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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Lady Godiva

b. circa 990, England; d. circa 1066–86, England

Lady Godiva (Godgifu) was married to Leofric, earl of Mercia, a kingdom in England. Both Godiva and Leofric were known to give generous gifts of money and land to monasteries and other religious institutions. Godiva herself was a rather wealthy landowner, remaining so after Leofric’s death in 1057. The first extant mention of Godiva’s legendary nude ride is in the Chronica by Roger of Wendover (d. 1236). The story goes that Leofric, tired of his wife’s constant demand that he lower taxes on the people of Coventry, retorted that he would do so if she rode through the town naked. She took up the challenge, but first instructed all the townspeople to stay indoors and close their shutters. There is no evidence connecting the historical Godiva with the nude rider.