Nothing certain is known of her origins. The distribution of Godgifu's known lands suggests that her family background lay in northwest Mercia, rather than the northeast midlands. Her substantial estates in Leicestershire, Warwickshire, Staffordshire, and Shropshire, some 60 hides of land or the equivalent, may have been her own inheritance, for John of Worcester says that Coventry Abbey, founded by Godgifu and her husband, was endowed out of their respective patrimonies.
She is the famous "Lady Godiva." She complained constantly to her husband that the taxes were too high on the townspeople of Coventry. He finally said that he would reduce the taxes if she would ride nude through the marketplace on market day. She arranged for all of the men to remain inside and covered her entire body, except her legs, with her hair. Supposedly one person named Tom did not remain inside during her ride and became known as "Peeping Tom". Leofric eliminated all taxes, except for one on horses. During Edward I's reign, a check was made and the only tax in Coventry was one on horses. Since 1678 the town of Coventry still celebrates the ride during its annual fair.
Although Godgifu is recorded as a pre-conquest landholder in Domesday Book, this need not mean she was living in 1066, let alone that she survived the conquest; but Hemming's statement that the lost Worcester lands passed straight to her grandsons without mention of their father, Ælfgar, who probably died in 1062, might imply that Godgifu outlived her son. In the thirteenth century her death was commemorated on 10 September and was believed to have occurred in 1067, which seems plausible. There is no reason to doubt that she was buried with her husband at Coventry, despite the assertion of the Evesham chronicle that she lay in Holy Trinity, Evesham.
- Godifu (d.after 1054/57)
- m. ante 1010 Leofric of Mercia. Issue: 1
- Aelfgar, Earl of the East Angles and Earl of Mercia (d.1062)
- m.1 Aelfgifu. Issue: 3
- m.2 1058 ___ of Gwynedd
- "England, AngloSaxon nobility: Northumbria." Medieval Lands v.3. fmg.ac.
- Florence of Worcester
- Haydn, Joseph. Haydn's Dictionary of Dates and Universal Information (London: Edward Moxon and Co., Dover Street, 1841) 1st ed. Page 155 "Coventry, Peeping Tom..."
- ↑ Phillips, Weber, Kirk and Staggs Families of the Pacific Northwest, by Jim Weber, rootsweb.com; Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; author unknown.
- ↑ Florence of Worcester
On October 27, 2011 Roger Wehr wrote:
According to the popular story, Lady Godiva took pity on the people of Coventry, who were suffering grievously under her husband's oppressive taxation. Lady Godiva appealed again and again to her husband, who obstinately refused to remit the tolls. At last, weary of her entreaties, he said he would grant her request if she would strip naked and ride through the streets of the town. Lady Godiva took him at his word and, after issuing a proclamation that all persons should stay indoors and shut their windows, she rode through the town, clothed only in her long hair. Just one person in the town, a tailor ever afterwards known as "Peeping Tom," disobeyed her proclamation in one of the most famous instances of voyeurism. In the story, Tom bores a hole in his shutters so that he might see Godiva pass, and is struck blind. In the end, Godiva's husband keeps his word and abolishes the onerous taxes.
On October 27, 2011 Roger Wehr wrote:
Both Leofric and Godiva were generous benefactors to religious houses. In 1043 Leofric founded and endowed a Benedictine monastery at Coventry. On the site of a nunnery destroyed by the Danes in 1016. Writing in the 12th century, Roger of Wendover credits Godiva as the persuasive force behind this act. In the 1050s, her name is coupled with that of her husband on a grant of land to the monastery of St. Mary, Worcester and the endowment of the minster at Stow St Mary, Lincolnshire. She and her husband are commemorated as benefactors of other monasteries at Leominster, Chester, Much Wenlock and Evesham. She gave Coventry a number of works in precious metal made for the purpose by the famous goldsmith Mannig, and bequeathed a necklace valued at 100 marks of silver. Another necklace went to Evesham, to be hung around the figure of the Virgin accompanying the life-size gold and silver rood she and her husband gave, and St Paul's Cathedral, London received a gold-fringed chasuble. She and her husband were among the most munificent of the several large Anglo-Saxon donors of the last decades before the Conquest; the early Norman bishops made short work of their gifts, carrying them off to Normandy or melting them down for bullion. The manor of Woolhope in Herefordshire, along with four others, was given to the cathedral at Hereford before the Norman Conquest by the benefactresses Wulviva and Godiva – usually held to be this Godiva and her sister. The church there has a 20th century stained glass window representing them. Her mark, di Ego Godiva Comitissa diu istud desideravi, appears on a charter purportedly given by Thorold of Bucknall to the Benedictine monastery of Spalding. However, this charter is considered spurious by many historians. Even so it is possible that Thorold, who appears in the Domesday Book as sheriff of Lincolnshire, was her brother. After Leofric's death in 1057, his widow lived on until sometime between the Norman Conquest of 1066 and 1086. She is mentioned in the Domesday survey as one of the few Anglo-Saxons and the only woman to remain a major landholder shortly after the conquest. By the time of this great survey in 1086, Godiva had died, but her former lands are listed, although now held by others. Thus, Godiva apparently died between 1066 and 1086.
The place where Godiva was buried has been a matter of debate. 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. According to the account in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, "There is no reason to doubt that she was buried with her husband at Coventry, despite the assertion of the Evesham chronicle that she lay in Holy Trinity, Evesham." Dugdale (1656) says that a window with representations of Leofric and Godiva was placed in Trinity Church, Coventry, about the time of Richard II.
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