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The Original “Peeping Tom”

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The original Peeping Tom was a fictitious tailor who was stricken blind by watching Lady Godiva make her famous nude journey. Here’s the legend:

In the mid-11th Century, the citizens of Coventry were subject to high taxes like the rest of England under the rule of Edward the Confessor. As the wife of the Leofric, the Earl of Mercia, she requested that her husband refrain from collecting the taxes, since doing so would mean poverty for the townsfolk.

To humor her, the Earl told her that he would do so only if she would ride a horse in the nude through the streets of Coventry. To his surprise, she agreed, and accomplished the deed the next day.

The story was first recorded some two centuries later, and several colorful additions have become part of the story since then. One of these appeared in the late 18th Century, when a tailor by the name of Tom was said to have peeked at the Lady as she rode by on her steed. Her beauty instantly made him blind, and Peeping Tom was born.

One other thing: Godiva was said to be beautiful, but she wasn’t the young woman you see depicted in many paintings. If the ride occurred in the time believed by most scholars, the Lady would have been at least in her forties when she pulled her famous stunt.

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  • Nancy

    Good for her-! Still a role model after all these years.