Looking for Lady Godiva by Eliza Redgold & Giveaways




Looking for Lady Godiva

This blog post comes to us from Eliza Redgold, author, academic and unashamed romantic. Her new novel Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva is released by St Martin’s Press, New York.


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I’ve been asked how I carried out my research for my novel NAKED. A journey, my research process and my writing inspiration were intertwined.  The book followed a research trip I made to Coventry, UK. My travel article was published in The Weekend Australian and The Coventry Observer published a piece about my visit too.

Here’s some of what I included in my historical notes at the end of the novel about how I went looking for Lady Godiva (without giving away the story!):

We all know the legend of Lady Godiva who famously rode naked through the streets of Coventry, covered only by her long, flowing hair. Or seen her portrait, even if adorning a box of Belgian chocolates. So the story goes, she begged her husband Lord Leofric of Mercia to lift a high tax on her people, who would starve if forced to pay. He cruelly demanded a forfeit: that Godiva ride naked on horseback through the town. It’s something many 21st century women might baulk at even for charity - calendar girls aside. There are various happy endings to Godiva’s ride: that all the townsfolk of Coventry closed their doors and refused to look upon on their liege lady, and that her husband, in remorse, lifted the tax. Other additions to the tale include the famous peeping Tom (who actually appeared in the 16th century versions of the myth) the only one of the townsfolk who couldn't resist a glance who was struck blind.

Though the legend has lasted for centuries, being revived periodically, often during periods of change and liberation in women’s lives, there’s dispute over exactly what if anything Godiva wore on her famous ride, or even if it occurred.  Historical fact and a good story don’t always go hand in hand. Some historians certainly call it a myth. Yet there’s no doubt that Lady Godiva was a real person who lived in 11th century Anglo-Saxon Engla-lond. Whatever the facts, she has remained captivating. 

In my telling of the story I’ve placed Godiva and Leofric’s tale in 1023 at a time not much is known about either of them. Leofric and Godiva’s names first appear entwined in records in 1035. Their marriage was believed to be some time before. 

Anglo-Saxon Engla-lond was a tough time and place for a woman. Constant Danish invasion by those later called Vikings, though the Saxons called them Danes, occurred many times in the 10th and 11th century. By Godiva’s lifetime, the Dane Law was the rule in much of East Anglia and the English eastern coast. Records suggest that Godiva was more than equal to the challenges of her day. Her name appears in records as the only female landowner who retained her lands not only against the Danes but also later against the Norman invasion of 1066. Her status as a landowner indicates that she inherited her own estate. I have placed Godiva firmly as the heiress and defender of ‘the Middle Lands’.  Saxon noblewomen could inherit and govern property and some were certainly warriors. Many were also peace weaver or in old Anglo-Saxon fripwebba.  These women were known to marry a man from an opposing tribe to establish peace or end war. Queen Wealtheow, Godiva’s heroine in Beowulf, was such a woman. To be a peace-weaver was a mantle of honor worn by any Saxon wife who kept the peace in her home, brave and loyal. 

I have woven real historical events together with Leofric and Godiva’s fictional story as well as embroidering the legend. Ancient records suggest their marriage was a strong one. By the end of their marriage, Leofric and Godiva together supported monasteries, built abbeys and churches, and aided the poor, with the help of Brother Aefic of Evesham.  The original cathedral in Coventry was founded by Godiva and Leofric as a monastic site. Godiva also donated rich garments and jewellery to the city including bequeathing a valuable silver necklace. 

History has been hard on Lord Leofric. In most of the Godiva stories Leofric of Mercia is definitely the villain of the piece, ready to impose heavy taxes and to ignobly allow his wife to carry out her daring ride. But by the end of his life, historical documents reveal Lord Leofric was a changed man.

Yet it’s the legend of Lady Godiva herself that has stood the test of time. Rides as penitents like the one Godiva undertook were practiced in that period - though Godiva’s nakedness was certainly unique. By all accounts, whether fact or fiction, she was a unique woman. Her courage continues to inspire us, her story to be told, even after a thousand years.  

Loyalty. Self-sacrifice. Passion.

                True love.
Laid bare.
NAKED: A Novel of Lady Godiva
http://amzn.to/1DXROqX

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NAKED: A Novel of Lady Godiva

We know her name. We know of her naked ride. We don't know her true story.

We all know the legend of Lady Godiva, who famously rode naked through the streets of Coventry,Naked is an original version of Godiva's tale with a twist that may be closer to the truth: by the end of his life Leofric had fallen deeply in love with Lady Godiva. A tale of legendary courage and extraordinary passion, Naked brings an epic story new voice.

covered only by her long, flowing hair. So the story goes, she begged her husband Lord Leofric of Mercia to lift a high tax on her people, who would starve if forced to pay. Lord Leofric demanded a forfeit: that Godiva ride naked on horseback through the town. There are various endings to Godiva's ride, that all the people of Coventry closed their doors and refused to look upon their liege lady (except for 'peeping Tom') and that her husband, in remorse, lifted the tax.

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28 comments:

  1. Thanks for the post. Research, though hard to do is interesting! Congratulations on the release! Sounds an awesome story!

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    1. Godiva is awesome and so was her husband Leofric! Awesome is just the word for him as you'll see in NAKED!
      Thanks for your good wishes.

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  2. Sounds like she was a strong and powerful woman in her day. Quite amazing in itself. I love a good historical novel!

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  3. Historical fiction is hard to write but such a pleasure to read! Congratulations Eliza on your release.

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    1. You're right! Hard work but worth the journey. Thanks for the congratulations.

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  4. I love the story and I don't care if it's myth or fact. The idea is enough to keep me interested. Congratulations on writing and publishing your story.

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    1. It is such an interesting legend. I was intrigued whether it was myth or fact too! Thanks so much.

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  5. It's interesting that women were allowed to own property, serve as warriors, and have power in those days, isn't it?

    This book sounds terrific. I wish Eliza much success with it.

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    1. Not without some difficulties :) Just like today!

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  6. How nice to learn that someone else wonders about the story behind the story. And it is even better to hear of someone who does things with those wonderings.
    This sounds amazing.

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    1. Exactly! Nice to hear you wonder about the story behind the story too!

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  7. The research sounds like it was a lot of fun, although I don't think we can quite separate fact and fiction for some tales. Congrats, Eliza!

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    1. You're right - fact and fiction are so intertwined. They certainly are in Godiva's story!

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  8. It does make you wonder if it really happened.

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  9. Congrats to Eliza. Researching this one must have been very interesting indeed.

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  10. Fascinating to learn more about this famous woman!

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    1. Thanks so much for your good wishes :)

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  11. Thank you, Eliza, for sharing your thoughts. Best of luck with your new release.

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  12. Thanks so much! I hope you enjoy Godiva's tale. She's inspiring!

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  13. It's nice to meet you, Eliza! Wishing you well with your book. Kelly, thanks for the intro!

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  14. I've wondered too how much reality there is to the story. I've been looking at writing something in that time period too, and the records are SO sparse.

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  15. How interesting. I never read about the legend in its entirety. I think a novel about her is wonderful. I'm late for the giveaway, but added the book to my list.

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  16. Interesting post. I am not sure if I have heard in detail about this legend, though I knew a little about it. Adding the book to my TBR list.

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  17. What an interesting background of Lady Godiva! I had never heard of her naked ride. (What kind of husband would make her do that?) I bet this will be a really interesting book!

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  18. I have been seeing this book around and definitely want to read it! I am so curious, as I only know a little bit about the legend. :)
    ~Jess

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