Monthly Archives: November 2018

Bayeux Tapestry (Panel 21)


Bayeux Tapestry – Wilson, Plate 21

I chose scene number 21 of the Bayeux Tapestry.  In the scene is depicted the siege of Dol and the escape of Duke Conan, and his subsequent flight to Rednes.  These events took place a year or so before the Battle of Hastings, during the Breton-Norman War.  (Wiki, Breton-Norman War)

Conan II, the Duke of Brittany had a feud with the neighboring duchy, headed by Duke William (who later became William the Conqueror, King of England).  Duke William had sent out a warning to his neighbors that he was on a mission that was sanctioned by the Pope, and to not even try to invade his duchy while he was on his Papal errand.  Duke Conan took the opportunity to threaten to invade Normandy, regardless of William’s warning.  William enlisted Harold to help bring the fight to Conan and take him down.  Conan had laid siege to Dol, but had not captured the castle there.  Instead, William and Harold showed up and Conan was obliged to leave the area and flee toward Rednes (Rennes).  (Wiki, Conan II)

The Latin inscription on this part of the tapestry just explains what is happening in the scene.  “…Conan turned to flight. Rennes.” The Latin inscription acts as a running narrative of the story as it unfolds along the banner.

The tapestry depicts Conan escaping down a rope from the castle stronghold of Dol, but this is not historically accurate. (Anderson) (Noxon) Conan had only laid siege to Dol, and had not actually captured the keep.  One could guess that the depiction of Conan escaping down the rope was more dramatically pleasing in the visual story that the Tapestry was trying to portray.  It might also have been difficult to represent the actual details in embroidery, and this was close enough to the truth to convey the point.

It is suggested that the two birds beneath the tower at Dol represent a peaceful surrender between the parties.  (Anderson)

The pursuit of Conan to Rednes continues the story, and it is notable that the spears of the horsemen extend out of the main section of the tapestry and into the top border.  This is among the first sections of the tapestry in which the main characters infringe upon the border art. (Rud)

As for the border art, there were no sources I could find that gave much information about the animals portrayed on either border.  In this section, there are various mythical beasts including dragons.  I have no explanation for their imagery, other than they are mythical and would have been common to the artwork imagery of the time.

The panel following my section includes the surrender of Conan to William, imaged by the exchanging of keys on lances.

The original version of the popular 1620 painting of William the Conqueror

The tapestry itself was meant to make William the Conqueror look very heroic, and give justification to his claim of the English crown.  It was also to explain why Harold should not have been king of England, on account of his oath to William, albeit likely achieved through torturous means.  As the story of William unfolds over the 230ft of embroidery, it is clear that he is the hero of the medieval comic strip story. (Anderson)


Sources Cited:

“Breton-Norman War.” accessed November 25, 2018.

“Conan II, Duke of Brittany.” accessed November 25, 2018.,_Duke_of_Brittany

Anderson, John D. “The Bayeux Tapestry: A 900-Year-Old Latin Cartoon.” The Classical Journal 81, no. 3 (1986): 253-57.

Noxon, Gerald. “The Bayeux Tapestry.” Cinema Journal 7 (1967): 29-35. doi:10.2307/1224876.

Rud, Mogens. The Bayeux Tapestry and the Battle of Hastings 1066. Copenhagen: Christian Ejlers Publishers, 2002. Print.

Wilson, David M. The Bayeux Tapestry: The Complete Tapestry in Color. New York: A.A.

“William the Conqueror.” Painting., 1985. Print.

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Bayeux Tapestry Panel #23

The Tapestry as a Source:

An account of William of Normandy’s English conquests is famously depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry. Spanning some 70 meters in length, it is “[made] of fine bleached linen worked largely in wool” (Stafford, 1578). There are many mysteries surrounding the origins of the tapestry; for instance, it is unknown who designed, created, and commissioned it, as well as when and why it was made. It is suspected that Odo, Bishop of Bayeux (and William’s half-brother), was likely its patron. The first known reference to the tapestry was made in 1478, and there is some debate about earlier, but more unreliable, accounts, the earliest of those being that the tapestry was at one point in the possession of William’s daughter. For a long and complicated list of reasons, one source claimed the Bayeux Tapestry “…should be dated ca. 1067-68” (Stafford, 1578). Whether that dating is precisely accurate or not, it would put the creation of the tapestry in recent enough memory that its credibility as a source would be strongly reinforced.

