History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

10 June 2011

Lady Godiva and Lady Gaga

A friend (bless him!) recently sent me a box of Godiva chocolates. After the first gooey, delicious bite, I got to thinking about the name Godiva and how interesting it is for a chocolatier to choose that name for his product! Which leads me to...

Lady Godiva. The historical Godiva, or Godgifu, was an 11th century Anglo-Saxon noblewoman who pressured her husband, Leofric, Earl of Mercia, into relieving the tax burden on his people. She nagged and nagged until he finally said, “If you will ride naked through the streets of Coventry, I will lift the taxes.” So she did, and he did, and thus the legend was born.

At least that’s the story. Roger of Wendover, writing at the end of the 12th century, credits Godiva with this feat, but modern scholars dispute it, pointing out that the story was highly romanticized by Tennyson in the Victorian era and the whole tale was probably an embroidered tale about a simple shopping trip to town.

But if Godgifu did ride naked through the town, what an outrageous act it was. Supposedly the town residents closed their shutters and didn’t peek (except for someone called Peeping Tom in the 17th century, who supposedly did peek and was blinded for his temerity).

At bottom, the story is a superb example of exhibitionism for a cause - oppressive taxation in that long-ago century. The act riveted attention on the rider, and the issue of taxation for centuries afterward, and to this day, we still talk about Lady Godiva’s famous ride and even name our chocolate candies after the lady. Which leads me to . . .

Consider the act of riding on horseback with only your long, thick hair hiding your nakedness. What a unique example of “performance art.” And what an attention-getting advertising gimmick! One could sell new CD releases or timeshares in Spain or even Wendy’s hamburgers by attracting the attention of viewers and entrancing them into doing whatever one asked.

Which leads me to . . .

Lady Gaga. Here is a woman who works hard to be eye-catching, to rivet attention on herself. (Surely we are deep in the Age of Narcissism?) Whether exhibitionism, performance art, or just plain craziness, what Lady Gaga wears, the world notices. Her audiences wait, breathless, for her next appearance sporting something weird and unforgettable. Millions of people watch her.

Which leads me to . . .

What if Lady Gaga promoted something worthwhile, like money for schools or peace in Afghanistan or help for Japan’s earthquake survivors or world-wide literacy? What an advertising goldmine! Goodness, it might even be the history-making stuff that legends are made of . . .

Which leads me to . . . another cappuccino truffle from the gold Godiva box on my desk.

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Blogger Ren said...

I just wanted to point out that Lady Gaga actively and publically supported the end of Don't Ask, Don't Tell in the US military. This is just one example of how she has supported gay and lesbian rights. So she is actually using her powers for good. : )

5:03 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

She's also involved in the fight against bullying in schools.

8:40 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8:40 AM  
Blogger Lynna Banning said...

Ren and Kerri--my apologies! I just read in the newspaper yesterday about Lady G's support of gay/lesbian rights; and I am also gratified to know she's in the battle against bullying.
Thanks for calling these issues to my attention.

9:38 AM  
Blogger Isobel Carr said...

Lady Gaga, musical hack that she is, does promote something worthwhile. She’s very involved in gay-rights issues.

10:53 AM  

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