Lady Godiva in popular culture

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Lady Godiva was an Anglo-Saxon noblewoman who, according to legend, rode naked through the streets of Coventry, in England, in order to gain a remission of the oppressive taxation imposed by her husband on his tenants. Because of the growth of the legend, Lady Godiva has since entered popular culture in a number of countries.

Main article: Lady Godiva

Advertising[edit]

Classical music and opera[edit]

Coventry[edit]

In Lady Godina's Rout (1796), James Gillray appealed to the Godiva legend in caricaturing the fashions of the time.

The Godiva Procession, a commemoration of the legendary ride, was instituted on 31 May 1678 as part of Coventry fair and was celebrated up to the 1960s. The part of Lady Godiva was usually played by a scantily clad actress or dancer, and the occasion often attracted controversy. For instance, in 1854, the Bishop of Worcester protested against "a Birmingham whore being paraded through the streets as Lady Godiva." These annual processions were enlivened by constant rumours, beforehand, that the girl playing the part of Lady Godiva would actually appear nude, like the original. These hopes were eventually realised in a play staged in 1974, at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, entitled The only true story of Lady Godiva, in which Lady Godiva appeared naked, riding a motor bike.[2] The celebration has been revived as part of the Godiva Festival.[citation needed]

The wooden effigy of Peeping Tom which, from 1812 until World War II looked out on the world from a hotel at the northwest corner of Hertford Street, Coventry, can now be found in Cathedral Lanes Shopping Centre. It represents a man in armour and was probably an image of Saint George. Nearby, in the 1950s rebuilt Broadgate, an animated Peeping Tom watches over Lady Godiva as she makes her hourly ride around the Godiva Clock.[3]

From the mid-1980s a Coventry resident, Pru Porretta, has adopted a Lady Godiva role to promote community events and good works in the city. In 1999 Coventry councillors considered eliminating Godiva from the city's public identity.[4] As of 2005, Porretta retains the status of Coventry's unofficial ambassador. Each September Poretta marks the occasion of Lady Godiva's birthday by leading a local pageant focusing on world peace and unity known as The Godiva Sisters. In August 2007, the Godiva Sisters was performed in front of 900 delegates from 69 countries attending the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children Biennial Conference held at the University of Warwick. In the New Year Honours 2010 Porretta was appointed a Member of the Order of The British Empire for services to the city of Coventry community and tourism services.[5]

The image of Lady Godiva on horseback is also the corporate symbol of the Coventry Building Society, appearing on letterheads, statements, passbooks and other documents.[citation needed]

In 2010 an arts project, "Godiva Awakes", involving a 10 metre tall puppet-version of Lady Godiva, powered by 50 bicycles, leading a procession from Coventry to London, was proposed by the independent company Imagineer productions (best known locally for reviving the Coventry Mystery Plays and reimagining the Coventry Carnival as the Godiva Festival).[6] This proposal went on to become the regional winner and will be realised as part of the Arts Council's 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

Engineering mascot[edit]

The crest of the Lady Godiva Memorial Bnad, chiefly made up of engineering students at the University of Toronto.

In some university engineering faculties, military engineering corps and other engineering organisations, Lady Godiva is regarded as a mascot and called the "Patron Saint of Engineers" or "Goddess of Engineering." The origin is unclear, although it probably developed in Britain, where several early engineering schools were founded during the industrial revolution. The practice migrated to North America through Canadian schools, such as the University of Toronto and McMaster University, which today hold an annual "Godiva Week" in January consisting of events intended to engender school spirit. By the mid-20th century, the practice of engineering organizations associating themselves with Lady Godiva was well established in the United States.

A particular tradition associated with this is that of drinking songs, which make reference to Lady Godiva, particularly Godiva's Hymn.

