late Mr T. M. Freeman in 1934, and is still in the possession of the Freeman family at Leamington Spa.29 Mr Freeman was a collector of ancient cars and bicycles and interested in local history, and his Tom was made with a forked beard and a Saxon smock, and was set up leaning out of a gable window in Bishop St.

There was much argument in the local Press in the early thirties as to which figure was the original Tom,30 but once the wooden figure was taken down in 1935 from the gable window in which it had been boarded up for many years, it was found that the cocked hat was removeable, and that here we had a full- length man in armour, corresponding with early descriptions. The other figures are busts only, and all except Mr Freeman’s figure are close copies of the wooden soldier; it would be most  interesting to know by whom and at what date each was made. Coventry people remember small models of Peeping Tom in pottery sold as souvenirs before the last war, and here we have a most interesting example of living city folklore, which may bear comparison with that surrounding the famous Mannikin of Brussels with his vast wardrobe of uniforms in the City Museum.

Literary references to Peeping Tom are not found before the seventeenth century. He is not mentioned in the Godiva ballad of I650.31 After the first note in Camden referring to the statue in 1659, we next find an account of his action in two versions of the City Annals of the late seventeenth century, written by Humfrey Wanley, son of the Vicar of Holy Trinity Church, although the man who looked through a window is not mentioned by name:32

In the Forenoone all householders were Commanded to keep in their Families shutting their doores and Windows close while the Dutchess performed this good deed, without any other Coverture save onely her hair. But about the midst of the Citty her horse neighed, whereat one desirous to see the strange Case lett downe a Window, & looked out, for which fact, or for that the Horse did neigh, as the cause thereof, though all the Towne were Franchised, yet horses were not toll-free to this day.

Original Peeping Tom

In a Latin letter by a Canon of Lichfield in the Gentleman’s Magazine of I79733 he is called Action, and is said to have been the groom of Godiva, betrayed by the neighing of her horse, which recognized him. The Canon obviously noticed resemblances with the story of Actaeon who saw the goddess Diana bathing, and was torn to pieces by his own hounds. This however hardly justifies the arguments of those who see Godiva as a pagan goddess. Later on Tom was described as a tailor.

Once more there are folktale parallels. One is found in a series of tales of the type known as the Fairy Midwife,34 where a man or woman is given power to see the fairies and then is blinded in one eye or two because they see what they should not as a result of  the magic gift. Even more striking is a tale from South Germany of the visit of Dame Berchta or Perchta and her troop of children to a house on Twelfth Night, where according to custom a meal had been left ready for them, while none were permitted to stay up and see them. A serving boy however peeped at them through a crack in a door, and was blinded by one of the children blowing into his eyes. Such stories may preserve very early traditions, and the motif of the danger of spying on visitants from the Other World is undoubtedly an ancient one, but this again does not mean that the eighteenth-century Peeping Tom goes back with Godiva to pre-Christian or even to Anglo-Saxon tradition. If this were so, he would hardly have been consistently omitted from all the earlier accounts. But once more I would stress the importance of the influence of popular tales on stories of famous people, of which Peeping Tom offers a clear example.

The popularity of the Godiva legend has been tremendous, and it is not difficult to see why. Here, as with the tale of Alfred and the cakes, we have a great personage, a fine and beloved ruler, placed at the mercy of the common people, winning through not by the use of power but by innate goodness and generosity, and because the people helped her. This aspect of the story made it a favourite of the Victorian schoolroom, and it has been the subject of a long series of poems, plays, romantic novels, statues and pictures, as may been seen from the Appendix to Miss Lancaster’s book, Godiva of Coventry. At the same time we have a comic, earthy element in the story once Peeping Tom appears, and Godiva has inspired more than one satiric comedy and given rise to perennial jests. The legitimate portrayal of a naked woman provided a pleasurable thrill in a puritanical age, while the local processions kept Godiva’s memory alive as no written record alone could hope to do. She is a loved figure still in Coventry, the more so because she evokes laughter as well as admiration. My belief is that the story is based on a genuine historical tradition, and has drawn into itself from the beginning certain folktale elements which give it some of the characteristic patterns of pagan myths, but which do not entitle us to view it as evidence for pagan survivals in eleventh-century Mercia. Finally we may see the Godiva legend as a heartening memorial to the importance of women in Anglo-Saxon times, something which declined sadly in Norman England and was slow to return. In this half romantic, half comic story, Leofric has suffered, perhaps unfairly, at the expense of his wife. The last laugh is not with the great lord nor with the sly man of the people, but with the courageous woman who took her responsibilities seriously. From a woman’s standpoint, I feel that Coventry’s choice of a traditional legend is indeed an excellent one.




