Thursday, October 26, 2006

Hello, this is Michael Anthony, and you’re listening to British History 101. After an admittedly ridiculously long hiatus, British History 101 is back and in full action. Tonight, we explore one of Britain’s most well-known folktales and a story that has given rise to a term applied today for a nosy man of low character – Peeping Tom.
You may recall from British History 101’s pilot series on the Battle of Hastings one Godwin, Earl of Wessex. One of his fellow lords was Leofric, Earl of Mercia in approximately central England. Leofric was known for his generosity to religious houses, and is credited with founding the Benedictine monastery at Coventry. It is thought by some that Leofric’s wife, Godgifu (meaning “God’s gift” and Latinized to Godiva) was the driving force behind this endowment, and both of their names appear on the land grants to the monastery of St. Mary, Worcester and the minster of St. Mary, Lincolnshire. Biographers from the period tell us that Leofric and his wife were both very devout and especially trusted their prayers to the Blessed Virgin. The monastery at Coventry was known to be one of the wealthiest religious establishments in the country at the time.
Leofric’s apparent zeal for religion and ensuring that the Church was well-funded obviously required a lot of money – at that time in Britain’s history, the easiest way for a noble to raise money was to levy taxes on the citizens within their domain. For our purposes, we will examine Coventry, for this is where the tale originates.
The people of Coventry were suffering under the weight of Leofric’s taxes – his demands were far above what they felt was reasonable, and as a result the common opinion was that the population was unduly burdened and that something needed to be done. Godgifu, or Lady Godiva, sympathized with the overtaxed citizens and begged Leofric to lower the taxes he was demanding. He refused, only driving Godiva to beg even more for mercy. Her persistent requests to him resulted in an offer, well illustrated in Roger of Wendover’s 13th century Flores Historiarum:
“The countess Godiva, who was a great lover of Gods's mother, longing to free the town of Coventry from the oppression of a heavy toll, often with urgent prayers besought her husband, that from regard to Jesus Christ and his mother, he would free the town from that service, and from all other heavy burdens; and when the earl sharply rebuked her for foolishly asking what was so much to his damage, and always forbade her ever more to speak to him on the subject; and while she on the other hand, with a woman's pertinacity, never ceased to exasperate her husband on that matter, he at last made her this answer, 'Mount your horse, and ride naked, before all the people, through the market of the town, from one end to the other, and on your return you shall have your request.' On which Godiva replied, 'But will you give me permission, if I am willing to do it?' 'I will,' said he.
The terms were simple: ride naked through Coventry, and the tax would be lifted. Leofric was probably quite pleased with his response, as he figured Godiva would never do such a thing. Although different versions of the legend give slightly different versions of Godiva’s actions, Roger of Wendover immortalized his when he continued Flores Historiarum with:
“Whereupon the countess, beloved of God, loosed her hair and let down her tresses, which covered the whole of her body like a veil, and then mounting her horse and attended by two knights, she rode through the market-place, without being seen, except her fair legs; and having completed the journey, she returned with gladness to her astonished husband, and obtained of him what she had asked; for earl Leofric freed the town of Coventry and its inhabitants from the aforesaid service, and confirmed what he had done by a charter."
Other twists on the legend say that Godiva rode through the town clothed in a shift – a garment closely resembling a modern slip – with that being the extend of the Lady’s nudity, but embarrassing nonetheless. It is also thought by some that Lady Godiva simply rode without wearing her best clothes and unadorned by her fine jewels, which would have made her “naked” to the fact that she was of noble rank. No matter the version, the point is that Godiva went to great pains and sacrificed a good deal of dignity to free Coventry of its oppressive taxation.
In the 17th century, the legend of Lady Godiva began to include a proclamation by the lady that all the citizens of the town shut their doors and curtains so as to hide her nudity too the public’s view. Most of the town obeyed this order out of respect for Godiva. The one man who decided not to follow the proclamation was a certain tailor – named Tom. Tom the Tailor, hearing that the noble lady would be riding through the streets naked, bored a hole in his window’s shutter so he could peep out at her when she passed. Tom indeed caught a glimpse of Lady Godiva – and was immediately struck blind. Although unfortunately not all people carrying on this tradition today are blinded, this is thought to be the origin of the phrase “Peeping Tom.” Joseph Draphs further immortalized Lady Godiva in 1926 by founding Godiva Chocolatier, which features the Lady as its logo. While there is little to no reliable and authentic historical evidence to support this legend, it does make for excellent storytelling and highlights what people want in a ruler – benevolence, and willingness to sacrifice.
What can we learn from all this? The next time you feel overburdened by taxes, write to your state’s First Lady or Laura Bush herself, and request a nude ride through the city. Maybe, just maybe, it’ll work.
For any new listeners, let’s take a minute to check out Matt’s Today in History, run by the world-renowned Matt Dattilo.
Thanks, Matt. Although I realize I’m terribly late with this, I do want to congratulate Matt on his and Kelli’s wedding anniversary. I remember being at Matt’s wedding, and looking back I can’t help but wonder if Kelli knew what she was getting into. I wish them both the best and many years of continued marital bliss. With that, we are just about out of time this week. I’d like to thank all of our listeners for tuning in, whether you’re a regular subscriber or just found us recently. Check out my blog at for a transcript of this and past episodes. I’d like to commend Blogger for fixing the interface between themselves and my hosting service – the blog appears to be fully functional and I am happy to see it back up. Send suggestions, questions, comments, rants, and raves to Our music tonight is “The Fairy Queen,” performed by Da Camera and available on Magnatune is an independent online record label that equally shares all revenue from album sales with their hand-selected artists while allowing them to retain full rights to their works. Visit for great music at low prices and support the many wonderful artists hosted there. Until next week, my best to you all, and thanks again for learning with me. Now that we’re done here, go out and make some history!

