Lady Godiva: A Long-Lost Relative Returns

My brother recently discovered that we are related to Countess Godifu (aka, Lady Godiva). Through genealogical records, he determined she is our great grandmother to the 23rd power.

Clearly I never knew Grandma Godiva, but I take great pride in knowing that I am related to such a generous and courageous woman. The historical accounts of her life and legend are inconsistent. The one constant is her naked ride through Coventry, England in exchange for the repeal of a taxation that would leave many of the citizens with little money for food.  “If we pay the tax, we will starve,” the town’s people cried in protest.

With Lady Godiva’s constant pleading to end the unfair tax, her husband, Lord Leofric (Earl of Mercia), gave her an ultimatum for which I’m sure he thought would end the conversation forever.  He promised to end the tax if she would ride naked through the town square. She took him for his word and did just that dressed in nothing but her long hair.

Of course, before she set out on her ride, Lady Godiva requested that all citizens stay at home with shutters drawn on that day. They were not to peek out their windows as she sacrificed her dignity on their behalf. But, men being men, one could not resist a peek. Yes, that would be Peeping Tom. Although he did not enter the historical accounts of that day until much later, some say that he immediately went blind and some say that he died as a result of his voyeurism.

But, back to my point.

Following the ride through town, Lord Leofric kept his promise and ended the taxation. Lady Godiva had done her part to “better the world.” Her act of kindness has inspired me to think about how I can “better the world.”  Truth is, I don’t think I can repeal unfair taxation nor do I expect to inspire a chocolate company, but extending at least one act of kindness every day can potentially have far-reaching effects.

I can only imagine how grateful the people of Coventry were when Lady Godiva saved them from poverty and peril. That is, except for old Tom who probably wished that Lady Godiva had not revealed her kindness and generosity on that infamous day.


LESA HOLMES

Senior Medical Writer
Believer in "The Science," word aficionado, dedicated Chicago resident