Peeping Tom

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Peeping Tom : Phrases


Original resolution that anyone who stirred abroad should be put to death.


Tailor Tom became the first
Peeping Tom and lost his eyes for looking at Lady Godiva.


Lady Godiva was a noblewoman who lived in Coventry, England in the eleventh century. Together with her husband, Leofric III, Earl of Mercia, Lady Godiva founded the monastery at Coventry in 1043.

Leofric quickly became active in public affairs, handling financial matters that arose as the town of Coventry grew around the monastery. The tax burden on the peasant populace also grew, as mandated by Leofric, and soon, Lady Godiva began her campaigning for a tax reduction.

Leofric agreed to the reduction on one condition. He would reduce the local taxes when his wife would ride naked through the market square of Coventry. Once Lady Godiva ensured that she truly had his permission to ride naked through the town, she announced she would do it.

Legend has it that Godiva sent advance word to the townspeople of Coventry, asking them to avert their eyes as she rode naked through the market. Out of respect for Godiva, all complied with her wishes. All except one tailor named Tom, who could not help but sneak a peek as she rode by. Immediately after viewing her, Tom was struck blind. From this story comes the phrase
Peeping Tom. Historians generally agree that this portion of the story was added on as an embellishment much later in the history than the actual event. There is historical evidence for details of the Lady Godiva story, including land and tax records of the time. Women have used the symbol of Lady Godiva to inspire their own demonstrations in modern times.
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