Tennyson’s poem certainly changed the reception of the Lady Godiva legend. The 1842 two-volume edition of his poems, in which it was first printed, was an immediate success. In 1850 he became Poet Laureate. Queen Victoria was an ardent admirer of his work. What had previously just been the founding legend of a local custom of dubious value (the Godiva Processions were often criticized by clergymen for their ribaldry) had now a quasi-official seal of approval as a national tradition.

This statuette was made by William Behnes, Sculptor in Ordinary to Queen Victoria. It was exhibited at the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations in London 1851 and now sits atop the mantlepiece in the Old Mayoress’s Parlour of St Mary’s Guildhall, Coventry. The creation date is given as around 1844. If this is true, then it was probably the first depiction of Lady Godiva based on Tennyson’s poem.

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