The full sentence at the top of this section of the tapestry reads “Hic Ceciderunt Lewine et Gyrd Fratres Haroldi Regis,” or “Here fell Leofwine and Gyrth, brothers of King Harold.” The name Gyrth is spelled with a Nordic D on the tapestry and is therefore thought to have been written by an Anglo-Saxon.
This section depicts the start of a second phase in the battle, where the English infantry led an attack along the entire Norman front. The soldiers in the tapestry can be seen carrying javelins and spears, as well as sticks, stones, and axes. Leofwine, brother of King Harold who died later in the battle, is believed to be depicted near the center of the panel, wielding an axe with his head turned. To the right of Leofwine, an English soldier is stabbed in the face by a Norman cavalryman’s spear. This is believed to be Gyrth. We know that both men were killed on October 14, 1066.
Both Leofwine and Gyrth were earls back in England, Leofwine over Buckinghamshire and Surrey to Essex, and Gyrth over East Anglia and Oxfordshire. Together the brothers controlled almost all of east England, which would have made them fairly important figures at the time, but very little is known about them besides what we can deduce from the tapestry. One of the only sources to mention them by name, William of Malmesbury, says that Gyrth tried to persuade King Harold not to lead the English army against William of Normandy, and offered to do so himself so that his brother could remain in London to lead their people. Harold refused, and he was subsequently killed in the battle along with Gyrth and Leofwine.
When using the Bayeux Tapestry to learn about history, specifically as an account of the Battle of Hastings, one must keep in mind that it was likely made to celebrate the victory of William of Normandy. Accounts of war are told and remembered from the victor’s point of view, and the lack of detailed English records at the time make the Bayeux Tapestry one of the only, and by far the most detailed, source of knowledge about the Battle of Hastings.
Wilson, David M. The Bayeux Tapestry: The Complete Tapestry in Color. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1985. Print.
“Battle of Hastings.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 23 Sept. 2017. Web. 20 Nov. 2018.
“Gyrth Godwinson.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 7 May. 2018. Web. 20 Nov. 2018.
Gameson, Richard. “The Authority and Interpretation of the Bayeux Tapestry.” The Study of the Bayeux Tapestry. Rochester, NY: Boydell, 1997. 89. Print.