Due to my difficulty in finding another primary source about my specific panel, I branched out a bit and found another account made around the same time about William’s conquest. The Gesta Guillelmi ducis Normannorum et regis Anglorum was written in 1071 by William of Poitiers, who was a big supporter of William (Smailes). It provides a classically structured narrative of William’s reign from 1035-1067, and gives a very possible justification for William’s conquest, being that he was divinely appointed and his destiny was to rule (Bouet). However, this text is hard to come by since both of the original manuscripts have been lost, and what we know today comes from a version published in 1619 (Smailes).

There is a give and take with both of these sources, but I believe that both sources are credible- if taken with a grain of salt. Something I feel many people tend to overlook when studying these ancient (or just really old) sources is the distinct bias that went into creating them. Since both were commissioned, written, and/ or created by what we can fairly safely assume was the winning side, there will be a selective way the information is presented.

The Battle of Dinan:

Yes, this is the highly coveted barbeque scene! Panel 23 of the tapestry depicts a scene from the Breton-Norman War in 1065, rather than part of the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

As an extremely brief background to this war, William (Duke of Normandy) supported a revolt against Conan (Duke of Brittany), and shortly after sent a letter announcing he was going to invade England, so don’t attack his land while he was away. Well, Conan informed William he would be taking this opportunity to invade Normandy, so William had to go fight off the Bretons. After chasing Conan south from Dol-de-Bretagne to Rennes, the Normans besieged the Bretons in the Château de Dinan, in what is known as the Battle of Dinan (Wikipedia Contributors).

Panel 23 shows the Bretons defending the castle with spears while the Normans burn down their fortifications during the Battle of Dinan (Wikipedia Contributors). The text on the panel reads “(HIC MILIT)ES WILLELMI DUCIS PUGNANT CONTRA DINANTES ET CUNAN CLAVES PORREXIT”, which means “Here Duke William’s soldiers fight against the men of Dinan, and Conan surrendered the keys. (Rud, 172). Conan surrendering the keys is shown in the next panel, where he physically gives William the keys to the castle on the tip of a javelin, effectively surrendering and granting the Normans another victory (Wikipedia Contributors).


Going beyond the content of the panel, there aren’t very many details to be discussed regarding its physical construction; however, there is one point worth mentioning. The diagonal lines found in the border of the panel are what Rud described as “…perhaps the only sign in the Tapestry of a development of the artist’s confidence”, by suggesting that these lines create a more tense and dynamic scene (Rud, 181).


Stafford, Pauline, et al. “Europe: Ancient and Medieval.” The American Historical Review, vol. 110, no. 5, 2005, pp. 1577–1579. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Rud, Mogens. The Bayeux Tapestry and The Battle of Hastings 1066. Copenhagen: Christian Ejlers Publishers, 2002. Print.

Wikipedia contributors. “Breton–Norman War.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 3 Oct. 2018. Web. 16 Nov. 2018.

Bouet, Pierre. “William of Poitiers (c. 1073/74).” Literary Sources of Norman History, Accessed 26 November 2018.

Smailes, Gary. “Primary Sources for the Battle of Hastings 1066 – William of Poitiers.” William the Bastard at War. Accessed 26 November 2018.


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Bayeux Tapestry #66 – Where The Normans And English Both Fell


The Bayeux Tapestry tells the story of William the Conqueror and how he became king of England. The previous king, Edward the confessor, had no heir and therefore had to give the throne to another man. William of Normandy claimed Edward promised the throne to him, but Harold became king anyway. William then invaded England and warred with Harold. William was victorious and became king, Harold was killed. The Tapestry was created shortly after to retell the story. (Gale)


In this segment the English are standing at the top of a hill attacking the mounted Normans. The Latin at the top translates to “here fell both the English and the French simultaneously in battle.”

The segment above tells us the English were not weak. They were strong enough to fight back against the Normans. It also tells us that the Normans did not easily win. It was not an effortless victory. This scene is likely accurate because it portrays both sides as losing. If the Tapestry was created entirely to paint William and his men as incredible heroes, it would not likely show when they died. It’s also possible this section could have been paying respects to the men who fell in battle.

Using the tapestry as a historical source

There’s a theory about the tapestry where bishop Odo of Bayeux ordered the tapestry’s creation to put in his cathedral around its dedication time. Some other bishops are not included in the tapestry even though we know of their existence. This would make it more difficult to trust the tapestry as a reliable source. (Gameson)

The tapestry portrays Harold as a good man. He saves some men, but he breaks an oath he made and because of that a war begins. It’s possible the tapestry could have been made to warn people of breaking oaths. It could contain inaccuracies to make the story work better for this. Multiple sources contained information to support this theory.