Historically, certain college organisations staged an annual "Godiva Ride" in which a naked female (or a costumed male) rode a horse across campus.[7] This practice may have declined with the advent of modern feminist attitudes.[8]

Film[edit]

  • Lady Godiva (1911), the first film telling of the story starring Julia Swayne Gordon and produced by the Vitagraph company.
  • Lady Godiva (1928), a British silent short with Gladys Jennings in the title role.
  • The Ghost Talks (1949), a short film featuring the Three Stooges in a slapstick send-up of the Lady Godiva legend. The film changes key elements of the legend, eliminating Tom's blindness as his penalty and inventing a relationship between the tailor and the Lady. After an encounter between the Stooges and a haunted, empty suit of armour occupied by the spirit of Peeping Tom, the Stooges act out the ghost's narrative of the events of the famous day in costumes based on the clothing of a period many years later than the life of the historic Godiva.
  • Lady Godiva Rides Again (1950) British film with Diana Dors and Pauline Stroud.
  • Lady Godiva of Coventry (1955) starring Irish actress Maureen O'Hara in the title role.[9]
  • Young Guns II (1990), in one scene the town's brothel madam rides off on horse naked
  • The Mask (1994) - When in the Bank talking to Stanley (Jim Carrey), Tina (Cameron Diaz) starts talking about Stanley's tie:
TINA: "As I was saying about that tie. It's like one of those, what do you call them, ink blot tests."
STANLEY: "A Rorschach test."
TINA: "That's it. It looks like... um. A young woman riding bareback. You know, like a Lady Godiva or something."

Literature[edit]

  • "Godiva" (1842), a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
  • Hereward the Wake (1866), a novel by Charles Kingsley, features Lady Godiva as a character.
  • "Women in Love" (1916), a novel by D. H. Lawrence features a sculpture entitled Lady Godiva; a character refers the name to "the middle-aged wife of some Earl or other, who covered herself with her long hair," and is mocked.
  • Guli ("The Heart"), a poem by Galaktion Tabidze, includes a mention of Lady Godiva.[10]
  • "Boston" (1928) a novel by Upton Sinclair, references Lady Godiva on page 652.
  • The Seven Lady Godivas: The True Facts Concerning History's Barest Family (1939), a short illustrated novel by Dr. Seuss.
  • Kaputt (1944), a novel by Curzio Malaparte, includes a mention of Lady Godiva.
  • "Ariel" (1965), a poem by Sylvia Plath includes a mention of Lady Godiva.
  • "Nicotine," a poem by Ezra Pound mentions Lady Godiva.
  • King Hereafter (1982), a novel by Dorothy Dunnett features Lady Godiva as a character.
  • Inshalla (1992), a novel by Oriana Fallaci has a small subplot centred on the purchase of a sex doll called Lady Godiva.
  • "Superman/Batman #20" (2005) has a villain named Godiva whose nudity is covered only by her long hair.
  • "Godiva" (2008), a historical novel by Nerys Jones, who died while the book was in press, relates the tumultuous events of 1042 culminating in the events of the legend and features Lady Godiva as the heroine.
  • "Naked" (2008), a short story by Louise Hawes, part of her book of retold fairytales; "Black Pearls, A Faerie Strand."
  • "No Lady Godiva", poem by Charles Bukowski[when?][citation needed]

Music[edit]

Several popular songs make contemporary usage of the Lady Godiva image. These include:

  • Aerosmith's song "My Girl" from their album, Pump, contains the line, "My girl's a Lady Godiva."
  • Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass had a 1967 hit, "Lady Godiva", an instrumental version of the Peter and Gordon song.
  • Alex Day recorded a cover of the 1966 Peter and Gordon song, "Lady Godiva". The music video for his rendition was posted on YouTube on March 14, 2012. Day released the single and twelve remixes on April 1, 2012.
  • Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show recorded the song "Hey, Lady Godiva."
  • Sage Francis' song "Love the Lie" on the album Li(f)e contains the line, "Lady Godiva might have been an exhibitionist, I'm not here to judge voyeuristic fetishes."
  • In Peter Gabriel's song "Modern Love" from his self-titled 1977 album, he states "For Lady Godiva I came incognito."
  • Peter and Gordon's "Lady Godiva" (UK: single Columbia DB 8003 P.1966, best place in British Charts: # 16, 22.09.1966 ;US: LP "Lady Godiva" (S) T 2664 Capitol Records-EMI P. 1967; FRANCE: EP "Lady Godiva" Columbia ESRF 1824 P. 1967)" is about seventeen year old beauty queen who rides naked though an unnamed town. Like Coventry's Lady Godiva, the Lady Godiva of the song has long flowing hair that covers her body. She then takes up striptease, until a Hollywood director casts her in a “Certificate X” movie. A barber cuts her hair because she “doesn’t need it long any more”.
  • Grant Lee Buffalo's song "Lady Godiva and Me" from their 1994 album, Mighty Joe Moon, includes references to Peeping Tom.
  • German Melodic death metal band Heaven Shall Burn recorded a song titled Godiva on their 2013 released album Veto.Also the Album cover of Veto is a John Collier Painting of the Lady Godiva
  • King Khan and the Shrines' song "The Ballad of Lady Godiva" is the last track on their 2007 album What Is?!
  • Eartha Kitt's "Champagne Taste" from her 1961 live album, In Person At The Plaza, includes the lyrics "And it wouldn't surprise me if a lady like Godiva had someone like you to give her the stole/For with her champagne taste and your beer bottle pocket/when she couldn't get those dresses she just let down all her tresses and forgot she was a lady after all."
  • Boney M's song "Lady Godiva" was released in 1993 on the album Boney M. More Gold.
  • Groucho Marx's song "Lydia the Tattooed Lady" mentions one of the tattoos being "there's Godiva but with her pyjamas on"
  • Mother Love Bone recorded a song, "Lady Godiva Blues", on their 1992 self-titled album and on the reissue of Apple, in each instance as a bonus track.
  • Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now" sees Freddie Mercury "passing by like Lady Godiva."
  • Simply Red recorded "Lady Godiva's Room" as b-side on Infi­del­ity (May 1987) and I Won't Feel Bad (Feb­ru­ary 1988) and live on their 1992 EP Montreux
  • The Velvet Underground's "Lady Godiva's Operation" on their 1968 LP, White Light/White Heat, referring to a transwoman who dies at the hands of her surgeons during a sexual reassignment-turned-anesthetic death.
  • Toots & the Maytals recorded the song "Peeping Tom" in 1970 on the album Monkey Man.
  • "Left & Right" from D'Angelo's 2000 album Voodoo mentions Lady Godiva

Television[edit]

