Why is the Bayeux Tapestry important? - Berwick Coates


can you remember your first history

lesson as it happens I can because I was

told a story and it's the story I

remember so I know that it was in a

history lesson it was at a little rural

primary school in the West Country very

old-fashioned old much carved can you

name two rivers in Normandy can you name

two seaports in Normandy can you name a

Cathedral City in Normandy there are a

dozen um can you even tell us why

Normandy was called Normandy the minutes

all told of course you say yes that's


what had happened in the ninth eighth

and ninth century Vikings had traveled

everywhere as you know causing mayhem

and destruction all over the place and

they were known obviously as the

Northmen because they had come from the


some of them settled in the north of

France King of France was at his wits

end to know what to do with these Norman

Raiders until in the end he thought

right well if they've come here to look

for land and to seize it let's give them

some and that might stop the other raids

coming by enlarge it worked so they

settled in northern France

so the Northmen settled in what they

became what became known as Northman

Dean or the day became Normandy so

that's where Normandy comes from but to

carry on the the questionnaire apart

from 1066 can you name another single

date in Norman history take William what

do you know about William the Conqueror

all right so he was called William the

Conqueror but he was 38 years old when

he conquered England do you know

anything about William before he was 38

years old I bet you do yes you might

know one thing you will know that he was

called William the bus

why obviously because his father had

neglected to marry his mother

we know his mother's name Arlette she

lived in a normal town called phallus if

you go to fellows today you will see a

castle and they will tell you that it is

the castle of Duke Robert of Normandy it

wasn't actually it was built sometime

later but never mind that's what the

legend is for the tourists and the story

goes that Robert looked out of the

window of his castle one day and down by

the stream there were some young women

of the town doing the family laundry and

he rather liked the look of one of them

and as Norman barons and Norman Lords

were accustomed to doing he sent word

down that this particular one our let

was to be brought up to the castle later


he didn't marry her but he took her as

his life's partner and she became the

mother of William so that's the legend

so say they'll even show you the window

in Fallon's castle out of which Robert

looked when he caught sight of Arlette

but it's a different color I'm afraid

anyway William came to the throne very

young because his father had gone on a

pilgrimage got ill died so it didn't

come back and William found himself in

charge of a Duchy at the age of seven or

eight you can imagine what happened his

rule in Normandy was beset by by other

barons Nobles foreigners the King of

France pretty well anybody who fancied

his chances of seizing a bit of extra

territory and William was very fortunate

in having two or three Guardians who

looked after him very fair in fact two

died in their duty of looking after

William so he grew up in a very very

stern set of circumstances on at least

two occasions he was yanked out of bed

in the middle of the night because

assassins were actually

in the castle with the daggers out

trying to kill him you can imagine what

a life like this must have done to a

growing boy so he grew up very hard

indeed he learned soldiering very he was

commanding men in battle when he was

fifteen years old

so by the time he got to 38 there wasn't

very much

you could tell William about running a

Duchy in medieval France he was a very

successful one too he had plenty of

enemies particularly in the King of

France himself this was the man who at

the age of 38 had embarked on the

conquest of England why what would come

to that a little bit later on

the legitimacy today the legitimacy

doesn't matter very much not all that

long ago a young woman who got herself

into an interesting condition could

often face the door of her own house

slammed in her face and her own father

telling her never to darken the doorstep

again luckily that's all gone but in

11th century Normandy it was a very very

serious business indeed the most

important thing in the world was land

and you had a heavy old title to that

land secured beyond any possible doubt

or challenged and the way to do that was

to prove that your father had married

your mother

so the succession could be proved you

would have continuity you would have

security medieval Europe lived in a

state of far greater insecurity than we

do today

what do we know about the country he

conquered frankly not very much name

three facts about England in the 11th

century you might know it was ruled by

somebody called ed with a confessor true

but I bet you don't know why it was

called ed with a confessor do you know

about the the old countries of England

do you know if I said the word to hep

takea would it mean anything

in fact it means the land of the seven

kingdoms hep turkey comes from a greek

word meaning seven based on the early

conquests of the Saxons as you well know

the south Saxons settled in what became

honey's Sussex the east saxons Essex the

West second Wessex and so on curiously

we do not have a county of nossek's

we don't know what happened to the north

Saxons if indeed there were any they use

the word Shire

so that muck would have been familiar to

you in fact the man in charge of the


and produces another word which are

extremely familiar with for another

reason a man put in charge of a farm or

an estate was known as the Reeve so a

man put in charge of a Shire was known

as a Shire Reeve carry that on for a few

decades allow for people's laziness and

pronunciation and Shia Reeve becomes

sheriff sheriff was the chief executive

officer in a county in England in the

11th century and as you well know share

it means something completely different

in America so we know a little bit well

I just told you a little bit about the