One feature of the tapestry that helps with its reliability is the writing explaining what is going on. It gives accurate descriptions of the events that take place meaning historians don’t have to interoperate each scene themselves. John Anderson wrote an article explaining how he uses the text on the tapestry while teaching Latin. He compares the modern language to the tapestry and uses it as a source to learn words and grammar from the past. He talks about the excitement it brings to students and would make the class more interesting and engaging. (Anderson)


While the tapestry might not contain information we can trust to be completely accurate, there is a lot we can learn from it. The tapestry is one of the best sources we have that shows kite shields in action. The words on the tapestry can provide great information, even if it’s not entirely true. We can learn the overall story from the events of the tapestry, but it shouldn’t be considered 100% true.


Wilson, D. M. (1985). The Bayeux Tapestry.

William I, King of England. (2018). In P. Lagasse, & Columbia University, The Columbia encyclopedia (8th ed.). New York, NY: Columbia   University Press. Retrieved from

Gale R. Owen-Crocker (2012) Hunger for England: Ambition and Appetite in the Bayeux Tapestry, English Studies, 93:5, 539-548, DOI:   10.1080/0013838X.2012.698531

Gameson, Richard. “The English Historical Review.” The English Historical Review, vol. 121, no. 494, 2006, pp. 1517–1518. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Anderson, John D. “The Bayeux Tapestry: A 900-Year-Old Latin Cartoon.” The Classical Journal, vol. 81, no. 3, 1986, pp. 253–257. JSTOR,   JSTOR,

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Bayeux Tapestry Panel 73

Bayeux Tapestry panel 73

The Bayeux Tapestry is an artistic work that depicts the Norman invasion of England culminating in the battle of Hastings where Harold of England is killed, and William the Conqueror gains the throne of England. Tapestry would technically be the wrong word for this piece because the scenes are not woven into the fabric but embroidered (“Bayeux Tapestry”). Regardless of its classification, the Tapestry is 230 feet long, is dated to the eleventh century, and is recognized to have been made in England (“Bayeux Tapestry”). It is most likely that William’s half-brother, Bishop Odo, commissioned the piece because it was found in the Bayeux Cathedral which Odo had built (“Bayeux Tapestry”).

The Tapestry is an incredible piece of artwork that allows modern audiences to see how the Battle of Hastings was viewed during the time that it occurred. However, this is also the reason that it cannot stand alone as a fully accurate historical artifact. The Tapestry was created from the Anglo-Norman perspective and cannot always be trusted when it comes to accuracy of the events that took place. According to Kate Norgate, the Tapestry cannot be a true recording of history because it was created twenty to thirty years after the battle by women who were certainly not present on the battlefield (27). It is also unlikely to be an accurate portrayal of history because for the battle to become popular enough to get embroidered in a work like this, the story of the battle must have been circulated by bards or troubadours who would embellish the story (28).

Bayeux Tapestry image

This historical inaccuracy can be seen in the last scene in which the Tapestry depicts, which is the Saxons fleeing from the Normans. It is believed that there were at least two more scenes portrayed originally in the artwork of “William in triumph and enthroned as King of England” (Anderson 254). The current last scene (shown above) however, does not tell the complete story (Wilson fig. 73 p. 168-169). The Tapestry depicts the Normans riding towards the English foot soldiers who are obviously frightened and defeated. There are corpses and dismembered bodies lying beneath the main action of the Tapestry, implying a bloody and gruesome battle. Then the Latin says, “Et fuga verterunt Angli” or, “And the English have turned to flight” (Wilson 173). This victory of the Normans and shaming of the Saxons is, of course, only told from the Anglo-Norman perspective. In reality, there were, in fact, many English soldiers who turned to flee after the death of their leader, Harold, yet what the Tapestry doesn’t include is the fact that some English soldiers stayed and fought courageously until the end with one last stand at Malfosse or Senlac Hill (“Battle”).  What Senlac Hill looks like today can be seen in Carey’s picture, shown here, that he took in 2009.

senlac hill

“Lower Slopes of Senlac Hill The main Battle of Hastings was fought on the peak of the hill though there are plenty of hypothesis suggesting that the lower flank here was the home to the Breton cavalry, part of William’s army” (Carey).

What can be learned from the Bayeux Tapestry is that not every piece of history can be counted on as completely accurate records of what came before it. History is often written by the victor; therefore, scholars need to search deeper for what truly happened rather than relying on what popular art and belief depict. Even if both sides are treated fairly, stories are not always told by people who were there, and they often get embellished which strays them further from the truth.


