Lady Godiva (also known as Godgifu) was the wife of Leofric one of the most powerful men in 11th century England. The couple were both very religious and very generous in their endowments, among other things they founded a monastery at Coventry.
The story of her ride through the market place in Coventry first appears in the Chronicles of Roger of Wendover, written more than a century after her death.
So the story goes that Leofric was so exasperated at Godiva for her endless appeals to him to reduce the heavy tax burden of the people of Coventry, that he declared he would do as she asked if she would ride naked through the market place. She mounted a horse naked then released her blond hair from it’s bonds, it covered her entire body except her white legs. When she returned her husband kept his part of the bargain, and all taxes except those on horse were lifted, this bit at least is mentioned in a charter of the time.
The story of Peeping Tom was added later, sometime in the 13th century, it says that Godiva had requested that all townsmen remain behind closed doors during her ride, but that a tailor called Tom couldn’t resist looking and he was struck blind.
Leofric died in 1057, his wife survived him at least until 1087 when she is mentioned in the Domesday book as holding many estates in Warwickshire including Coventry which she inherited from her husband.