The Name Godiva is the Latinised form of the Old English name Godgyfu. She did exist though it is not known when or where she was born nor who her parents were exactly. I have read that she was the daughter of the Sheriff of Lincoln. Dubious, though there are certainly close ties with Lincoln. See the section on St Mary's stow. In her book, Ride, Octavia Randolph sets Godiva in Newark, just 20 miles from Lincoln, as she maintains that Godiva had large estates in Newark.
It is undoubted that Godiva married Leofric, Earl of Mercia. It is said that she was much younger than Leofric. She was supposed to be around 16 when married to Leofric who was said to be in his 60's by some! Yet in contradiction of this supposed fact she died only 10 years after her husband when she was an old woman! These two supposed facts are mutually exclusive - but so much about Godiva is ambiguous in this way. What is know about Godiva is derived from references to her in charters, contemporary and much later chronicles some of which are forgeries!
It is thought that Godiva had considerable properties before she was married, inherited from her family - like wealthy women of her time. Perhaps the area around Coventry (Cofa's tree) was one such parcel of land in her portfolio of properties. The Domesday book lists the Coventry of her time as having just 69 families. A relatively small place and not very indicative of there being much of a "town" through which to ride. More a hamlet of, not necessarily grouped, dwellings.
The following piece from 1572 was written by one Richard Grafton who was member of Parliament for Coventry.
But Gaufride sayth that this gentle and good Lady did not onely for the freeing of the said Citie and satisfying of her husbands pleasure, graunt vnto her sayde Husband to ryde as aforesayde: But also called in secret manner (by such as she put speciall trust in) all those that then were Magistrates and rulers of the said Citie of Couentrie, and vttered vnto them what good will she bare vnto the sayde Citie, and how shee had moued the Erle her husband to make the same free, the which vpon such condition as is afore mencioned, the sayde Erle graunted vnto her, which the sayde Lady was well contented to doe, requiring of them for the reuerence of womanhed, that at that day and tyme that she should ride (which was made certaine vnto them) that streight commaundement should be geuen throughout all the City, that euerie person should shut in their houses and Wyndowes, and none so hardy to looke out into the streetes, nor remayne in the stretes, vpon a very great paine, so that when the tyme came of her out ryding none sawe her, but her husbande and such as were present with him, and she and her Gentlewoman to wayte vpon her galoped through the Towne, where the people might here the treading of their Horsse, but they saw her not, and so she returned to her Husbande from the place from whence she came, her honestie saued, her purpose obteyned, her wisdome much commended, and her husbands imagination vtterly disappointed. And shortly after her returne, when shee had arayed and apparelled her selfe in most comely and seemly manner, then shee shewed her selfe openly to the peuple of the Citie of Couentrie, to the great joy and maruellous reioysing of all the Citizens and inhabitants of the same, who by her had receyued so great a benefite.