Works Cited

Anderson, John D. “The Bayeux Tapestry: A 900-Year-Old Latin Cartoon.” The Classical Journal, vol. 81, no. 3, 1986, pp. 253–257. JSTOR, JSTOR,

“Battle of Hastings.” Wikipedia, 15 Oct. 2018,

“Bayeux Tapestry.” Wikipedia, 21 Nov. 2018,

Carey, Simon. Lower Slopes of Senlac Hill., 14 June 2009.

Kate Norgate. “The Battle of Hastings.” The English Historical Review, vol. 9, no. 33, 1894, pp. 1–76. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Wilson, David M. The Bayeux Tapestry. Thames & Hudson Inc, New York, 2004.

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Historical Analysis: Bayeux Tapestry #67

This post will analyze the 67th panel of the Bayeux Tapestry (as numbered in Wilson, David M. The Bayeux Tapestry), looking for what it teaches us historically and what we can glean artistically from it. The Bayeux Tapestry is an artistic depiction of Duke William of Normandy’s invasion of Britain in 1066, with special emphasis given to the Battle of Hastings, October 14, 1066. Throughout the tapestry, William’s Norman forces are represented in chainmail, whereas the British fighters are usually shown without any armor to note. This conflict took place either (a.) because this was the middle ages and rulers back then really didn’t have anything better to do with their time, or (b.) because the death of King Edward left something of a power vacuum that William and several other claimants tried to fill. As later generations have dubbed Duke William “the Conqueror,” it isn’t hard to guess who was most successful in this effort.

This panel specifically bears the caption “HIC ODO EPISCOPUS BACULUM TENENS CONFORTAT PUEROS,” which translates as “Here Bishop Odo, with a staff in hand, encourages his squires (literally “boys”).” Bishop Odo was Duke William’s half brother, and as such a prominent character in this panel he will receive special attention here. We will also observe the borders and the general scene in the tapestry.

Bishop Odo of Bayeux:

His outfit makes him stand out from the other soldiers, highlighting him as a prominent figure in a way that even his brother William in the next panel doesn’t get (Duke William is consistently depicted in chainmail, like all of his troops). It is implied that Odo is wearing at least some chainmail by the avantail–“mail protection for the neck, which hangs down from the helmet”–one can see dangling from his helmet. It isn’t clear whether this outfit is an adornment worn on top of his actual armor (as a bishop it wouldn’t be surprising to see him with at least somewhat different adornment) or if he is actually wearing a different type of armor (this could be a simplistic representation of scale mail, though having one person in the whole army wearing a very different type of armor would be surprising). As Bishop Odo was very possibly the one who commissioned the tapestry, it wouldn’t be surprising if he simply did this to make his presence in the tapestry more apparent.

Another distinguishing feature of Bishop Odo is the club he is carrying, in similar fashion to his brother Duke William’s chosen weapon. This is actually somewhat historically interesting, as it gives potential insight into the culture of the time. This is actually a fairly strong indication that the leadership in the army imitated their commander, either to impress said leader or to stand out from common troops as a “badge of rank”. This detail has a certain ring of truth that makes it seem more historical than artistic.

Lastly, many historians have noted how this panel of the tapestry emphasizes the fact that Odo, likely due to his clerical status, did not “fight” per se, but directed and encouraged his troops from the back.


The top border is likely wholly decorative in this portion, unless there was in fact a bird trying to bite its own toe at Hastings. The bottom border is a little more informative. Though it was likely included primarily as decoration, and though one corpse is much the same as another in essentials (at least, inasmuch as one can pretty easily imagine what a corpse of one of the soldiers would look like by seeing the depictions of the soldiers), the bottom tapestry does give good depictions of weaponry, armor, and a horse’s tack, all unobstructed by other elements. Admittedly, however, not much historical information can be gained from these, on account of the oversimplification necessary in representing these things via embroidery.

General Scene:

The bulk of this scene is, as its heading describes, a number of Norman soldiers on horseback being urged on by Bishop Odo. There are a few englishmen depicted on the left making some very expressive facial and hand gestures. This panel shows an interesting art style in which two scenes are overlaid by intermingling their subjects in an overlapping fashion, making it somewhat jumbled and disorganized. This image would seem to indicate that the Norman knights, a previously unfamiliar foe for the english, favored the broadsword or the lance, while the British seemed to prefer the spear or javelin.


Works Cited:

Vitalis, Orderic. “Historia Ecclesiastica.” Translation by Forester, Thomas, 1853. Accessed on November 25, 2018,

Wilson, David M. The Bayeux Tapestry. Thames & Hudson, 2004.