Thursday, October 19, 2006



After many hours of struggling with my account, I am at my wit's end. For whatever reason, I can't upload my episode to my hosting service! I believe the problem lies on my end of the transaction and I am working with my own internal network advisors on what exactly has happened and how to fix it.

As always, thank you to BH101's loyal listeners and supporters, and we will be back again next week. Again, I am deeply sorry and vow to come back fighting in a week's time!

Monday, October 16, 2006


New installment Thursday/Friday

A quick update - I will be posting a new episode soon; I intend to record late Thursday night and will release it as soon as it makes it through editing.

Another request, if I may - keep those suggestions coming! I have a long list of things I'd like to discuss but I really want to know what you want to learn about! Stay in touch and feel free to contact me at!

Friday, October 06, 2006



As can be seen, new posts are now showing up! A HUGE thank you is in order for Hipcast and Blogger for solving this problem and getting British History 101's blog back up and running!

Good evening, this is Michael Anthony, and you’re listening to British History 101. I’d like to start this evening off with a comment I received from a listener, who wrote in and said, “Starting to miss your podcasts, as they have entertained me on a regular basis, since I encountered them. Hope all is well with you, and you've some casts lined up for us.” Thanks for that, and I assure you I do have some interesting episodes planned for British History 101. I feel absolutely terrible whenever I’m unable to get an episode out during the week, because I know there are a lot of people out there who are gracious enough to take time out of their day and learn with me; for them, I am committed to doing my best to provide interesting and thought-provoking discussions. Let’s hope tonight is just that. This week’s episode is going to present history with a bit of a modern twist.
On 21 April 1926, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was born at 17 Bruton Street in Mayfair, London. The Archbishop of York, Cosmo Lang, baptized the baby girl in the Music Room of Buckingham Palace, christening her with the first name of her mother and the names of her great-grandmother Alexandra and grandmother Mary as her middle names. The young girl’s father was King George VI, and she would become the fair lady that reigns over the British Commonwealth now – Queen Elizabeth II.
When last week’s feature, Edward VIII, abdicated in 1936, her father became king, and Elizabeth became Heiress Presumptive to the crown and took the title Her Royal Highness The Princess Elizabeth. Three years later, World War II broke out, and Great Britain’s Heiress Presumptive was evacuated to Windsor Castle. Some wanted Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret to be sent to Canada for obvious safety reasons. Their mother put it quite simply: “The children could not go without me, I will never leave the King, and the King will never leave his country.” That settled that matter, and the girls remained in Britain for the rest of the war. In 1945, Elizabeth went even further than just remaining in the country by joining the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service. Her title here was not Princess but rather Number 230873 Second Subaltern Elizabeth Windsor. She is the only female member of the royal family to serve active duty in the armed services
Two years after the war, in the fall of 1947, Princess Elizabeth married her second cousin once removed and third cousin Philip, Prince of Greece and Denmark. They are both in the lines of Christian IX of Denmark and Queen Victoria of England. Philip renounced his place in the line of accession to the Greek throne and was titled the Duke of Edinburgh. Six days shy of a year after her marriage to Philip, Elizabeth gave birth to Charles, her first child and the Prince of Edinburgh.
Her father George’s health began to decline through 1951, and Elizabeth found herself acting in his stead in many affairs. She was on a tour including Greece, Italy, Malta, Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Kenya in February of 1952 when King George VI died of lung cancer. This made Elizabeth the first British monarch since 1801 to be out of the country at the time of accession. The next day, February 7, Elizabeth was proclaimed Queen, the speech being read as follows:
WHEREAS it has pleased Almighty God to call to his mercy our late Sovereign Lord King George VI, of blessed and glorious memory, by whose Decease the Crown is solely and rightfully come to the High and Mighty Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary:
WE, therefore, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of this Realm, being here assisted with these His late Majesty’s Privy Council, with representatives of other Members of the Commonwealth, with other Principal Gentlemen of Quality, with the Lord Mayor, Aldermen, and Citizens of London, do now hereby with one Voice and Consent of Tongue and Heart publish and proclaim, that the High and Mighty Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary is now, by the death of our late sovereign of happy memory, become Queen Elizabeth II by the Grace of God, Queen of this Realm, and of Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, to whom Her Lieges do acknowledge all Faith and constant Obedience with hearty and humble Affection, beseeching God by whom Kings and Queens do reign, to bless the Royal Princess, Elizabeth II, with long and happy Years to reign over us. God Save the Queen.
