Lady Godiva is renowned for riding through the streets of Coventry — naked! What is less known however, is why such a pious woman would do such a thing.

Lady Godgifu, her real name, was married to Leofric, the Earl of Mercia. She was a beautiful woman who cared greatly for the people of Coventry who were ruled over by her tyrannical husband. He imposed heavy taxes on the people and he and Godgifu quarrelled about it frequently. She begged him to be more merciful.

One day Leofric made the extravagant promise that if she were to ride naked through the streets of Coventry on market day, he would cancel the tax altogether. Her passion for the people and their well being spurred her on to take the challenge and in 1040, Lady Godgifu rode through the streets, clothed only by her long, beautiful blonde hair.

Surprisingly, Leofric kept his promise and the people of Coventry were exempt from paying taxes. Eventually, he changed his ways and instead of persecuting the church, mended his relationship with Godgifu and founded a Benedictine monastery with her.

One version of the tale says that she requested everyone stay indoors during her ride, with their windows and doors shut. The story goes that only one man peeped and that was Tom, the tailor, who is said to have been struck blind for his moment of weakness. You’ve heard of Peeping Tom haven’t you?