The Bayeux Tapestry

Jun 10, 2011 by

EDWARD REX. UBI HAROLD DUX ANGLORUM ET SUI MILITES EQUITANT AD BOSHAM. : King Edward. Where Harold, Earl of the English, and his retinue ride to Bosham.
Click on the image above to scroll through the whole tapestry [please wait for the page to completely load 1st]

ECCLESIA. HIC HAROLD MARE NAVIGAVIT ET VELIS VENTO PLENIS VENIT IN TERRAM WIDONIS COMITIS. : The church. Here Harold took to the sea and came with full sail to the territory of Count Guy.

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HAROLD. HIC APPREHENDIT WIDO HAROLDUM ET DUXIT EUM AD BELREM ET IBI EUM TENUIT : Harold. Here Guy seized Harold and led him to Beaurain and retained him there.

UBI HAROLD ET WIDO PARABOLANT. UBI NUNTII WILLEMNI DUCIS AD WIDONEM. TUROLD NUNTII WILLELMI : Where Harold and Guy converse. Where Duke William's messengers came to Guy. Turold William's messengers.

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HIC VENIT NUNTIAS AD WILGELMUM DUCEM. HIC WIDO ADDUXIT HAROLDUM AD WILGELUM NORMANNORUM DUCUM : Here the messengers came to Duke William. Here guy took Harold to William, Duke of Normandy.

HIC DUX WILGELM CUM HAROLDO VENIT AD PALATIUM SUUM. UBI UNUS CLERICUS ET AELFGYVA. : Here Duke William comes to his palace with Harold. Where a certain clerk and Aelfgyva.

HIC WILLELM DUX ET EXERCITUS EJUS VENERUNT AD MONTEM MICHAELIS : Here Duke William and his army came to Mont St Michel.

ET HIC TRANSIERUNT FLUMEN COSNOSIS. HIC HAROLD DUX TRAHEBAT EOS DE ARENA. ET VENERUNT AD DOL ET CONAN FUGA VERTIT. REDNES. : And here they crossed the river Cuesnon. Here Earl Harold pulled them out of the sands. And they came to Dol, and Conan fled. Rennes.

HIC MILITES WILLEMI DUCIS PUGNANT CONTRA DINANTES ET CUNAN CLAVES PORREXIT. : Here Duke William's soldiers fight against the inhabitants in Dinan, and Conan handed over the keys.

HIC WILLELM DEDIT ARMA HAROLDO. HIC WILLELM VENI BAGIAS.UBI HAROLD SACRAMENTUM FECIT WILLELMO DUCI : Here William gave Harold weapons. Here William came to Bayeux.Where Harold gave his oath to Duke William.

HIC HAROLD DUX REVERSUS EST AD ANGLICAM TERRAM. : Here Earl Harold returned home to England.

ET VENIT AD EDWARDUM REGUM. HIC PORTATUR CORPUS AEDWARDI REGIS AD ECCLESIAM SCI PETRI APOSTILI. HIC EADWARDUS REX IN LECTO ALLOQUITUR FIDELES. ET HIC DEFUNCTUS EST. : And came to King Edward. Here King Edward's body is carried to St Peter the Apostle. Here King Edward in bed speaks to his faithful. And here he died.

HIC DEDERUNT HAROLDO CORONAM REGIS. HIC RESIDET HOROLD REX ANGLORUM. STIGANT ARCHIEPISCOPUS. ISTI MIRANT STELLAM. : Here they gave the royal crown to Harold. Here enthroned is Harold, King of England. Archbishop Stigand. These people marvel at the star.

HAROLD.HIC NAVIS VENIT IN TERRAM WILLELMI DUKIS. HIC WILLEM DUX IUSSIT NAVES EDIFICARE. : Harold.Here an English ship came to Duke William's country. Here duke William ordered the buiding of ships.

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HIC TRAHUNT NAVES AD MARE. ISTI PORTANT ARMAS AD NAVES. ET HIC TRAHUNT CARRUM CUM VINO ET ARMIS. : Here they pull the ships to the sea. These men carry weapons down to the ships. And here they pull a cart loaded with weapons.

HIC WILLEM DUX IN MAGNO NAVIGIO MARE ...... : Here William crosses in a large ship over the sea ......

TRANSIVIT ET VENIT AD PEVENSEAE. : and came to Pevensey.

HIC EXEUNT DE NAVIBUS . ET HICMILITES FESTINAVERUNT HESTINGHAM UT CIBUM RAPERENTUR. : Here the horses go ashore. And here the soldiers hurried to Hastings to requisition food.

HIC EST WADARD. HIC COQUITOR CARO. ET HIC MINISTRAVERUNT MINISTRI. : Here is Wadard. Here meat is cooked. And here the servants serve the food.

HIC FECERUNT PRANDIUM. HIC EPISCOPUS CIBUM ET POTUM BENEDICIT. ODO EPISCOPUS. WILLELM. ROTBERT. ISTE IUSSIT UT FODERETUR CASTELLUM..... : Here they dined. And here the Bishop blesses the food and wine. Bishop Odo. William. Robert. He ordered defences dug.....

AT HESTENGAMCEASTRA. HIC NUNTIATUM EST WILLELMO DE HARALDO. HIC DOMUS INCEDITUR. HIC MILITES..... : at Hastings. Here William received news of Harold. Here the house is set on fire. Here the soldiers left Hastings, and went to do battle with King Harold.

EXIERUNT DE HESTENGA AT VENERUNT AD PRELIUM CONTRA HAROLDUM REGEM : left Hastings, and went to do battle with King Harold.

HIC WILLELM DUX INTERROGAT VITAL SI VIDISSET EXERCITUM HAROLDI. : Here Duke William asks Vital whether he has seen Harold's army.

