The Mystery of King Harold


Figure 1: Panel 71 of the Bayeux Tapestry

Figure 1: Panel 71 of the Bayeux Tapestry

In my panel of the Bayeux Tapestry, panel 71, King Harold is killed. This is determined through translating the Latin on the panel Hic Harold rex interfectus est, or “Here King Harold has been killed” (Wilson 173). The big controversy over this scene is which figure is really King Harold. David M. Wilson states that “the killing of Harold is one of the scenes in the Tapestry most difficult of interpretation” (Wilson 194). Brooks and Walker argue against C. H. Gibbs-Smith’s opinion of which figure in this panel is really King Harold. “Brooks and Walker argue that Harold is indeed killed by an arrow in his eye but that he is shown again lying on the ground being cut in the leg by a sword” (Wilson 194). C. H. Gibbs-Smith, as well as Sir Frank Stenton believe that King Harold is the figure at the end of the panel that is being ridden down by a horseman. Guy of Amiens, the French Bishop, believes that “Harold was downed by four knights: Eustace of Boulogne, a son of Count Guy of Ponthieu, Walter Giffard and Hugo of Montford” (Rud 87). Some researchers doubt that Harold was really struck with an arrow in the eye. “The arrow is a later addition following a period of repair” (Wikipedia Contributors). The makers of Britain’s Bayeux Tapestry website feel that he is shown twice “first plucking an arrow from his eye, and then being hacked down by a Norman knight” (Britain’s Bayeux Tapestry). It seems that no one can really agree on which figure is King Harold. Which figure in this scene is really King Harold? This mystery of the Bayeux Tapestry may never be resolved, but we can certainly conclude that this is the panel portraying Harold’s death

Figure 2: Possibly King Harold pulling an arrow out of his eye

Figure 2: Possibly King Harold pulling an arrow out of his eye


“Battle of Hastings”. Britain’s Bayeux Tapestry at the Museum of Reading. 8 April 2014. Web.

Rud, Mogens. The Bayeux Tapestry And the Battle of Hastings 1066. 1st ed. Copenhagen: Christian Ejlers Publishers, 2002. 87. Print.

Wikipedia Contributors. “Bayeux Tapestry.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 24 Mar 2014. Web. 8 Apr 2014. <;.

Wilson, David. The Bayeux Tapestry. 1st. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd., 1985. 194-195. Print.

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