Lady Godiva was a noblewoman in Coventry in the eleventh century. She was famous for being fervently opposed to her husband’s taxation of the citizens. Being a woman in her era meant that she was not likely to be heard by her husband in matters of state. So she famously took extreme measures to make herself heard.
Lady Godiva rode through her town on horseback, completely naked! This single act cemented her as a figure that would go down in infamy, and made her a legend! She was a noblewoman, but lives of woman in that era were not well documented. She is relatively well documented as being a patron of churches and monasteries. The legend of her famous ride was first recorded in the thirteenth century, some two hundred years after her actual lifetime!
Her main, and only claim to notoriety is the ride, and while this seems like a small act of rebellion, in her time it was epic. This was something just not done in the time when she lived. There is a reason that we still know her name. In many ways her act can be seen as the first act of female empowerment in the middle ages. There were other strong females before her, like Cleopatra, and Boudicca (queen of the Iceni, who tried to fight the Roman occupation of Britain). But Godiva is likely the first woman of her era to try to stand up for herself and her people!
As a huge fan of the television show Charmed (the original one!) I have to mention the episode where Godiva is pulled from her time in a history book. This episode always resonated with me as being something that was inspired! When Godiva is out of the time line the sisters learn that without her ride woman would be treated as property of their husbands. The world without Lady Godiva’s ride is one where men act like female subjugation is just normal daily life! It is a drab world similar to a 1950’s sitcom where everyone believes woman should stay home and care for children (and dress very conservatively). In an iconic moment, after having fixed history, Phoebe Halliwell does her own naked horseback ride to protest a coffee shop that would not let her sister breast feed! It is moments like this that inspire me to be strong willed, and make me love that show so much!
There has also been at least one really good novel written about Lady Godiva. I really enjoyed a novel Naked: a Novel of Lady Godiva by Eliza Redgold! This book was an incredibly well written account of the life of the lady. For me one of the best parts was that it was a love story above all else! I highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in Godiva, and wants more information than most history books will give you. If nothing else this was really good fiction!
I hope this post has inspired you to fight for what you believe in just like Lady Godiva would!
Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is Lady Godiva by John Collier. I found the image on wikipedia.com.
- Naked: a Novel of Lady Godiva by Eliza Redgold
- Charmed (1998-2006) ~The Lady Godiva episode is season 7 episode 2 titled “The Bare Witch Project”