Lady Godiva, Countess of Mercia (/ɡəˈdaɪvə/; died between 1066 and 1086), in Old English Godgifu, was an
English noblewoman who, according to a legend dating at least to the 13th century, rode naked – covered only in her long hair –
through the streets of Coventry to gain a remission of the oppressive taxation that her husband imposed on his tenants.
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 on a horse 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.
He lost his life for his refusal to obey the edict.
Some historians have discerned elements of pagan fertility rituals in the Godiva story, whereby a young "May Queen" was led to the sacred Cofa's tree,
perhaps to celebrate the renewal of spring. The oldest form of the legend has Godiva passing through Coventry market from one end to the other while
the people were assembled, attended only by two knights. This version is given in Flores Historiarum by Roger of Wendover (died 1236), a somewhat gullible collector of anecdotes, who quoted from unnamed earlier writers.
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.
Godiva Chocolatier is named after Lady Godiva, and features a stylised rendition of her ride as its logo.