Shires about the counties but you would

be making a mistake if you thought of

England as one single country

geographically of course it was but

culturally demographically to use a long

word it wasn't why because of the

invasions of the Vikings from the 8th

century onwards as you well know this I

hope you do King Alfred made his

reputation defeating the invading Danes

being not only a warrior but a very

shrewd statesman as well he tried to

provide for the future by arranging that

there should be no more Wars so he did

what the King of France did to the norm

as he gave them some land he signed a

treaty which allowed the Danes to settle

in the area of England which they had

already been trying to conquer the north

and the east and he allowed that Danish

law should run in these particular

counties hence the word Danelaw

that was the area of England where

Danish law applied and where the customs

were Danish where a large slice of the

population were Danish or descended from

Danes so England was exactly two

countries but that there were two

clearly defined sections of it all right

there was into marriage there was trade


- emerging the one into the other but

they still have separate personalities

and that applied in cen 66 so you didn't

know that you didn't know about me the

old countries how much do you know about

the culture of England in the 11th

century not much I don't suppose neither

do I and certainly and neither did the

Normans they were going to somewhere

about which they knew very little indeed

they probably did there much olive else

how big it was and they certainly didn't

have much idea about the population few

any idea how many people lived in

England in 1066 now there are about 60

million in 1066 so far as we can judge

there were less than 2 million 130th of

what we've got now well we all think we

know about the Norman Conquest William a

Conqueror sailing across landing in

Hastings fighting a great big battle and

winning so we know the mechanics of it

we know how but do we know why

what brought William over here to

conquer England well you would think one

motive might be pretty always greed

William was a greedy man certainly when

he died and they wrote his obituary they

did mention the fact that he was

avaricious they used the word avarice

he was avaricious beyond average so that

much is most definitely true Prince

a Duke accounter King whatever you like

in the 11th century had to develop his

image if he was to stay in business to

attract a following to protect his rule

to help his people feel feel secure he

had to do big things he had to do noble

things he had to give justice he had to

be fair he had to provide for the future

and he had to keep her a liar out for

the main chance

to show his own people and everybody

else that he was not to be trifled with

so William saw his chance with England

there's nothing unusual about that

pretty well all medieval princes did

pretty much the same as an illustration

I'm sure you've heard of Alexander the


Alexander the Great was king of

Macedonia in Greece his entire career

was taken up with conquering the Persian

Empire which was enormous

people often wondered why Alexander had

grown up in fear of the Persian Empire

and any Greek would want to get his own

back on the Persian Empire ideally of

course remove it altogether so the

suggestion is that Alexander conquered

the Persian Empire because it never

occurred to him not to that was the

thing that he was there for and in a

similar way William got the idea of

conquering England because no

alternative appeared particularly

serious to him and this was reinforced

by the fact and in 10 5151 15 years

before the conquest he'd visited England

and he'd met the King Edward the

Confessor he was in fact distantly

related to Edward the Confessor because

his great aunt Emma Emma of Normandy was

ever the confessors mother so there was

a family relationship and William kind

when he got back to Normandy not only

that Edward had looked with favor upon

him treated him as a favored and

distinguished guest and made a great

fuss of him but that he Edward will

promise him William the crown when he

Edward died now that's not so

preposterous as it sounds because

William sorry Edward I had no children

and he was not going to have any either

because he had refused to have any kind

of intimate relations with his wife so

succession the question of the

succession was yawning wide open and

getting wider with each successive year

so when the story got around that Edward

had promised the crown to William you

can imagine the effect that this would

have in in Norman and in England for

that matter great hope and excitement

possibly and normally annoyance

indignation even outrage in England who

did this jumped up bastard Duke think he

was talking about inheriting the throne

of England but there that was a motive

and a very very powerful motive that

plus the fact as I said he always had an

eye to the main charge any medieval

Prince did any many evil Prince had to

carve a reputation for himself he was

only as successful as his last campaign

that was what medieval dudes did now

that does not mean that William the

Conqueror left out of bed one morning

feeling good and say hooray if he what a

splendid morning this is in the Middle

Ages it's great to be living in the

Middle Ages I know chaps let's go on

conquer England today shall we clearly

it was not like that he took a very long

time and one of the questions that

needed to be asked was was it realistic

don't worry about I have these wonderful

ideas but look at the size of England

look at the size of Normandy what's it

really going to work was it realistic

and if it wasn't

how on earth was he going to sell it to

his to his barons to his vessels to his

to his sub tenants you see William just

couldn't issue a set of call-up papers

and expect all his non barons to come to

the fuel host and bring all their

soldiers with him because generally

speaking they're what not only generally

always there were laws about this the

rules said that a knight was bound to

serve his overlord for forty year forty

days a year

340 days a year free but most of the

