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.
Victorian copy of the Bayeux Tapestry, copyright 2000 – 2014 Reading Borough Council (Reading Museum Service), Berkshire, UK
Bayeux Tapestry. Romanesque Europe (English or Norman). c. 1066-1080 C.E. Embroidery on linen.
Wilson, David. The Bayeux Tapestry: The Complete Tapestry in Color. 1985.
Britain’s Bayeux Tapestry at Reading Museum http://www.bayeuxtapestry.org.uk/