Prestwich, Michael. Knight: The Medieval Warrior’s (Unofficial) Manual. Thames & Hudson, 2010.

“The History of Britain’s Bayeux Tapestry.” Britain’s Bayeux Tapestry at Reading Museum. November 20, 2018.

“The Weaponry of 1066.” English Heritage. November 20, 2018.

Picture Credit: (Unfortunately, I could not figure out how to get the photos to upload)

Wilson, David M.

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Bayeux Tapestry Scene #70

The Bayeux Tapestry is an embroidered cloth around 230 feet long, 20 inches tall, and recounts the story of the conquest of England by the Normans, specifically William, Duke of Normandy, and Harold, Earl of Wessex (Carter 24). The Bayeux Tapestry tells the story from the perspective of the successful invading Normans, but it is agreed upon now that it was created in England. The tapestry was supposedly commissioned by Bishop Odo, William’s half-brother, a few years after the battle had reached its conclusion some time in the 11th century, sometime around the 1070s (Carter 24). The tapestry was then lost to history until it was discovered in 1729 when scholars of the time found it while it was being displayed in the Bayeux Cathedral. This tapestry tells a long story spanning many years, but how reliable can one consider this tapestry to be?


Plán bitvy u Hastingsu, anonymous, public domain, This graphic represents the battle of Hastings, the main battle represented in the tapestry

The purpose for the creation of the tapestry is probably where the biggest reason for skepticism comes in. As previously said, this tapestry was created a few years after the conquest had ended and was commissioned by Bishop Odo. This means that it was most likely created with approval of the church as a sort of commemorative work of art. It was most likely used to help bring the story of William’s conquest to all those who would see it. This was meant to help establish that William was went to win because God was with him, or at least that his claim to the throne was true in the eyes of God (Anderson 254). Proof of this can be seen in the fact that it was on display in a church.  Since this was meant to celebrate William and his conquest, some details are likely to be embellished or polished up.

Another reason for skepticism is that the entire thing is from the perspective of the invaders. History is written by the victors after all. This leads to a one sided view of the conquest that obviously favors William. This ties into the previous point about a retelling being improved to help the victor appear better, but for a different reason.

Despite these negatives, the tapestry is practically a miracle. The entire length of it was able to survive for hundreds of years before scholars were able to find it. The colors and cloth are still extremely vibrant and clear allowing for easy reading and interpretation of the needlework. With the piece being commissioned by Bishop Odo, someone present in the stories, this leaves the possibility that this is a recording of the story from a primary source in the form of Odo himself.


Photo taken from The Bayeux Tapestry and the Battle of Hastings 1066 by Mogens Rud

In this scene, we can see the end of the actual battle of Hastings and the actions of William and his armies during the aftermath. The bottom left of the scene shows the dead body of Harold with an arrow through his eye, identifiable by the cause of death as well as his unique shield shape. Also along the bottom you can see scenes of archers firing on the retreating army along with what appears to be a decapitated peasant. Along the middle we can see conflict between across a diverse range of parties. From left to right we see conflict between foot soldiers fighting foot soldiers, foot soldiers vs cavalry, and a foot soldier vs a peasant based upon his dress. The shields of the soldiers along the left are covered in arrows and we can see at the bottom right of the scene that archers shown previously are most likely the reason for it. Along the middle we also see a Latin inscription that when translated reads “Here the French fight and have killed those who were with Harold” (Rud). A note that perfectly describes what is happening in the scene. Finally, along the top we see animals that have been present along the length of the battle. This scene is the clean up that comes after defeating an enemies commander. A good comparison for this scene would be cutting the head off a cockroach. The cockroach won’t know what to do or how to move, but it will still run around even without that knowledge. Eventually it may will stop moving and die, but unlike the cockroach the army can get a new head, a new commander. So they decided not to wait for that possibility and kill those that were traveling with Harold, those most likely to be able to take control.

As this is a memorial piece, some of the details are most likely embellished, polished, or omitted altogether. But even with that, this easily one of the best source of medieval history around today with its clear artwork, close to primary source account, and its creation point near the time of the event. It gives the history of William’s conquest of England before the attacks, during, and the aftermath. As a source for what happened, you most likely won’t find a better source, just remain a bit skeptic.



