A Saint Manquée: The Gregorian Reforms, Anglo-Norman Hagiography, and the Legend of Lady Godiva

As the wife of the second-wealthiest earl in England, Lady Godiva (d. 1066) was certainly not given to riding around naked. Contemporary sources praise her 'great goodness' and generosity to the church, with no hint of any scandal. Why, then, would Geoffrey, prior of the abbey she founded in Coventry, write such a scurrilous story about her? This thesis demonstrates that Godiva met the criteria for an Anglo-Saxon 'cartulary' or monastic founder saint, and in earlier times would have been proclaimed as such by the abbot or local bishop. It explores the effects of the Gregorian Reforms (1050-80) on the creation of saints and looks at trends in hagiography in England after the Norman Conquest. It considers the influence of secular literature on hagiography, and asks whether Prior Geoffrey's narrative, combining elements of quest literature with themes from the Virgin Martyr subgenre, might actually have been intended to portray Godiva as a saint.

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