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24 September 2014

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Infamous Coventry lady exposed

Lady Godiva painted by John Collier
Lady Godiva depicted by Pre-Raphaelite artist John Collier, circa 1898
Shocking scene as lady rides naked in city! So this is not fresh news, but the impact of Lady Godiva's horse riding antics still captures the imagination.

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We were able to use the beautiful John Collier painting on our banner to celebrate this decadent moment in Coventry's history thanks to the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum.

The Pre-Raphaelite painting is part of their permanent collection and is the jewel in the crown of their ongoing exhibition: Lady Godiva and Sutherland Highlights.

The lady
 A woman dressed as Lady Godiva for city celebrations
Coventry's own Godiva, Pru Porretta, in action
The significance of the story to Coventry goes beyond titillation, although the main character being naked has certainly helped the story gain momentum over the past nine hundred years.

However it is Lady Godiva's generosity that has given her a special place in the hearts of the city's people.

Although the story of her horse-ride may be legend, the woman and her influence were definitely real.

Lady Godiva lived in the 11th Century and her charity and power is well documented.

Godiva was the first woman to be mentioned in the Domesday Book and was married to Leofric, the Earl of Mercia and Lord of Coventry.

Together they founded the Benedictine Priory and later the Cathedral of St Mary. On that site recent archaeological excavations have un-earthed some fascinating objects.

Information about the finds and the project is now on display at the Priory Visitors Centre.

The legend
 Statue of Lady Godiva
Statue of Lady Godiva in Cathedral lanes, Coventry
The story tells how Lady Godiva was upset with Leofric for crippling the development of Coventry with taxes.

She persistently pleaded with her husband, who eventually said he would reduce the taxes if she rode naked on a horse across the town.

Of course he never imagined she would complete the challenge.

Everyone showed their respect by staying indoors and with only her long hair to cover her, Lady Godiva rode through the deserted streets.

Only one person looked - the character we now know as Peeping Tom - but as he gave in to the temptation he was struck blind.

Amazed by her compassionate deed, Leofric fulfilled his promise and reduced the taxes immediately.

The Godiva Procession
 Godiva Festival
Costumed participant in the Godiva procession
To celebrate this original - and most dramatic - benefactor, the Godiva festival and procession happen annually in Coventry.

This traditional foot procession started in 1678 and has been revived in recent years by CV One.

Godiva Procession 2003

The Godiva Procession 2003 will take place on Saturday 7 June, departing from the cathedral ruins at 11am and processing around the city before ending in the Memorial Park.

There were well over 1000 participants in Godiva Procession 2002 and Godiva Procession 2003 promises to be even bigger, more colourful and more musical.

Follow the link on the left to see the spectacular historic costumes from the Godiva Procession 2002.

Godiva Festival weekend
 Performer in tent at the Godiva festival
Performer at the Godiva Festival
The Godiva Festival takes place over the weekend of the procession.

It is a free festival featuring live music, the Godiva Historic Car Run, family and childrens' entertainment, a history fair, a fairground, craft stalls and more.

In 2003, the Godiva Festival runs from 6-8 June.

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