Bloch, R. Howard. “Speculum.” Speculum, vol. 81, no. 2, 2006, pp. 493–494. JSTOR, JSTOR,


Carter, John Marshall. “Doing What Historians Do: Using the Bayeux Tapestry to Discover the Past.” The Clearing House, vol. 70, no. 1, 1996, pp. 24–25. JSTOR, JSTOR,


Anderson, John D. “The Bayeux Tapestry: A 900-Year-Old Latin Cartoon.” The Classical Journal, vol. 81, no. 3, 1986, pp. 253–257. JSTOR, JSTOR,


Noxon, Gerald. “The Bayeux Tapestry.” Cinema Journal, vol. 7, 1967, pp. 29–35. JSTOR, JSTOR,


Rud, Mogens. The Bayeux Tapestry and the Battle of Hastings 1066. Christian Ejlers, 2008.

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Bayeux Tapestry Panel 60

The Bayeux Tapestry is a recording of the Battle of Hastings, and was probably made in the 1000s and commissioned by Odo of Bayeux, half-brother to William the Conqueror. It’s over 70 meters long and was embroidered over a period of 10 years by multiple nuns. There is a replica in England, while the original is displayed in Normandy, France. The Tapestry depicts the invasion of England by William the Conqueror, who led his Norman tribes against the Saxons, who were led by Harold, Earl of Wessex. William’s victory against Harold in the Battle of Hastings was a key part in the Norman invasion of England.
Section 60 is a portion of the Battle of Hastings, specifically as told by the Latin inscription, where Duke William exhorts his soldiers to prepare for battle “against the army of the English” (contra anglorum exercitum). It is the very beginning of the Battle, where the Norman cavalry and archers charge the English army of unmounted soldiers.


King Edward had offered William the throne of Britain in 1051, and died in 1066 of illness, leaving the throne to Harold. The Normans claimed that William had prior claim to the throne, and so William prepared for invasion while Harold prepared to fight back, while also fighting off other petitioners to the throne. Harold was killed at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, but it took William until 1070 to completely appease the region. He built many castles and other fortified buildings in order to maintain the peace. The Battle of Hastings was the last successful invasion of Britain. The Norman cavalry consisted of mercenaries and nobles, and bows and crossbows were used. The British army consisted of only infantry who used battleaxes and shieldwalls.


There is debate over whether the Tapestry is an accurate record of the Norman invasion and the Battle of Hastings. While some things may be accurate, others may have been altered or exaggerated. Because we don’t know for sure who created it, we can’t be sure any of the information is correct unless confirmed through other sources. The Tapestry has been repaired or altered in places over time as well, and because embroidery is not accurate to details, we can assume that the armies were not set up the way they are in the tapestry. Each scene in the tapestry is separate, although the scenes are connected, so the linear timeline is probably accurate enough granted that we take into consideration the odd layout of the figures within the tapestry itself. The Norman and British soldiers are also dressed the same way, and so the only differentiation is whether they are on horseback or not.
Picture 1
Victorian copy of the Bayeux Tapestry, copyright 2000 – 2014 Reading Borough Council (Reading Museum Service), Berkshire, UK
Picture 2

Source 1
Bayeux Tapestry. Romanesque Europe (English or Norman). c. 1066-1080 C.E. Embroidery on linen.
Source 2
Wilson, David. The Bayeux Tapestry: The Complete Tapestry in Color. 1985.
Source 3
Britain’s Bayeux Tapestry at Reading Museum

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Bayeux Tapestry Analysis of Panel #69


General History and the Uncertainty of the Tapestry as a Source:

The Bayeux Tapestry is an 11th century embroidery depicting the Battle of Hasting, the 1066 battle between the invading French-Norman army, led by William the Conqueror and the Anglo-Saxon King Harold II. Both men had a claim to succession on the English throne, it was given to Harold, after he betrayed William the Normans invaded England to claim the throne. The tapestry is in very good condition despite being commissioned in the 1070’s CE (The Original Bayeux Tapestry). This piece of art is generally considered a good historical source. It was made, and finished, within 20 years of the event in question, increasing the validity of the depictions. Furthermore, it is widely accepted by historians that Bishop Odo, cousin to William, commissioned the piece. This validates the events shown in the tapestry due to his presence and participation in the battle itself. However, there is evidence of tampering on the tapestry. There are holes and fade patterns that indicate pieces have been unstitched and altered. The most infamous example is the arrow that killed Harold. The tapestry, as it is now, shows the King being shot in the head with an arrow, however,  accounts say that in the original stitching he was impaled with a lance. “He was constantly striking down the enemy at close quarters, so that no one could approach him with impunity, for straightway both horse and rider would be felled by a single blow. So, it was at long range, as I have said, that the enemy’s deadly arrow brought him to his death (Medieval Sourcebook: William of Malmesbury, d. 1143?: The Battle of Hastings, 1066)”. The tapestry shows evidence of unstitching around the arrow, leading many to believe that a lance was originally depicted killing Harold and was later changed to an arrow, thus complicating the validity of other scenes.

