I phoned Lady Godiva / Pru on the mobile number Lucy had left me. Pru agreed to meet. During our conversation she asked what I did for a day job. When I told her, she suggested I tag along on Friday evening for an event at St. Columba’s Church Hall as she wanted me to meet John and Adam from Coventry Comfort Carers.
I took a train up from London after work and arrived in Coventry around 6pm. Pru and her friend Margaret picked me up from the train station. Pru was dressed in full medieval period regalia as Lady Godiva.
While Margaret drove us to our destination, Pru expertly described the history of the historical Lady Godiva while answering my questions about her role as Coventry’s present day Lady Godiva.
She recounted that back in 1982, her mother showed her a newspaper clipping advertising a competition for the role of Lady Godiva and encouraged her to apply. Pru enlisted after researching and discovering that Lady Godiva was a real person. She felt Godiva had been undersold as a page 3 publicity stunt and deserved better.
She won the part and rode six miles through Coventry as Lady Godiva in a revival of the Godiva procession and pageant at Coventry Carnival.
Pru recounted how the cash-strapped local council had organised a horse for her to ride on but not much else. There was a recession at the time and money was short; so she did her own research, visiting the V&A and looking at depictions of Godiva, such as the painting by John Collier, before sourcing materials and stitching together her own costume.
Pru fassumed that her role as Godiva would be a one-off event but then received an invitation to attend and hand out medals as Godiva at an equestrian event, followed by an invitation attend a summer fete …and then to play the Godiva role at a school. Pru kept on receiving requests to attend occasions as Lady Godiva and before too long the role stuck and she became Coventry’s present-day Lady Godiva.
Pru said she’s tried to use her role to celebrate Coventry’s heritage and convey a message about a real woman who cares deeply about Coventry and gives of herself to make a difference to the future. She founded the Godiva Trust and began the Godiva Sisterhood, where local women from diverse faiths and cultures meet, socialise and work together toward social inclusion, community cohesion and raising the profile of minority groups in Coventry.
She fundraises extensively for local charities and was made an MBE and received the Queens Award for Voluntary Service and an honorary MA from Coventry University in recognition of her work. She’s also a patron of Coventry Comfort Carers, the organisation we were on our way to visit at St Columba’s.
The St Columba’s United Reformed Church offers itself as a winter night shelter for the homeless on Mondays and Saturdays and gives a warm space for people to enjoy a free hot meal. It also hosted Coventry Comfort Carers on Friday afternoon.
Inside, a volunteer orchestra played Christmas carols while more volunteers served up a cooked christmas dinner to the homeless gathered there – and to me — I had soup!
Pru introduced me to John and Adam who run Coventry Comfort Carers. More about them later.
For the montage, Pru gave a Christmas card and let me photograph Lady Godiva’s rosary. Pru said it spoke about the real message of Godiva, who, on her deathbed, left her personal rosary to the church. The church went on to become a major centre of pilgrimage in the early middle ages with Godiva’s prayer beads serving as one of the draws.
Here Pru elaborates on Lady Godiva’s regalia and outfit design against the backdrop of sound of the volunteer orchestra playing ‘Oh Come All Ye Faithful.’
Pru wrote on the picture frame that she’s sending me to John from Coventry Comfort Carers next.