This Godiva is a fully-animated (and fully clothed) puppet created by Imagineer Productions of Coventry as a contribution from the Midlands to the Cultural Olympiad of 2012.

According to legend Godiva—the 11th century wife of Earl Leofric of Mercia—rode naked on horseback through Coventry as a protest against the high taxes imposed by her husband.

However, there is no mention by Shakespeare of Godiva or Coventry in any of his works, so why has this colourful figure from the past been given pride of place during this most important of anniversaries?

“She represents every man and every woman and she’ll be collecting stories as she appears in various places throughout the Midlands this summer,” Marion Morgan, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s event officer, told the Herald.

“Everywhere she goes she’ll be collecting stories from the people of the towns she visits. As Shakespeare is ‘Mr Story’ it fits well with the theme of the day.”

Ms Morgan added: “There is a natural symbiosis between Godiva’s Odyssey and Shakespeare’s Birthday Celebrations—both were historic characters from the Midlands whose legends live on in our imaginations.

“Godiva was a strong and principled character, the kind that Shakespeare wrote about, and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s five houses—Shakespeare’s Birthplace, New Place and Nash’s House, Hall’s Croft, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and Gardens and Mary Arden’s Farm—all have strong associations with the women in his life.”

The People’s Pageant complements the flag unfurling ceremony and the main “cradle to grave” procession through the town of brass bands, civic dignitaries, foreign diplomats and pupils from local schools, each carrying their floral tribute to lay at Shakespeare’s grave at Holy Trinity church where the Bard is buried.

Entertainers from around the country and overseas will perform throughout the day, filling the streets of Stratford and drawing visitors to the town from all over the world.

The mechanical Godiva will spend the afternoon in Bancroft Gardens, forming the focal point for the day-long celebrations.

Here she will meet her future lifelong companion, The Humming Bird, for the first time. The mechanical bird, capable of flying one and a half kilometres, will appear and make its inaugural flight in a premier outdoor performance created by Imagineer.

Geraldine Collinge, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s director of events and exhibitions, said: “I’m delighted Godiva will be making the trip from Coventry to Stratford to help us all celebrate Shakespeare’s Birthday. She’s an amazing sight, and an exciting addition to The People’s Pageant.”

Local people are being invited to be tourists in their own town and visit the Shakespeare family homes where they can get free entrance with proof of a CV37 postal address.

Free performances in the town throughout the day will include an American choir singing in the gardens of Shakespeare’s birthplace; live theatre; the Poetry Doctor; renaissance dance troupes; traditional dance and music; student performers from the USA, Russia, Spain and around the UK and family activities at the five Shakespeare family homes and at the RSC.

The Royal Shakespeare Company said it had waived a hire fee for the use of its gardens for the Shakespeare Birthday Lunch on 26th April.

The lunch is scheduled to take place in a big marquee on the banks of the River Avon —on land owned by the RSC—and the Herald understands the rent would have been about £4,000.