The people of Coventry had been inflicted with a heavy tax by the earl, Leofric.
Lady Godiva, upon witnessing the plight of her people, went to her husband and begged him to relieve them of the tax. He scolded her for questioning his authority, and warned her not to ask him again.
However, she refused to back down and finally her exasperated husband said, “Mount your horse naked, then ride across the town’s marketplace from one end to the other, with all the people assembled, and when you return you shall have what you ask for.”
To Leofric’s surprise, upon receiving his word the countess mounted her horse naked, as agreed. She then released her hair from her head and let it fall and cover her whole body.
She commanded all the people to stay indoors, away from their windows, upon pain of death. However, as she rode across the marketplace there was one who couldn’t resist looking, but it cost him his life.
Godiva returned to her astonished husband who had no option but to fulfil his promise and release the people from the harsh tax.
Although some details differ, the main story remains the same in all accounts – the noblewoman sacrifices her own modesty to relieve her citizens of a cruel tax imposed by her husband.
This story of the sacrificial ride has entered into legend, and in memory of this event a statue of the man who couldn’t resist looking out of his window has stood in Coventry since the 16th century.