1605-15; short for (Sain)t Audrey lace, i.e., neck lace bought at St. Audrey's Fair in Ely, England; so called after St. Audrey (Old EnglishAethelthrȳth, died 679), Northumbrian queen and patron saint of Ely, who, according to tradition, died of a throat tumor which she considered just punishment of her youthful liking for neck laces
"cheap, showy, gaudy," 1676, adjective use of noun tawdry "silk necktie for women" (1612), shortened from tawdry lace (1548), an alteration of St. Audrey's lace, a necktie or ribbon sold at the annual fair at Ely on Oct. 17 commemorating St. Audrey (queen of Northumbria, died 679), whose name was worn down from O.E. Æðelðryð "noble might," from æðele "noble" (from P.Gmc. *athala-, from PIE *at-al- "race, family," from *at(i)- "over, beyond, super" + *al- "to nourish") + ðryð "might." Her association with cheap lace necklaces is that she supposedly died of a throat tumor, which she considered God's punishment for her youthful fondness for showy necklaces [Bede].