Historic Legend Expanded Upon in ‘Godiva’
Published: Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 4, 2013 16:09
Legends of ancient history often make excellent subject matter for historical novels, as their blending of fiction and nonfiction can make for quite a telling. One story in particular, the legendary nude ride of the Lady Godiva through the streets of Coventry in 11th century England, does just this in Nicole Galland’s “Godiva: A Novel of Love, Loyalty and Courtly Intrigue.”
Lady Godiva, wife of Leofric the Earl of Mercia, is known far and wide for parading her femininity and sexuality for all to see. Dressing in ways becoming to her figure, romancing lords and thanes to receive support for her husband’s propositions, Godiva is a keen example of good looks and equally good brains smashed together to make a headstrong heartthrob of a woman.
Interestingly enough, the attractive and flirtatious Godiva’s best friend is the mother abbess of England—Edgiva, the niece of England’s new king Edward. Throughout the 305-page story, Godiva and Edgiva are each faced with equally challenging dilemmas that test the boundaries of humility and humiliation.
Godiva has been tapped by the king to offer him her hometown of Coventry, whose location is in a convenient locale for future trade and commerce. Refusing to hand over Coventry would leave her two options: pay a devastatingly enormous tax or, ride nude on a bareback horse through the middle of Coventry on May Day, a day associated with pagan celebration.
Godiva goes for advice to Edgiva, who is faced with her own inner battle. A tryst with the son of powerful earl results in pregnancy, which, her being an abbess, would be a powerful blow to the church should it be discovered.
Godiva and Edgiva confide their secrets in each other, offer hardy advice and insight, and though the road to solving them is rough and rocky, they both find singular solutions to their situations. By their sides the whole way through is Leofric, who stands by Godiva no matter what, however much he resents her choices.
This thousand-year-old English legend was intriguing subject matter for a novel. The tale of the Lady of Coventry riding nude through town to save her people from the king’s crushing tax has been circulating since the 1300s, and though the figure Lady Godiva was real, her ride is simply legend.
For those wondering whether this Godiva is the same as the chocolate manufacturer, the answer is yes; Lady Godiva of Coventry is indeed the famed Godiva Chocolatier mascot, baring all on horseback.
And that is just what “Godiva” is all about; what led up to the infamous ride that may or may not have happened. No one really knows what occurred on that supposedly fateful date in the mid-1040s, but Galland’s book adds intrigue to an already interesting tale.
Splashing color onto characters of the past like Leofric or Edgiva livened them up and brought them to life. They are no longer figures of the past, but real people of the times faced with enormous quandaries. That lifelike color and relatable humanity complement the unknowns of this story, filling in the blanks about who these people were and making the legend of Lady Godiva’s ride come to life in literature.