Historical Figures

Lady Godiva

Lady Godiva was an 11th century noblewoman of Coventry, England who protested her husband’s excessive taxation of his subjects. He agreed to alleviate his taxation policy if she would ride a horse through the streets of Coventry naked. She willingly did so and used the ride to provocatively demonstrate the poverty and vulnerability of her subjects. While the factual basis of the story remains debatable, Godiva’s virtuous and compassionate nature would make her an appealing subject for artists and writers. She was especially popular during the 19th century, when radical changes resulting from modernization and massive immigration provoked a cultural nostalgia in Europe and America for the seemingly simpler era of the Middle Ages. Godiva’s sense of social justice would also find sympathy with 19th-century reformers.

Adapted from

Olivier Meslay, DMA unpublished material, 2011

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