Image result for william the conqueror


William I, King of England from 1066 when he beat Harold II at Hastings and was crowned at Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day. (Hulton Archive via Getty Images)

Analysis Animal of Symbolism on Panel Number 69:


Bayeux Tapestry. Circa 1077, The Bayeux Museum, Normandy, France.

Panel 69 is near to the end of the battle of Hastings, just before Harold is killed. The panel contains part of an inscription that reads: Here the French fight and those who were with Harold fell (Rud, 86). There is a noticeable influence of both French and Saxon in the Latin, this suggests that both Normans and English worked on the embroidery (Bouet and Neveux). Along the bottom, archers, and along the top (left at right) are what is possibly a peacock, a griffin, two lions, and an eagle. It is likely that each represents something. Owen-Crocker, specifically noting the birds in the tapestry, says “Often they echo what is going on in the main frame… Although birds are often used in the Tapestry to illustrate and comment on human situations, sometimes, conversely, it is as birds per se that we see them (252-253)”. Here the tide of battle is in favor of the Normans and the animals depicted along the top border may accentuate that. Symbolically speaking, a peafowl represents immortality, while a Griffin is the King of all Animals, often symbolizing Christ and holy aide. Lions are for kings, in this panel they are facing opposite to each other, this could be symbolic of the opposition between Harold and William, as both had a claim to the throne. Last is the eagle, which is a divine guide or messenger (Boehm and Holcomb).


Boehm, Barbara Drake, and Melanie Holcomb. “Animals in Medieval Art.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (originally published October 2001, last revised January 2012)

Bouet, Pierre, and François Neveux. “Latin Inscriptions.” Everyday Life – Bayeux Museum, Bayeux Museum, Oct. 2013,

James Harvey Robinson, ed., Readings in European History, 2 Vols. (Boston: Ginn & Co., 1904-06), Vol. I: From the Breaking up of the Roman Empire to the Protestant Revolt, pp. 224-229

“Medieval Sourcebook: William of Malmesbury, d. 1143?: The Battle of Hastings, 1066.” Internet History Sourcebooks,

Owen-Crocker, G. (2005). Squawk talk: Commentary by birds in the Bayeux Tapestry? Anglo-Saxon England, 34, 237-254. doi:10.1017/S0263675105000116

Rud, Mogens. The Bayeux Tapestry and the Battle of Hastings 1066. Christian Ejlers Publishers, 2002. Pg. 86

“The Original Bayeux Tapestry.” The History of Britain’s Bayeux Tapestry, Reading Museum,

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Bayeux Tapestry – Panel 43

Time and Space – 1066 AD, England

Normans vs. Anglo-Saxons

Casus belli: Duke William has been betrayed by King Harold, and must now seize his “rightful” throne

The Normans Arriving at Pevensey Bay — The Bayeux Tapestry. approx: 1070-1080. The Bayeux, Normandy. “The Bayeux Tapestry scene39.jpeg” Wikimedia Commons. Accessed 11/25/2018.

This scene from the Bayeux Tapestry shows William’s men sailing across the English channel and arriving on the shores of Pevensey Bay. The arrival took place on September 28. Normally, local watchmen would be keeping watch over the seas, detecting invaders, if any. Fortunately for the Normans, however, was that members of the “fyrd,” (farmers by trade, though part of Harold’s militia) had abandoned their posts to tend to their harvests, as it was September. Thus, William and his men were able to land relatively easily. Though not spotted by watchmen, the men did not arrive entirely undetected: local landowners witnessed the arrival and their reports reached Harold three days later (Rud 67-68).

The ships on the left of the image are shown traveling across the channel. Evident by the straining sails in the artwork, the wind was at the backs of the Normans. Though perhaps not as glorious as the tapestry depicts, there was almost certainly strong wind on the waters. The English channel is notoriously unpredictable between states of strong wind and silent calm. These same winds also chased away King Harold’s navy from the location. Where the Normans should have met resistance from the navy, they found empty waters, as Harold’s ships were being repaired of damages sustained in tumultuous waters (Rud 66-67).