  • In the Blackadder Goes Forth episode "Private Plane," Captain Blackadder (Rowan Atkinson) describes the Royal Flying Corps as "the biggest show-offs since Lady Godiva entered the royal enclosure at Ascot claiming she had literally nothing to wear."
  • In the Charmed episode "The Bare Witch Project," a student in Magic School accidentally conjures Lady Godiva and Lord Dyson out of a history book. Later, Phoebe, inspired by Lady Godiva, decides to ride naked through a crowded street in support of women's liberation.
  • In an episode "The Godiva Affair" of the British sitcom Dad's Army, women in the town of Walmington-on-Sea compete for the part of Lady Godiva to head a carnival procession in the town, ultimately performed by Elizabeth, the wife of Captain Mainwaring, causing him to collapse in astonishment and shame.
  • In the Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman episode "The Race" Hank, the saloon keeper, suggests that if Dr. Quinn rides like Lady Godiva in the race "folks might go for it". In other words, she would be allowed to compete in the males only horse race.
  • In the 3-hour pilot episode "Oil" from the first season of Dynasty, Blake Carrington complains that his headstrong and flirtatious daughter Fallon "thinks she's some kind of Lady Godiva."
  • In one Frasier episode, a costume party is held with the theme of characters from literature. Frasier (played by Kelsey Grammer), dressed as the Bishop of Bath from The Canterbury Tales, sees a woman in a flesh-colored bodystocking (played by Grammer's then real-life wife, Camille Donatacci), and guesses that she's Lady Godiva. She says she's Eve from the Bible, leading Frasier to say, "Now I know why it's called the Good Book!"
  • In another Frasier episode, the character of Maris was involved in an unfortunate chemical bonding incident while performing a Lady Godiva impression on a horse saddle her husband Niles Crane had bought her.
  • In the episode "Dead Uncles and Vegetables" from the second season of Gilmore Girls, the grocer Taylor Doose refers to the rejected troubador running the farmer's market as Lady Godiva because of his long hair.
  • The title of Canadian comedy-drama series Godiva's is an allusion to Lady Godiva.
  • Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling featured a character named Godiva who rode to the ring on a horse and wore a sheer bodysuit.
  • In the "Twelve Hungry Men" episode of Hancock's Half Hour, a spoof of Twelve Angry Men, Hancock demonstrates his mangled view of the Godiva legend by comparing it to the case in hand: "Take the case of Doubting Thomas who was sent to Coventry for staring through a keyhole at Lady Godiva. Can anybody prove he was looking at her? Can anybody prove it was he who shouted 'Get your hair cut!'?"
  • Dorothy Reynolds portrayed Lady Godiva in the BBC TV series Hereward the Wake (1965).
  • The Histeria! episode "Tribute to Tyrants" featured a sketch about the legend of Lady Godiva, portrayed by the World's Oldest Woman.
  • Home Time, a 2009 sitcom filmed and based in the city.[clarification needed]
  • In an episode of Jeopardy! aired in October 2007, the clue for Final Jeopardy was 'Paul III roared at him, "I have waited 30 years for your services. Now I'm Pope, can't I satisfy my desire?"' a contestant answered 'Who is Lady Godiva?'
  • Mad Men season 2 episode, the comedian Jimmy Barrett suggests that Betty Draper arrive at a party on her horse, "like Lady Godiva". In the Mad Men Season 5 episode, "The Other Woman", Peggy Olson transforms Michael Ginsberg's ad concept for Château Cheval Blanc, about a leather-jacketed bar patron in London (which the client dislikes), into a Paris-based "Lady Godiva"-like pitch (which the client likes) on the spot.
  • In the 1970s TV series Maude, the opening song, sung by Donny Hathaway, includes the lyrics, "...Lady Godiva was a freedom rider, she didn't care if the whole world looked."
  • In the Round the Twist episode "Linda Godiva," Linda helps Pete win a cross-country horse race by being invisible, she is later turned visible and is seen riding the horse naked.
  • In the Seinfeld episode "The Apology," Jerry's girlfriend regularly walks around in his apartment naked, and at one point he refers to her as "Lady Godiva."
  • In an episode of Spin City, the mayor's rebellious daughter rides naked though Central Park, New York City in protest.
  • In the episode of Suite Life on Deck, "Bermuda Triangle", Zack plans to have faces of famous European women in history on balloons including Lady Godiva.
  • In the first episode of The Vicar of Dibley, several characters reminisce about when Letitia Cropley rode through Dibley stark naked in a Lady Godiva reenactment.
  • In an episode of Time Squad Larry showed Otto videos of previous missions and in one of these missions Lady Godiva was riding her horse naked while Tuddrussel ran after her, trying to persuade her to wear some clothes.
  • In the M*A*S*H season 9 episode "Your Retention, Please", Cpl. Klinger, in a fit of regret while thinking that he has re-enlisted, rides Col. Potter's horse Sophie through the camp, dressed only in a long platinum-blonde wig.

Video games[edit]

  • In FIFA: Road to World Cup 98, commentator Andy Gray refers to a goalkeeper who is left exposed by his defenders: "Lady Godiva had more cover than he's had!"
  • The title "Lady Godiva" can be obtained in the game Warhammer Online when a player summons their mount in a capital city while not wearing any armor.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Whoopi Goldberg as Lady Godiva" youtube.com 23 April 2010
  2. ^ Roy Palmer (1976) The Folklore of Warwickshire: 138-9
  3. ^ Coventry Now & Then: Hertford Street from Broadgate
  4. ^ "Don't Drop Lady Godiva", Coventry & Warwickshire News, 15 November 1999
  5. ^ "Ringmaster and rockers honoured by Queen". BBC News. 31 December 2009. Retrieved 31 December 2009. "Pru Poretta, who has been Coventry's official Lady Godiva since 1982, has also been appointed MBE. ... She said she was "shocked and humbled" to receive the honour, for services to the city's community and tourism services." 
  6. ^ Artists Taking the Lead
  7. ^ Facts, figures, myths, oddities, people, places and traditions that help define the University of Alberta, Charlene Rooke and Rick Pilger, University of Alberta New Trail Magazine, November 1998
  8. ^ "Students scrutinize Lady Godiva ride", CBC Archives, 4 February 1990
  9. ^ Crowther, Bosley. "Movies: About Lady Godiva". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  10. ^ http://www.nplg.gov.ge/ebooks/authors/galaktion_tabidze/guli.pdf Guli ("The Heart") by Galaktion Tabidze (in Georgian) on the official website of the National Parliamentary Library of Georgia