An Early Instance of the Voyeur in the Story of Lady Godiva

An Early Instance of the Voyeur in the Story of Lady Godiva ROGER of Wendover’s Flowers of History (Flores Historiarum, ca. 1235) is the first surviving text that documents the story of Lady Godiva, in which the wife of Earl Leofric rides naked through Coventry in order to free the town from heavy toll.1 Matthew Paris (d. 1259) borrowed heavily from Roger for his own very popular Flores Historiarum, thus bringing the Lady Godiva story to a wide audience.2 The story as told by Roger and his many medieval followers does not mention the voyeur, who, although well-known today as ‘Peeping Tom’, appears relatively late in the development of the story.3 Daniel Donoghue claims that the earliest reference to the voyeur is found in a 1634 journal by three soldiers of Norwich, in which an unnamed ‘wanton’ looks on Godiva as she rides naked through the town.4 The story is told in what seems to be a ballad stanza which was recalled to memory when the soldiers viewed a painting in a hall. The painting, Donghue argues, was likely Adam van Noort’s 1586 Lady Godiva, located in St Mary’s Hall in Coventry.5 This painting shows a man looking from an upstairs window on Lady Godiva riding through the street. This man could be either an anonymous voyeur or Earl Leofric, but within decades the voyeur becomes a vital part of the story even though the image of the man looking from the window was concealed by grime and varnish perhaps as early as 1681.6 Gerard Legh’s 1562 The Accedens of Armory, however, also includes the voyeur in its version of the story. While discussing instances in which a woman might go naked with honour, Legh narrates the story of ‘Godwina’’s ride through the city. Whilest the Duches was dooing this good deede, her horse neighed by chaunce, wherat one ruder then the rest, or otherwyse, perchaunce desirous to see the strangenes of the case, lett downe a windowe, and looked out. In remembrance wherof, whether it were for the Lubbars sake that looked oute, or for that the horse did neigh, as the cause therof: though all the towne were fraunchised, yet horse are not tolle free, to thys daye.7 Legh’s reference to the voyeur, seventy-two years before the soldiers’ journal and twenty-four years before the completion of the St Mary’s Hall painting, not only establishes that this element had been added to the story at least by the middle of the sixteenth century, but also broadens the geographical range of the anecdote. Legh, from a family of London drapers, is firmly associated with the metropolis. Not only does he know the story, but his popular heraldic treatise (which went through six editions between 1562 and 1612) would have brought the detail of a curious voyeur to a wide audience. Footnotes 1 Rogeri de Wendover, Chronica, Sive Flores Historiarum, Ed. Henricus O. Coxe (London, 1841), I, 497–8; Roger Wendover, Flowers of History. Trans. J. A. Giles (London, 1849), I, 314–15. 2 See Matthew of Westminster, Flores Historiarum, ed. Henry Richards Luard (London, 1890), I, 576. 3 For the early development of the story, see Daniel Donoghue, Lady Godiva: A Literary History of the Legend (Malden MA, 2003), 26–80. 4 Donoghue, Lady Godiva, 70. 5 Adam van Noort, Lady Godiva, 1586. Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry/Bridgeman Art Library, London. 6 Donoghue, Lady Godiva, 70–2. 7 Gerard Legh, The Accedens of Armory (London, 1562), fos. 128–128v. © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices) http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Notes and Queries Oxford University Press

An Early Instance of the Voyeur in the Story of Lady Godiva

Notes and Queries , Volume Advance Article (2) – Apr 4, 2018

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Oxford University Press
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© The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com
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0029-3970
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1471-6941
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Abstract

ROGER of Wendover’s Flowers of History (Flores Historiarum, ca. 1235) is the first surviving text that documents the story of Lady Godiva, in which the wife of Earl Leofric rides naked through Coventry in order to free the town from heavy toll.1 Matthew Paris (d. 1259) borrowed heavily from Roger for his own very popular Flores Historiarum, thus bringing the Lady Godiva story to a wide audience.2 The story as told by Roger and his many medieval followers does not mention the voyeur, who, although well-known today as ‘Peeping Tom’, appears relatively late in the development of the story.3 Daniel Donoghue claims that the earliest reference to the voyeur is found in a 1634 journal by three soldiers of Norwich, in which an unnamed ‘wanton’ looks on Godiva as she rides naked through the town.4 The story is told in what seems to be a ballad stanza which was recalled to memory when the soldiers viewed a painting in a hall. The painting, Donghue argues, was likely Adam van Noort’s 1586 Lady Godiva, located in St Mary’s Hall in Coventry.5 This painting shows a man looking from an upstairs window on Lady Godiva riding through the street. This man could be either an anonymous voyeur or Earl Leofric, but within decades the voyeur becomes a vital part of the story even though the image of the man looking from the window was concealed by grime and varnish perhaps as early as 1681.6 Gerard Legh’s 1562 The Accedens of Armory, however, also includes the voyeur in its version of the story. While discussing instances in which a woman might go naked with honour, Legh narrates the story of ‘Godwina’’s ride through the city. Whilest the Duches was dooing this good deede, her horse neighed by chaunce, wherat one ruder then the rest, or otherwyse, perchaunce desirous to see the strangenes of the case, lett downe a windowe, and looked out. In remembrance wherof, whether it were for the Lubbars sake that looked oute, or for that the horse did neigh, as the cause therof: though all the towne were fraunchised, yet horse are not tolle free, to thys daye.7 Legh’s reference to the voyeur, seventy-two years before the soldiers’ journal and twenty-four years before the completion of the St Mary’s Hall painting, not only establishes that this element had been added to the story at least by the middle of the sixteenth century, but also broadens the geographical range of the anecdote. Legh, from a family of London drapers, is firmly associated with the metropolis. Not only does he know the story, but his popular heraldic treatise (which went through six editions between 1562 and 1612) would have brought the detail of a curious voyeur to a wide audience. Footnotes 1 Rogeri de Wendover, Chronica, Sive Flores Historiarum, Ed. Henricus O. Coxe (London, 1841), I, 497–8; Roger Wendover, Flowers of History. Trans. J. A. Giles (London, 1849), I, 314–15. 2 See Matthew of Westminster, Flores Historiarum, ed. Henry Richards Luard (London, 1890), I, 576. 3 For the early development of the story, see Daniel Donoghue, Lady Godiva: A Literary History of the Legend (Malden MA, 2003), 26–80. 4 Donoghue, Lady Godiva, 70. 5 Adam van Noort, Lady Godiva, 1586. Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry/Bridgeman Art Library, London. 6 Donoghue, Lady Godiva, 70–2. 7 Gerard Legh, The Accedens of Armory (London, 1562), fos. 128–128v. © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)

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Notes and QueriesOxford University Press

Published: Apr 4, 2018

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