Great Britain 1794 Halfpenny Conder Token, Warwickshire, Coventry, Lady Godiva DH-249 MS64BN PCGS. Obv. Nude female astride a horse, PRO BONO PUBLICO (“for the public good”) around, 1794 in exergue. Rev. An ancient cross with COV CROSS beneath, COVENTRY HALFPENNY around. Angle of steps points between diagonals of (CO)V. Edge: PAYABLE AT THE WAREHOUSE OF ROBERT REYNOLDS & CO. This piece shows moderate red remaining close to the rims with light brown elsewhere. There is some rim crumbling and a small cud in (B)ONO on the obverse. PCGS Population: 1 in 64BN, 2 finer (10/2019).
Background: The Lady Godiva is among the most famous of Conder tokens due to its subject matter. A different reverse is also found with elephant and castle.
The story of Lady Godiva is likely a myth, but she herself existed in 11th-century England, as “Godgifu” married to Leofric, Earl of Mercia and Lord of Coventry. She supposedly implored her husband to lessen the onerous taxes levied against the people, to which Leofric replied that he would do so only if she rode nude on horseback through the streets. She is said to have doffed her clothes and taken an equestrian spin, asking the people to avert their eyes. But one man, Tom, was said to have peeped, giving rise to the “Peeping Tom” character. The entire story nonetheless appeared only a century after Godgifu’s death, from a writer who habitually stretched the truth. In life Godgifu founded a Benedictine monastery and was noted for her generosity to the church—but her horseback ride appears to be a later fabrication.