THE Countess Godiva; who was a great lover of God's mother, longing to free the town of Coventry from the oppression of a heavy toll, often with urgent prayers besought her husband that, from regard to Jesus Christ and his mother, be would free the town from that service and from all other heavy burdens; and when the Earl sharply rebuked her for foolishly asking what was so much so his damage, and always forbade her evermore to speak to him on the subject; and while she, on the other hand, with a woman's pertinacity, never ceased to exasperate her husband on that matter, he at last made her this answer: "Mount your horse and ride naked, before all the people, through the market of the town from one end to the other, and on your return you shall have your request." On which Godiva replied, "But will you give me permission if I am willing to do it?" "I will," said he, Whereupon the Countess, beloved of God, loosed her hair and let down her tresses, which covered the whole of her body like a veil, and then mounting her horse and attended by two knights, she rode through the market-place, without being seen, except her fair legs; and having completed the journey, she returned with gladness to her astonished husband, and obtained of him what she had asked; for Earl Leofric freed the town of Coventry and its inhabitants from the aforesaid service, and confirmed what he had done by a charter.
The modern version of the story adds in the Laureate's words:--
"And one low churl, compact of thankless earth,
The fatal byword of all years to come,
Boring a little auger-hole in fear,
Peep'd--but his eyes, before they had their will,
Were shrivell'd into darkness in his head,
And dropt before him. So the Powers, who wait
On noble deeds, cancell'd a sense misus'd"
1 Rope of Wendover. Flowers of History. Dr. Giles' translation. Sub anno 1057.