regulations implied that that service of

40 days a year only meant within the

territory that he ruled in other words

Normandy it didn't cover going on wild

adventures to places like England and in

any case quite a large number of his

normal vassals thought it was crazy they

too had looked at the maps of England

and Normandy and they reckoned Normandy

would be on a hiding to nothing look at

the population of England the resources

of England look at the size of England's

army look at the reputation look at

their history they had five hundred

years of history the Normans in only

been there 150 years they didn't stand a


so too many Norman barons who worked

very hard all their lives to to carve

out their own particular set of property

weren't gonna risk it all on some crazy

Enterprise in England where they could

lose the lot so not all Williams vessels

were willing to follow him not by a long


then he tried the idea of the oath Isle

I don't know how much you know about

this but this is coming later on in the

talk Harold swore an oath that when

Edward the Confessor died that the

throne would pass to William and then he

Harold would not stand in Williams way

Harold later on broke the south by

becoming King himself so William could

use the great story that Harold was a

perjurer therefore William was doing the

decent thing by invading England to put

right a great sin committed by Harold

Earl of Wessex now did the Norman barons

by this idea and I should think he was

very unlikely the oath itself the very

story of the earth didn't sound very

likely he didn't sound very like me that

Harold was we willing to keep it

Harold possibly only swore it in order

to get back to England he was living

with William at the time

normally staying with William

nevertheless it was a good story and it

was very respectable it made the

conquests respectable William was

carrying out the wishes of God by

punishing a sinner so as I said it was a

good story and it was a good line but

the odds I repeat were very very unfair

we if you had gone to a bookie in 1066

and said what are the odds on England

and Normandy he would have given you

very short odds very poor odds on

William and very good odds on England

and that's ironic because you know about

Spanish Armada in 1588 again look at the

map look at the size of England look at

the size of Spain we didn't have a cat

in Health's chance against the Spanish

Armada the same thing applied when we

fought against louis xiv he was enormous

ly more powerful than England and we

didn't lose that either in 1805

Napoleon's army was poised on the coast

of France only 30 miles away all ready

to invade England and we didn't think we

had in in sheer numbers we didn't have

the resources to stop him but we didn't

lose that war either in 1940 the odds

are even longer against us the whole of

Nazi Europe was under they alone all of

Europe was under the Nazi rule we didn't

stand a cat in Hell's chance then either

and we survived that though the Spanish

Armada louis xiv Napoleon Hitler each

time we were the underdog when we won

and in 1066 we were not the underdog we

were the top dog and we lost I don't

know there's a moral in that anywhere

who saw 1066 coming did it show any

signals on the horizon it's interesting

that many of the or several of the big

dates in English history took people by

surprise and you could argue that that

1066 was one of them the the Civil War

was another civil war broke out in 1642

but in 1641 nobody had the faintest idea

that the Civil War was on way and when

it broke out many many men serious

scholarly sensitive men knowledgeable

men scratched their hairs shook their

heads and said how on earth did this

come about how did we get to be in this

position of fighting a war against our

fellow countrymen same thing happened in

1914 the country went on holiday in July

of 1914 they'd heard that some Austrian

Jew had got himself assassinated that

was a bit of a yawn nobody took most

notice and by August the 4th the whole

of Europe was at war again men shook

their heads and wondered how on earth it

had all come about the big things take

you by surprise all right William the

conquerer let's go back to 1066 William

the Conqueror saw me coming or I did

wanted it to come all he had to do was

to wait for heed for the Confessor to

die and Edward was not all that oh so he

might have to wait a long time but did

France wanted dr. France see it coming

very unlikely the French King would

always look out for an opportunity to

score over Normandy but beyond that I

don't see how his crystal ball could

have told him anything about the events

of 1066 in advance England no we had a

safe King Edward the Confessor we know

that what they knew then that he didn't

have an obvious successor and they knew

they didn't want William but by this

time clearly far away above everyone

the second man in the kingdom was Harold

the earl of wessex he was the King's

right-hand man he was the second man in

the kingdom he practically ran the

country if ever there was an obvious

next king it was how the only thing

against him was that he did not belong

to the blood royal but he was the

obvious next king did other people take

notice yes surprisingly Norway took

notice because there was a very powerful

and a keen normally also called Harold

he distinguished the two because our

Harold was have rolled with an O in

Norway it was Harold with an A and he

had an eye on the throne of England - he

was another Prince always looking out

for the main chance he had a fearsome

reputation he had fought everybody he

had been in every country he had even

been a member of the legendary bodyguard

of the Emperor Constantine no Paul no

less it was a fearsome literary

reputation and the mere sight of him I

was enough to strike or into anybody

apparently he stood 6 feet 6 when the

average height of a man was barely 5

feet 6 and Harold of Normandy Harold had

rather they called him the stern ruler

he had eyes for the English crown so

there was the north there were the

Normans odd Norwegians all ready to jump

when something happened by the same

token surprisingly Denmark had eyes on

