Lady Godiva by John Collier, c. 1897, Herbert Art Gallery and Museum
In 1040, Leonfric, earl of Mercia and lord of Coventry, laid such onerous taxes on the people that they were starving. When Lady Godiva, his wife, begged him to be merciful, he challenged her. If she would ride naked through the town, he would rescind the taxes. Godiva ordered that all windows be covered at noon and that all townspeople stay indoors. She mounted her white stallion and rode through the town, her long hair her only garment. Only one man dared to look at her and he was struck blind. His name has come down to us as Peeping Tom. It is said that his yes shriveled into darkness at the moment he beheld Godiva’s naked figure. Godiva was not just any medieval English noblewoman. The tale of Lady Godiva is the story of the Celtic goddess Epona, who road naked on a white horse while she bestowed blessings upon her people, their houses, their work and their fields and crops.