Godgifu, Lady Godiva
Godgifu, or Lady Godiva as she is now known (it isn’t just a candy company) was a 11th century noblewoman married to Leofric, Earl of Mercia, who was her second husband. They were both well known for donating to the church and she was the driving force behind his founding of the Benedictine monastery at Coventry in 1043. Her name also shows up with his on endowments at Stow St Mary, Lincolnshire and a land grant to the monastery of St. Mary, Worcester in the following decade. They also donated largely to other monasteries, in money, land, jewelry and artwork. She also joined her sister, Wulviva, in given manors to the cathedral at Hereford. Unfortunately after the little skirmish in 1066 occurred and a lot of it was carried off to Normandy.
She died before the Doomsday Book was published in 1086 but she is listed as one of the few Anglo-Saxon and only female major landholder. She is most likely buried with her husband at Coventry but, “According to the Chronicon Abbatiae de Evesham, or Evesham Chronicle, she was buried at the Church of the Blessed Trinity at Evesham, which is no longer standing.”1 She was so well thought of that when William the Conqueror (or Bastard, or hell uncle Will) gave away her grandsons lands and titles, he did not remove hers from her.
Now the legend tells a different tale. In the 13th century a story came about that her husband was a cruel and tightfisted Lord who was starving his peasants. She begged tax relief for them and—now here is a varience—she either took it upon herself to shame him, or he dared her, but she supposedly rode naked through the town to sway him. Now, did you ever hear of a “Peeping Tom” well, that phrase is part of the legend. Supposedly Leofric ordered everyone to stay indoors with their doors and shutters closed so they would not gaze upon her. Except one man, Tom, grew too curious and peeped out through his shutters. Some say he was blinded by God for doing so, others the townspeople. There is no proof for her ride, or of a tailor named Tom taking a look. In fact, it smacks of the remains of a fertility festival OR an early Christian practice of penitents humbling themselves but stripping to their undergarments. But naked means naked so that’s not a point agreed on by many.