, art patron
, tax protester
, and the wife of
Leofric III, Earl of Mercia. They lived in Coventry
in the 11th century. They were both Christian
, and after moving there they founded an
in about 1043.
Leofric became involved in local public affairs, and became
responsible for some of the finances of the area. As the region grew more populous, more
public works were needed, or at least envisioned by Leofric, and for that, he needed cash.
Before long he was taxing everything, including manure.
His Lady worked on, and excelled in, her horsemanship,
and enjoyed involvement in the arts. She earnestly wished to interest the masses in the
arts, and so commissioned a portrait of herself. This alone wasn't working, and she
eventually realized that the masses simply didn't have TIME to be interested in the arts
since they spent all their time feeding themselves and paying taxes.
So, she went to speak with her husband about reducing the taxes, which started a long argument. In
order to get her off his case, he offered to lessen the taxes if she would ride her
horse through the market at midday, without a stitch of clothing on. After all, wasn't
the nude human body the highest expression of beauty and an example of the perfection of
She stunned him by agreeing to do this, and so on a summer day in about 1057, rode through
the crowded market of Coventry, sitting tall and composed yet stark naked on her saddle,
and accompanied by two aides. The earliest account by Roger of Wendover states that
her nudity was mostly concealed by her hair.
Amazed by her courage and puposefulness, Leofric removed
ALL the taxes, except for those that were in place before he took over.
Roger of Wendover's account was probably written around 1175; later accounts by
historians Ranulf Higden and Henry Knighton included more details about reasons for the
Later certain embellishments were added to the story, probably by the church: that she had
asked the townspeople to remain indoors with their windows closed, and that one fellow
named Tom chose to look and was struck blind (hence, "peeping Tom").