Since 1678 Lady Godiva's legendary ride naked through the streets of Coventry, England has been reenacted every seven or eight years. But today the lady wears a body stocking. The famous ride if it took place, happened around the year 1057, according to the chronicler Roger of Wendover (d. 1236). Godiva, her long hair falling loosely round her body, rode through the market place accompanied by two soldiers.
Legend has it that Lady Godiva pleaded with Leofric, Earl of Mercia, to lessen the townspeople's tax burden. Exasperated, the earl declared he would do as she asked, if she rode naked through the town. Lady Godiva did so and the earl cut the townspeople's taxes. Over the years the legend became embellished. The soldiers disappeared and, in the 17th century, the legend of Peeping Tom crept into the story. Tom is said to have been struck blind because he could not resist peeping at Lady Godiva through a window as she rode by.
The true facts record that Coventry's early fame rested on the foundation of a Benedectine monastery by Leofric and his wife Godgifu (the real name of Godiva) in 1043.
The phrase "to send to Coventry" (to refuse to speak with someone) might well have been the fate of Peeping Tom. But although the origin of the phrase is uncertain it seems more likely to have originated during the Civil War. Captured supporters of King Charles were sent by Cromwell's forces to Coventry for imprisonment.