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Re: Origin of 'Sent to Coventry': more origins

Posted by Bob on August 12, 2000

In Reply to: Re: Origin of 'Sent to Coventry': more origins posted by James Briggs on August 11, 2000

: : What was special about this city, and what is its association with one's being ignored?

: : The link below will take you to a rather lengthy explanation of the whole Coventry phrase.
: : In a nutshell, Charles I in 1642 was suspected of being a Catholic in secret. As a result he and parliament often had run-ins and eventually the king left London and built an army as did parliament, thus were sown the seeds of the English Civil War. See link for more info.

: Sent to Coventry; if someone is "sent to Coventry" then they are shunned by their fellow citizens and friends. There are three possible explanations for this phrase. The first comes from the English Civil War. Birmingham was strongly Parliamentarian; the citizens were aware of a small group of Royalists in their midst. Some of these they killed and others they "exiled" to nearby Royalist Coventry. I don't like this explanation since, by being sent to Coventry, these people were rescued. In truth they had good fortune - their colleagues were killed.
: The second possibility rings a little truer. In this case the citizens of Coventry were in a phase of hating the military, possibly also as a result of the Civil War. Such was this hate that the young women of the town were forbidden to speak to the soldiers garrisoned there. Naturally no soldier welcomed such a posting.
: The third possibility is the one that I like best. It is suggested that the name Coventry is derived from Covin-tree, an oak which is supposed to have stood in front of the castle in feudal times. The tree was used as the gallows and those to be executed were sent to the covin-tree.

We ought to add that the phrase has been perpetuated into this century by British labo(u)r unions, which uses shunning as a punishment for strikebreakers and "scabs." No one speaks to or interacts with the person sent to Coventry, until they (eventually) resign. It's a powerful tool for social pressure.