OSTE NUNTIAT HAROLDUM REGEM DE EXERCITU WILLELMI DUCIS. : This man informs King Harold about Duke William's army.

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HIC WILLELM DUX ALLOQUITUR SUIS MILITIBUS UT PREPARARENT SE VIRILITER ET SAPIENTER AD PRELIUM CONTRA ANGLORUM EXERCITUM : Here Duke William exhorts his soldiers to prepare themselves like men and wisely for the battle against the English army.

HIC CECIDERUNT LWEINE ET GYRD : Here fell Leofwine and Gyrth,

FRATRES HAROLDI REGIS. HIC CECIDERUNT SIMUL ANGLI ET FRANCI IN PRELIO. : brothers of King Harold.Here fell the English and the French simultaneously in the battle.

HIC ODO EPISCOPUS BACULUM TENENS CONFORTAT PUEROS. HIC EST WILLELM DUX. : Here Bishop Odo with a staff in his hand encourages his Squires. Here is Duke William.

EUSTASIUS. HIC FRANCI PUGNANT. : Eustace. Here the French do battle.

ET CECIDERUNT QUI ERANT CUM HAROLDO. HIC HAROLD REX INTERFECTUS EST. : And those who were with Harold fell. Here King Harold was killed.

ET FUGA VERTERUNT ANGLI. : And the English fled.

The Bayeux Tapestry is an historical artifact that has fascinated me for many years now.

I have visited it at least half a dozen times over the years and it never fails to impress me. It depicts such a pivotal moment in British and Channel Island history, that of the invasion & conquest of England by William the Conqueror in 1066. This combined with the fact that you can be literally centimeters away from a beautiful artifact that’s nearly a thousand years old!


So here’s a few salient details about it to whet your appetite to go and see it.

What is it ?

The tapestry is not a tapestry in the normal sense. It is actually an embroidery of at least eight coloured wools, worked into pieces of linen. It is divided into a series of connected panels, approximately half a meter wide and 70 meters long. It depicts important scenes which led up to the Norman invasion of England and the Battle at Hastings in 1066.

They say that history is always written by the victors and the Bayeux Tapestry depicts events from a totally Norman perspective.

The tapestry is probably the most important pictorial image of the 11th century. It is is one of the most important pieces of medieval art from any century. A work of enormous skill, it has priceless value as a piece of art in itself, and it is also an important source – a vital piece of historical evidence – for a key moment in Britain’s national past.


Where is it ?

The Bayeux Tapestry is preserved and displayed in Bayeux, in Normandy, France.


When was it made ?

Nothing is known for certain about the tapestry‚Äôs origins. In March 1067 William the Conqueror returned to Normandy until December 1067. His half-brother,Bishop Odo of Bayeux, was made Earl of Kent and became William’s Deputy in England in the autumn of 1067. It is probably about this time that Bishop Odo ordered the creation of the Bayeux tapestry. The Bayeux Tapestry was first shown at the dedication of Odo’s cathedral on 14th July 1077. This gives a period of ten years during which time the Bayeux tapestry was probably made.

Some historians argue that it was embroidered in Kent, probably in Winchester where there was an established embroidery works. This fits in nicely with Bishop Odo being made Earl of Kent. As a piece of Norman propaganda it must’ve been galling for the English to have to produce it for their Norman Overlords.


What does it depict ?

The pictures of the tapestry tell the story of the adventures of Duke Harold Godwinson, brother-in-law of King Edward the Confessor, who was shipwrecked in Ponthieu in 1064. Following his rescue by William, Duke of Normandy, Harold is shown swearing to support William in his quest to succeed Edward the Confessor as King of England – a promise which he was later to break. We then see Harold returning to England and being acclaimed as king after Edward’s death.

But the oath sworn by Harold to William is reported in only one other source – William of Poitiers’ ‘Deeds of Duke William’, another Norman account, written some ten years after the conquest. The Norman version clearly needed this event to have happened – but we cannot be sure whether it did, or did not, take place. Either way William felt he had a justification for invasion.

Next we see William’s preparations for the invasion of England and the decisive Battle of Hastings. One of the most striking images is the one that depicts the slaying of Harold with an arrow through his eye. That Harold died in this way is a fact ‘known’ to almost every English schoolchild. But is it true?
The inscription in the tapestry reads ‘hic harold rex interfectus est’, with the name ‘harold’ written above a warrior with an arrow in his eye. But the words ‘interfectus est’ (has been killed) appear to refer to a second warrior being hacked down by a mounted Norman swordsman. The tapestry is our only source on this point, so we cannot know which of the two figures was meant to be King Harold.

The tapestry approaches this piece of history from the Norman perspective, attempting to justify the invasion launched by William to claim what he believed was rightfully his. The image of Harold that the tapestry projects is one of a double-dealer who broke a sacred promise to William.


The Tapestry borders …..
One interesting and intriguing thing of note is the tapestry borders. There are two of them, upper and lower. Both are filled with mythological figures, lions, dragons, farming and hunting and scenes from Aesops fables. The significance of the scenes has been debated and there are views that believe the themes of deceit, and unlawful possession in the fables have been used as a vehicle by the English embroiders to express their dissent and horror of the Norman invasion of Britain. But we’ll never know for sure.


Guernsey’s Link to the Tapestry …..
Guernseys flag, adopted in 1985 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of liberation from German occupation, features a yellow cross. This golden cross is representative of the same cross in the banner given to Duke William by Pope Alexander II in 1066 prior to embarking on his conquest of England. You can see this banner in the tapestry itself on top of the mast on the central ship



If you want to know more about William the Conqueror I can recommend the book by David Bates simply entitled “William the Conqueror