The Bayeux Tapestry is represented in my new header image. This wonderful example of Norman Romanesque art portrays the story of William of Normandy (The Conqueror) and the English Kings, Edward the Confessor and Harold Godwin. The scenes portray the intrigue of eleventh century politics culminating in Harolds demise at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
Bishop Odo, Duke William’s half brother, is generally accredited with the Tapestry’s creation which gives credence to the idea it was made in England. Odo was Earl of Kent in the 1070s after the conquest. It turned up in Bayeux in the the eighteenth century being displayed annually. It was probably, however, at Bayeux Cathedral as early as that building’s consecration in the twelfth century, being Bishop Odo’s episcopal seat.
Tapestry or Embroidery? The work is actually an embroidery in wool thread on linen cloth. It is some 70 metres long and around 50 centimetres high. The story contains seventy one views with Latin titles. Researcher and conservator, Sylvette Lemagnen, says in her La Tapisserie de Bayeux, that “ Its survival almost intact over nine centuries is little short of miraculous …”
Harold’s death is another oddity which puts our primary school education stories in doubt as well. My view shows Harold being shot in the eye by an arrow which signified the end of the battle and victory for William. The arrow is thought to be a nineteenth century addition, screening the spectator from the real horror of the King’s demise. This is an example of ‘bowdlerising’ or censorship to suit the political correctness of the day. The reality is that Harold probably suffered the butchery that was meted out to defeated kings in battle; compare with the fate of Richard III some four hundred years later, again by a dubious heir to the English throne, Henry Tudor.
A replica of the Tapestry is to be seen in Reading Museum which is really worth a visit when we are able to go there again. And the great news is the real tapestry (or embroidery) has been promised, by Emmanuel Macron, a trip to England this year. Really looking forward to that event.