Leofric, Earl of Mercia and Lord of Coventry

Leofric, Lady Godiva’s husband, was Earl of Mercia and Lord of Coventry and was one of the most powerful men in the country at the time.

Godiva andLeofric

Lady Godiva, 1892, by Edmund Blair Leighton, based on Tennyson’s poetic description

He was ruthless at collecting taxes to fund major civic building works, as well as raising funds for King Canute. Prior to his conversion to Christianity he often attacked the Church.

Conversion to Christianity

His first known religious act came in 1043 when he founded a Benedictine house for an abbott and 24 monks on the site of St Osburg’s Nunnery in Coventry, which had been destroyed by Danes in 1016. This later became the Cathedral of St Mary.

Ranulf Higden’s Polychronicon – circa 1257 – backed up by an inquiry made in the reign of Edward I – 1272-1307 – confirmed that Leofric stopped collecting all taxes except for those on horses.

Powerful king maker

Leofric’s power was part of the reason why Canute’s son and heirs failed to keep their father’s grip on northern Europe after Canute’s death.

Leofric died in 1057 and was buried in one of the porches of the abbey church. The remains of this site, Coventry’s first cathedral, can now be seen in Priory Row.


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