The ships on the right of the image are used to depict the actual landing of the Normans. The main boat is in the process of being received on the shore: men are lowering the masts and the onboard horses are leaping into the shallow water. The boats furthest right have been emptied and lay decommissioned on the shore (Rud 67). In the entry for the year 1066 in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, it reads:

Then came William duke of Normandy into Pevensey… This was then made known to King Harold, and he then gathered a great force, and came to meet him at the estuary of Appledore; and William came against him unawares before his people were assembled. But the king nevertheless strenuously fought against him with those men who would follow him; and there was great slaughter made on either hand. There was slain King Harold and Leofwine the earl… and the Frenchman had possession of the place of carnage, all as God granted them for the people’s sins. (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle D – Worcester)

While this entry describes scenes not included in my panel, it confirms that Duke William was able to land in England with some element of surprise. Had the previously mentioned fyrds been attentive to their posts, perhaps William’s arrival would have been met with resistance and therefore changed the course of the invasion.

Page from the Worcester Chronicle (Anglo-Saxon Chronicles D) —- The Introduction To The Annals, In The Worcester Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. British Library, Accessed 11/25/18.

When using this artwork as a historic source, it is important to take into account the perspective of the creators. Even without knowing who embroidered the linen, one could tell that it tells a story of William gloriously conquering his rightful throne and removing the dishonorable Harold. That alone would reveal bias for William’s actions. The nature of the embroidery itself invites multiple interpretations of the scenes depicted. In fact, the Latin text here and there on the artwork are the only forms of narrative offered (Milbrandt, Bonds 26).


“Battle of Hastings.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 23 Sept. 2017. Web. 25 Nov. 2018.

Milbrandt, Melody K., and Katrina Bonds. “Instructional Resources: Violence in Art: Raising Authenic Issues for Discussion.” Art Education, vol. 53, no. 1, 2000, pp. 25–32. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Rud, Mogens. The Bayeux Tapestry and the Battle of Hastings 1066. Christian Ejlers, 2002.

Translated by James Ingram. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Champaign, Ill. : Boulder, Colo. :Project Gutenberg ; NetLibrary, 19901999. Print.

Wilson, David M. The Bayeux Tapestry: The Complete Tapestry in Color. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1985. Print.

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The Bayeux Tapestry (Panel 65)

The Tapestry

The Bayeux Tapestry is an embroidered work what follows William the Conqueror’s conquest of England in 1066 AD. William used the Norman army to invade England in order to regain the English throne from Harold. Harold had taken the throne after the former king of England, Edward the Confessor, had died without an heir.


Movement of the English (blue) and Norman (red) armies during the conquest.

The piece is nearly 70 meters long and consists of nine conjoined strips of linen that have been embroidered with only 10 colors of thread. It may have been longer, but it is speculated that the final scenes have been lost. It was likely commissioned by Bishop Odo, William’s half-brother. The tapestry has a more Anglo-Saxon style of stitching than French, and was probably not made in Bayeux at all. This is supported by Old English characters in the writing on the tapestry (Lewis). The validity of the tapestry as a source for the events of William’s conquest is questionable. Embroidery is not the clearest art form and can be easily misconstrued, the text that appears on the tapestry is limited and often abbreviated. The tapestry also focuses mainly on events in England, leaving out many details of events that took place elsewhere (Lewis).

Bayeux Tapestry Scene 65, Wilson

Panel 65 depicts an intense battle where men were lost from both sides

Panel 65

This panel depicts a violent battle including many dead and broken weapons. It was uncommon to depict the dead in a piece like this. The latin text over this scene reads, “Regis: hic ceciderunt simul Angli et Franci in prelio”, which translates to “Here fell the English and French simultaneously in battle”. This battle scene likely represents what is known as the Malfosse incident (Wilson). The Malfosse incident was a disastrous charge by the Normans through English lines into a trap where many soldiers and horses were killed.  The English were positioned on a hill and faked retreat, tricking the Norman cavalry into charging their horses into concealed spikes (Wilson).

There is debate as to whether the animals depicted in the borders of the tapestry are directly related to the scenes that occur above or below them. Figures in the top border of panel 65 include lions and griffins, these may just be there to take up space or they could represent something symbolic about the scene. The bird that appears in the top border of section 65 is a dove carrying an olive branch, this is often used as an expression of peace (Owen-Crocker), this seems to be quite unrelated to the bloody battle that occurs below it.



Lewis, Michael J. “Questioning the Archaeological Authority of the Bayeux Tapestry.” Cultural and Social History, vol. 7, no. 4, 2010, pp. 467–484.

Owen-Crocker, Gale R. “Squawk Talk: Commentary by Birds in the Bayeux Tapestry?” Anglo-Saxon England, vol. 34, no. -1, 2005, p. 237.

Wilson, David M. The Bayeux Tapestry. Christian Ejlers Publishers, 2003.

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