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Tax Collector’s Wife Rides Naked to Protest Unfair Taxes

March 29, 2012

Did you ever have an argument with your spouse who told you that they would give in if you did something so ridiculous that they never thought you would do?


Well, Leofric, Earl of Mercia did this.  He was the tax collector in 11th Century Coventry who imposed a series of burdensome taxes on his tenants that had them super upset.


Leofric was a generous man endowing a monastery and providing support of a minister.  He and his wife also were most munificent supporting many charitable enterprises.  So, while the taxes were thought to be onerous, he was a reasonable man and did listen to objections. But in this case he felt he was right. 


They appealed to his wife to speak up on their behalf for a remission.  As is typical of some fights between husbands and wives stupid things are said that don’t mean much except they are intended to shut the other person up.  In this case, the Earl said he would grant her request and reduce the taxes if his wife would strip naked and ride through the streets of the town. 


She took her husband at his word and met with the town’s people who agreed they would remain indoors with their windows shuttered and not look at her.  One man did look – he made a hole in one of his shutters to look through it.  His name was Tom and is known today as Peeping Tom.


Afterwards, the Earl kept his word and abolished the onerous taxes.  And the town people were ever grateful to his wife, Lady Godiva.

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