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Godiva ( Godgifu) (d. between 1057 and 1086). Wife of Earl Leofric of Mercia. To obtain her request that Coventry be relieved of a heavy toll, she is alleged to have ridden naked through the market. The legend obscures her reputation as founder and benefactress of religious establishments. A number of monasteries were recipients of her own and Leofric's generosity. Together they founded and richly endowed the Benedictine monastery and church at Coventry in 1043, where relics included an arm of St Augustine of Hippo bought by Æthelnoth, archbishop of Canterbury. The church was said to be resplendent with Godiva's gifts of gold and precious stones, and on her death she left a jewelled rosary to be placed on the image of the Virgin Mary, to whom she was especially devoted. She and Leofric were both buried in their Coventry church. Roger of Wendover in the 13th cent. first related her ride; 18th-cent. writers embellished it with picturesque detail like ‘Peeping Tom’.

Audrey MacDonald