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A Brief History About Godiva Chocolate
By: Angela Abbette

When in doubt, sex it up. Chocolate in various forms had been a fixture of the European diet since it was first imported by Spain from Mexico in the sixteenth century. Consumed at first in liquid form, by the late seventeenth century chocolate was a popular flavoring for cakes and pastry, and soon Switzerland and Belgium had become the world centers of chocolate candy making.

So when Joseph Draps founded his chocolate company in Brussels in 1926, he was not exactly breaking new ground. True, Draps had perfected a method of making his rich "boutique" chocolates smoother than the competition's, and he also understood the importance of fancy packaging to a luxury brand's success. But it fell to Draps's son, who took over the business a few years later, to come up with the key to building a worldwide chocolate empire, and to do it he drew on one of Europe's most enduring folk tales.

According to legend, Lord Leofric of Coventry in eleventh century England was never so happy as when he was levying a new and onerous tax on his subjects. Leofric's raids on the pocketbooks of the populace drew loud protest, but he remained unmoved. Finally, even his wife, Lady Godiva, felt compelled to intercede on the people's behalf, and to change his mind she offered Leofric an intriguing deal. She would ride through the streets of Coventry, wearing nothing but her long hair, if Leofric would cut taxes. Convinced she was bluffing, Leofric agreed. But true to her word, Lady Godiva then disrobed, hopped on her horse, and trotted through town. Leofric, impressed by her chutzpah, then kept his side of the deal and slashed taxes.

What Lord Leofric apparently didn't know, however, was that Lady Godiva had announced her ride in advance and requested that the villagers stay inside with their shutters closed for the duration of her excursion. Given a choice between seeing the lord's wife naked and lower taxes, they naturally chose the tax cut and thus Lady Godiva's dignity remained unsullied. (According to one version of the legend, the town butcher, a certain Tom, couldn't resist sneaking a peek, and ever since that day voyeurs have been known as Peeping Toms.)

While chocolate is noticeably absent from the story of Lady Godiva's ride, Draps recognized that the legend was known throughout Europe and North America, and the fact that the name Godiva conjured up both wealth and nudity was unlikely to hurt sales, to put it mildly. So Joseph Draps, Jr., launched Godiva Chocolatiers and began marketing luxury handmade chocolates across Europe and, eventually, in the United States. Today the distinctive Godiva gold ballotin, or treasure chest, is among the most widely recognized symbols of luxury in the world.

Angela Abbette writes on a variety of subjects, including food and drink articles similar to the ones found at her favorite article directory.


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