Lady Godiva: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Lady Godiva.

  • Lady Godiva was an 11th century Anglo-Saxon noblewoman. She is famous for riding naked on a horse through the streets of Coventry, although that may be just a legend.

  • She lived from about 1040 to 1080 and was one of the few female land owners to be mentioned in the Domesday Book. Nobody knows for sure where she is buried.
  • The tale of her famous ride was first written down during the mid-13th century. The story probably combines a real person with ancient local legends and folklore.

Lady Godiva

  • She often gave a lot of money to charity and to churches. A stained glass window in a Hereford church has a depiction of Lady Godiva and another noblewoman of the time.
  • She supposedly rode naked through Coventry as a protest against high taxes. She was promised that the taxes would be lowered if she dared to shed her clothes. Her condition was that the people stayed indoors and closed their windows.
  • The phrase ‘Peeping Tom’ comes from a resident who disobeyed the instructions and watched Lady Godiva. He was said to be later struck blind or killed, as a punishment.
  • Lady Godiva is often seen as an engineering mascot and is sometimes called the Goddess of Engineering or the Patron Saint of Engineers. The origin of the link between Lady Godiva and engineering is unclear.
  • The University of Toronto holds a Godiva Week every winter to encourage students.
  • The Herbert Art Gallery in Coventry has a permanent collection of paintings of Lady Godiva. It has many Victorian paintings of her as well as one dating from the 16th century.
  • Lady Godiva has been featured in many films and books. She also appears on the logo of a Coventry building society, and is the inspiration for the well known Godiva chocolates.
  • A wooden statue of a Peeping Tom can be seen in Coventry’s Cathedral Lanes shopping centre. Also in the city, the Lady Godiva clock reveals a mechanical figure on horseback every hour.

What next? Learn more about the Anglo-Saxons by visiting our resources page.