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The Morning (After) Gift
Silently he rolled away and reached over to where his belt laid cast aside on the floor. My eagle gold beside it.
A small leather pouch. He held it out it to me.
“The morgengifu. Your morning gift.”
My brow furrowed. “But we’ve set our terms.”
Coventry. Was he revoking our agreement?
He shrugged and pressed the package into my palm.
Slowly I untied the long cord.
A ring. A dull gleam of gold. Carved swirls. A large smooth gem in the centre, egg shaped. I held it up to the light.
The gem glowed red as a wood berry. “It’s beautiful.”
I’d not expected such a courtesy of him, just as I hadn’t expected the pleasure he’d given me.
I slipped the ring onto my finger. “Thank you,” I said, made shy. “Where did it come from?”
“It was my mother’s. It’s Mercian made.”
So he’d brought it with him to Coventry. The eagle belt too he must have had with him. He must carry them with him always, a family keepsake.
“And now you give it to me.”
A beautiful old custom I discovered while writing NAKED: A Novel of Lady Godiva was the Anglo-Saxon custom of the morgengifu or ‘morning gift’.
The morning gift was given to a bride by her husband the morning after their wedding. It could be land, money, goods or jewels. More than a mere dowry, it defined the power relations in a marriage and between the two families of the bride and groom joined in wedlock. Negotiations could be heated and many alliances (and misalliances) were built.
In NAKED, Godiva’s morgengifu is more than the ring she receives by surprise from her new husband. Historical documents from the 11th century show Godiva’s name as a female landowner. Her status as a landowner indicates that she inherited her own estate. Godiva had a lot to offer … and a lot to lose.
Marriage was a risk for Anglo-Saxon noblewomen like Lady Godiva. As Lord Leofric puts it:
“There’s something you have forgotten.” Moving nearer still, he closed the gap I’d stretched between us. His breath warmed my cheek. “The morgengifu is given to a woman by her husband the morning after their wedding night. Not before. To wed is to gamble. In our language even the words have the same meaning.”
Godiva vows to protect her land and her people, whatever the cost. As you’ll discover in NAKED, her marriage gamble may cost her virtue, her heart… or her life.
About Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva
We know of her naked ride. We don’t know her true story.
We all know the legend of Lady Godiva, who famously rode naked through the streets of Coventry, covered only by her long, flowing hair. So the story goes, she begged her husband Lord Leofric of Mercia to lift a high tax on her people, who would starve if forced to pay. Lord Leofric demanded a forfeit: that Godiva ride naked on horseback through the town. There are various endings to Godiva’s ride, that all the people of Coventry closed their doors and refused to look upon their liege lady (except for ‘peeping Tom’) and that her husband, in remorse, lifted the tax.
Naked is an original version of Godiva’s tale with a twist that may be closer to the truth: by the end of his life Leofric had fallen deeply in love with Lady Godiva. A tale of legendary courage and extraordinary passion, Naked brings an epic story new voice.
Magic sparkled in the sunlight, falling on the leaves as we reached the edge of the Forest of Arden.
Leofric stroked Wyrd’s neck as we tethered our horses. “This is a sacred place.”
“How did you know?”
Arden was the home of our ancient spirits but it wasn’t common knowledge beyond our borders. Many still came to worship in Arden on holy days, but only those who lived in the Middle Lands.
A shrug was his only reply as we went deeper into the forest by foot, the oaks, elms and poplars whispering their mysterious welcome. Yet I swore he bowed as we entered the deep green grove.
About the Author
Eliza Redgold is based upon the old, Gaelic meaning of her name, Dr Elizabeth Reid Boyd. She was born in Irvine, Scotland on Marymass Day and currently lives in Australia. She has presented academic papers on women and romance and is a contributor to the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Romance Fiction. Eliza has also written two upcoming Victorian historical romances for Harlequin Historical. Look out for Enticing Benedict Cole in November 2015.
NAKED: A Novel of Lady Godiva was released internationally by St Martin’s Press New York in July 2015.