I was reading in the paper today of some hapless wight who had been sent to Coventry (meaning ostracised and given the silent treatment) by his colleages. It then occurred to me to wonder why Coventry should have been chosen for this idiom.
The story - and it is no more than that - is that Cromwell sent a group of Royalist soldiers to be imprisoned in Coventry, around 1648. The locals, who were parliamentary supporters, shunned them and refused to consort with them.
Michael Quinion also notes:-
Another story, undated but usually taken to refer to events of a similar period, is that Coventry was strongly opposed to having troops billeted on townspeople, and that soldiers sent there were ostracised by the local population.
but he remarks that
My own feeling is that neither is convincing, not least because of the century-long gap between Civil War events and the first appearance of the idiom
As neither of thes two things were peculiar to Coventry, I'm also inclined to doubt. Can anyone shed any light on the matter?