Computing with flowers

To serve and protect

There’s no Easter Bunny, either

According to a new book by Harvard English professor Daniel Donoghue, Lady Godiva never existed. According to the legend, Godiva was the wife of Leofric, the lord of Coventry England. He was sticking the serfs for exorbitant taxes, and Godiva continually pleaded for him to show mercy. He told her he’d lower taxes if she rode through the streets naked — so she did.

Or, actually, didn’t. As the Harvard Magazine reports:

“The story,” he notes, “was based on the life of Godifu, a real woman who lived in Coventry in the latter part of the eleventh century and was married to one of the most powerful men in England” … But Donoghue points out that “two centuries after her death, chroniclers in the Benedictine abbey of St. Albans inserted a fully developed narrative into their Latin histories” and the legend of Lady Godiva was born. “Nobody knows quite why the legend was invented and attached to her name,” he says, “but it does seem to function as a kind of myth of origin for the town of Coventry. At the end, Count Leofric seals the agreement about taxes with his own seal.”

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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