  1. I wish to make special acknowledgement here to the work of Miss Joan Lancaster on the historical evidence for Godiva and for references to her ride in local records, on which I have drawn freely in the early part of this paper. She has published the detailed evidence in Godiva of Coventry, the first of the Coventry Papers, published by Coventry Corporation in 1967. I was invited to contribute a chapter to this on The Ride: in Folk Tradition, and in my researches for this, and further work done since on the surviving figures of Peeping Tom, I would like to repeat the acknowledgements given in the preface of the help given by the Director and Officials of the Herbert Museum and Art Gallery and the Library. I am particularly grateful for the help given by Miss Alice Lynes, the Librarian of the Coventry and Warwickshire Collection, from her wide knowledge of local records, as well as by various individuals mentioned below.
  2. A. S. Napier, ‘An O.E. vision of Leofric Earl of Mercia’, Philog. Soc. Trans. (1908), pp. I80-7, taken from MS. no. 367 at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.
  3. Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire, all in Mercian territory.
  4. The book had belonged to Coventry Priory and passed into the hands of Robert Cotton and later of Francis Douce. The latter gave most of the documents to Thomas Sharp, and they were given to Birmingham Reference Library, where they were destroyed in the fire of 1879. Douce’s own book, however, went to the Bodleian Library in Oxford, and the first page of the statute book was left in this.
  5. J.C. Lancaster, Godiva of Coventry (Coventry, I967), pp. 44-5.
  6. Richard Grafton, Chronicle or History of England (1569), reproduced by Sir Henry Ellis, London, 1809, pp. 147-8.
  7. W. Dugdale, Antiquities of Warwickshire (London, 1656), p. 86; Thamas Sharp, History and Antiquities of the City of Coventry, 1816-17 (ed. W. G. Fretton, privately printed, Birmingham, I871).
  8. Leet Book, 567.
  9. F. E. Harmer, Anglo-Saxon Writs (Manchester, 1952), pp. 158-9.  
  10. M. Dormer Harris, The Story of Coventry (London, 1911), p. 22; H. C. Maxwell-Lyte, Dunster and its Lords (privately printed 1882), pp. I9-20.
  11. B. B. Woodward, etc. A General History of Hampshire (London, 1861-9), vol. I, p. I7.
  12. J. de Vries, ‘Die MArchen von klugen Rátsellösen’, Folklore Fellows Comm. (Helsinki, 1928), 82c.
  13. E. Liebricht, Zur Volkskunde (Heilbronn, 1879), p. 105. Cf. E. S. Hartland, The Science of Fairy Tales (London, 1891), pp. 79 ff.  
  14. R. Graves, The White Goddess (London, I948), p. 401.
  15. W. Potts, Banbury Cross and the Rhyme (Banbury, 1930), pp. 39-44, and History of Banbury (Banbury, 1958), pp. I25-7.
  16. H. R. Ellis Davidson, Pagan Scandinavia (London, 1967) pp. 60-61.
  17. H. G. D. Liveing, Records of Romsey Abbey (Winchester, I9o6), pp. 22-3, taken from a MS. now in the British Museum (Lands no. 436) probably of fourteenth-century date, formerly at the Abbey.
  18. F. Bliss Burbidge, Old Coventry and Lady Godiva (Birmingham, 1952), pp. 43-4; M. Dormer Harris, The Story of Coventry (London, 1911), p. 22.
  19. L. Spence, Traces of Myth and Ritual (London 1947) p. 167.
  20. H. Craig, Religious Drama of the Middle Ages (Oxford, 1955), pp. 127 ft., 284 ff., 361; and Two Corpus Christi Plays (E.E.T.S., 1902oz), pp. 97-8, 102-103.
  21. F. Bliss Burbidge, op. cit., p. 51.
  22. W. Reader, History and Antiquities of the City of Coventry (Coventry, 1810), pp. 106 ff.
  23. This suggestion was made to me after the reading of the paper to the Society by Mr Alan Smith and also (independently) by Mr J. G. Godwin.
  24. F. Bliss Burbidge, op. cit., p. 56.
  25. W. Reader, Origin and Description of Coventry Show Fair (Coventry, I830).
  26. Thomas Burbidge, A Brief Account of the Origin and Mode of conducting the Show Fair (Coventry, undated).
  27. The proprietor of the shop, Mr Hodson, was most helpful in allowing me to see this figure and in giving me information about it.
  28. I am most grateful to Mr West and to his daughter-in-law, Mrs West, for allowing me to visit them to see the figure, and for telling me about its association with their family.
  29. This figure was traced by Mr Newbold, of the Coventry Evening Telegraph, and I am most grateful to him and to Mr T. B. Freeman, who kindly sent me copies of cuttings about it from newspapers and a photograph. Since this paper was written, a set of photographs of the various effegies has appeared in the Coventry Evening Telegraph with an article by Mr. Newbold, and copies of the photographs are to be included in the Coventry and Warwickshire Collection.
  30. Midland Daily Telegraph of 27 Sept., 1934; I5 Oct., I935 and 8 Nov., I935. These are in the Coventry and Warwickshire Collection in the Coventry Public Library.  
  31. J. W. Halls and F. I. Furnivall, Percy Folio (1868), iii, pp. 473-5.
  32. Coventry Record Office, A.43. f.6a; B. M. Harl, MS. 6388, f.6b.
  33. Letter from Thomas Seward, Canon of Lichfield, published after his death in the Gentleman’s Magazine, lxvii (June, 1797), p. 478.
  34. E. S. Hartland, The Science of Fairy Tales (London, 1891) and ‘Peeping. Tom and Lady Godiva’, Folklore, I (189o), pp. 2o7-26. Cf. H. M. Chadwick, The Origin of the English Nation (Cambridge, 1924), p. 246.


SOURCE: Folklore, Vol. 80, No. 2 (Summer, 1969), pp. 107-121.

Lady godiva movie

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s