Thursday, July 11, 2019

Lady Godiva of Yesteryear and the Mischief-maker of Today

It was early evening following a short thunderstorm. Hub went outside to walk our houseguest, Oliver, both glad to breathe in cool fresh air, and Oliver eager to take a leak.

Hub walked a short distance before noticing an object in the street. Moving closer, he recognized the figure. One of our neighbors, a toddler, was sitting naked in a puddle in the middle of our street. 

Hub crossed the road and knocked on our neighbor’s door. Mom quickly answered, a moment earlier realizing her daughter had escaped the house.

At the same time a couple renting a house on the block– and not acquainted with the neighbors - walked outside and, seeing a little girl alone on the pavement, called the police.

Hub, the mother, her husband, the little girl and a couple of siblings congregated on the sidewalk. Suddenly two police cars pull up, park their car, and two patrolmen approach the group. As one policeman took notes, the embarrassed parents explained their daughter ran out of the house before they could catch her...

It is curious sometimes how our mind makes connections. The episode of the naked tot brought to my mind the story of Lady Godiva, the woman who supposedly rode au naturel through town.

Lady Godiva, born in 990, was a real person. She married a man named Leofric, a nobleman, Earl of Mercia and Lord of Coventry. Lady Godiva was known as a kind and generous woman, especially to her church. She started a Benedictine monastery, and was one of only a small number of women landowners at the time.

Her husband was not as kind as his wife. He taxed his tenants harshly, so much so that his wife got angry and urged him to lower the taxes. He scoffed at her and said something like, “I’ll lower the taxes when you ride naked through the village.”

Although knowing her husband was taunting her, Lady Godiva rose to the challenge. Her long hair covering part of her naked body, she prepared to ride horseback through town. Before starting she sent word that the villagers should stay inside their homes and not look out the window. All of them complied – except one man named Tom. He peeked.

Thus the term ‘peeping Tom’ entered our vocabulary.

The legend concludes with Leofric holding up his end of the bargain and reducing taxes on his tenants.

A good story, but mostly untrue. Lady Godiva was a real person. The story of her riding naked through the streets and the anecdote about peeping Tom, most likely a myth popularized in a poem written by Alfred Lord Tennyson in 1840, “Godiva.”

The story of Lady Godiva gave us a poem, a song by Peter & Gordon, and delicious chocolates. Joseph Draps sought a name for his chocolates that spoke of "timeless values and modern boldness"  - and Lady Godiva tempts us today.

Maybe one day someone will write a song about the toddler mischief-maker of my neighborhood, or name a delicious delicacy after her.

Until then enjoy ‘Lady Godiva’ by Peter & Gordon


  1. Very amusing. I don’t remember this song. For some reason, the tune to Lady Madonna popped into my mind as I was ready to press play.

  2. So interesting about Lady Godiva. I'd love to believe its a true story. Women had to be very creative in those days to be heard. Glad that little girl was okay.

  3. Like Lucy, my mind first went to Lady Madonna. I guess because of the syllable count.

  4. I never knew the entire story. Thanks for telling it. I remember the song and love the chocolate. I hope the little toddler got quickly swept out of her puddle. That's always embarrassing and terrifying for a parent.