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(flourished c. 1040–1080) Anglo-Saxon gentlewoman famous for her legendary ride nude through Coventry, Eng. She was the wife of Leofric, earl of Mercia (d. 1057), with whom she founded a monastery at Coventry. There is no evidence connecting the rider with the historical Godiva. According to the legend, Leofric, exasperated over Godiva's ceaseless imploring that he reduce Coventry's heavy taxes, declared he would do so if she rode naked through the crowded marketplace. She did so, her long hair covering all of her body except her legs; as a result Leofric removed all tolls except those on horses. A later chronicle asserts that Godiva required the townsmen to remain indoors at the time fixed for her ride. Peeping Tom, a citizen who looked out his window, became part of the legend in the 17th century, and in most accounts he was struck blind or dead.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Godiva, Lady, visit Britannica.com.
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