With this proclamation, Elizabeth became Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon. Currently, she reigns over Great Britain, Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, and Saint Kitts and Nevis. She holds the titles of Head of the Commonwealth, Lord High Admiral, Supreme Governor of the Church of England, Lord of Mann, Duke of Lancaster and Normandy, and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. Although in reality Elizabeth exercises little of this power, she is technically the most powerful head of state in the world.
Elizabeth’s reign has been longer than all four monarchs to come immediately before her. If she is still in power on 21 December 2007, she will be the oldest reigning monarch in British history; if her reign continues to 9 September 2015, she will be the longest reigning monarch in British history. With her land holdings and private possessions, she is believed to be worth about $500 million.
If you ask the average person what exactly the Queen does, they’d probably tell you “not much.” The Queen is given a large role in the government and affairs of her Realms, but traditionally most of these powers are delegated to ministers of the government. Constitutionally, the Queen gives Royal Assent to Parliamentary bills; although she reserves the right to deny this Assent, no monarch has done so since 1708. This power is practiced by Governors-General, the men and women placed in charge by the Queen over her Realms outside Britain. These Governors and the Queen herself open their respective Parliaments each year with an outline of the legislative goals for that period. The Queen appoints ministers of the United Kingdom and, legally, all government is carried out in her name. She is the United Kingdom’s Head of State, and as such she can declare war, recognize foreign states, and make treaties. The Queen meets with the Prime Minister of Great Britain on a weekly basis, and is also constantly updated on the happenings of Wales, Scotland, and Canada. Despite the fact that the Queen is not often seen exercising influence over politics, former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once said, “Anyone who imagines that they are a mere formality or confined to social niceties is quite wrong; they are quietly businesslike and Her Majesty brings to bear a formidable grasp of current issues and breadth of experience.” Obviously, Elizabeth has always been and will remain a force to be reckoned with.
In the United Kingdom, Elizabeth is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, delegating authoritative powers to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Archbishops and bishops are both appointed by the Queen, and they sit in the House of Lords as Lords Spiritual. It is a peculiarity to note that, in the Church of Scotland, the Queen is an ordinary member of the congregation.
I was looking at British History 101’s reviews on iTunes a few days ago, and I noticed something quite interesting. On reviewer commented that I spend too much time talking about things other than history. First of all, I’d like to point out that I certainly welcome constructive criticism! After all, we’d never learn any real life lessons without it every once in a while. Second, I have to make it known that it’s for a very specific purpose that I spend time talking about things other than history itself. Even though podcasting has been around for a while now, I still feel that we’re on the very bleeding edge of interpersonal communication and media propagation. To a history and tech geek like me, that’s a terribly fascinating subject and it brings me great joy to discuss it with fellow enthusiasts. I take some time here and there to highlight the ever-increasing expansion of podcasts because I think it’s great for listeners to feel like they’re part of a greater community – because that is exactly what we are finding ourselves in nowadays – an international community of people gathering together though thousands of miles apart to share their interest in an inexplicably wide range of topics. I wish I would have been able to attend the Portable Media Expo recently in Ontario, California, because the stories I’m hearing about it are so very exciting – for those few days, an enormous global community came together to share their insights and experiences in this exploding phenomenon. Whether you’re 18 or 80, podcast listeners and enthusiasts are all playing a part in a movement that I daresay will change the world. I love devoting some time to discussing the podcast revolution because I feel very certain that we are part of events that future generations will truly see as life-changing.
That’s it for this episode. Hopefully, the blog at will be up and running soon – I’ve been informed by my hosting service that the blog isn’t being updated due to compatibility issues between the service and Blogger’s new beta feature. I trust they will tend to this quickly! Send suggestions, questions, comments, rants, and raves to Our music tonight is “Fairest Isle All Isles Excell,” performed by Jeni Malia and available on Magnatune is an independent online record label that equally shares all revenue from album sales with their hand-selected artists while allowing them to retain full rights to their works. Visit for great music at low prices and support the many wonderful artists hosted there. Until we speak again, my very best to you all, and thanks for joining me. Have a fantastic evening.

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