England as well doesn't look a very big

country in our and it isn't but it was

very powerful in the 11th century we had

already had four Danish kings

everybody's heard of King Canute but he

wasn't the first he was second his

father Swain conquered England in 1014

and son Knut succeeded in 1016 and his

two sons succeeded him in 1035 we

had had four Danish kings so the Danes

were very interested in what was going

on in England in 1066 Flanders which is

nowadays Holland Belgium they were

interested - not so much because of

politics but because of the trade

Flanders was the center of a wool and

weaving trade England produced an awful

lot of sheep an enormous amount of trade

passed between the two countries

so the Count of Flanders was immensely

interested in English politics for

business reasons Germany no probably too

far away but soldiers of fortune in

Germany kept their eyes and ears open

and there was no shortage of soldiers of

fortune when William was building his

army in the middle of 1066 they came

flocking in from everywhere Germany


Lorraine Alsace Switzerland northern

Italy northern Spain you name it they

came in from these places to join

William's army and see what rich

pickings they would be

a word of warning when you decide to

study any year from the past always try

and look at it from the point of view of

the people who lived in it

don't look at 1066 with the

preconceptions of the Year 2019 an

obvious example is this word Europe now

we know that France and England and

Italy and Spain all arrests in 1066 were

in the continent of Europe just as they

are today are we talking about living in

Europe today but men in 1066 did not

talk about living in Europe if they

wanted a word to convey the whole the

whole lot if you like they called it

Christendom it was where the word of

Christ was supreme this was the land

which had been founded by the Holy Roman

Catholic Church God's church they did

not use the word Europe they regard it

christened 'm as not just a stretch of

land but it was a fortress it was a

bastion it was the final defense against

this sea of wilderness and paganism and

heresy the threatened the entire what we

call Western Europe don't tell me that

we were at the mercy of the elements to

the West was the Atlantic Ocean and

nobody knew where that went to the north

was ice and snow and nobody knew our

Father that went to the east was miles

and miles of forests and Marcia if he

went further north it was tundra and

more ice and snow if he went south you

will run into the Sahara Desert so

you've got to remember that many of

those days if they thought at all

thought about the world as as I said

this bastion of Christendom against the

elements against savage weather against

the climate and against the pagans and

the Muslims and the infidels on whatever

other unpleasant adjective you had for

describing them for those who lived in

Christendom and who fought to keep it


in a word was hard it was a veil of


it was hard and he didn't last very long

if you made it a 45 or 50 you were doing

pretty well all you could hope for was

that when it was over if you're lucky

you might go to Paradise which was going

to be absolutely wonderful did it jolly

well better be after the terrible things

that they'd had to put up with in the

life they were living and when you've

died of course it was your body only the

died your soul survived and it was your

soul that was going to go you hoped to

heaven so your soul was important no

matter how harsh life was no matter how

unpleasant many people were no matter

how much cruelty and I'm a Thomas

cheating no matter how much murder the

matter how much crime most men and women

at bottom accepted the fact that your

soul was there and then it was eternal

and it was important people were

concerned about what they were concerned

enough about him what happened to their

bodies but they were more concerned

about what happened to their eternal

soul so what they had what they were

putting up with didn't look as if it was

going to be subjected to very much

change it was so hard it was so

unrelenting there was no hope this was

what life was going to be like nothing

very much happened except there are

always exceptions now and again there

was an event and that did upset things

and people had to react to events and

the one event which is relevant to this

particular topic came in the year 1064

news reached France and reached Normandy

obviously that there had been shipwreck

a boat had been cast up on the shore at

the mouth of the river Somme in Normandy

and when men went to investigate who was

on it

they were crew obviously but the most

important there

the celebrity on it and his name was

Harold and he was the earl of wessex the

earl of wessex a saxon earl had been

shipwrecked off the coast of Normandy

what on earth were they going to do

about that when the Normans heard about

it inevitably after they got over the

shock they said it was Oh what is he

doing in Normandy what on earth is he up


Norman's a great chess players they love

planning advance they love working out

reasons for things they love working out

the background they like method they

like system they could not follow life

of them work out what on earth Harold

had in mind what he came to Normandy

never cross their mind that he might

have come there by accident yeah there

was once an Austrian Chancellor called

metonic and in 1815 he was at a famous

Congress in Vienna and everybody was

there and in the middle of the night his

servants woke him up to tell him that

the Russian ambassador had just suddenly

died and metalic propped himself on an

elbow and said to himself I wonder what

he means by that enormous of great ones

for wondering what anybody meant by


what did Harold mean what was he up to

what was his real game

Harold of course being Harold didn't

care what they were thinking if they

want to think he wanted to think he was

up to something then he was up to

something his job is to get home he was

the second man in the kingdom he was

running the place he had to get back as

soon as possible if the Normans wanted

to tie themselves in knots well that was

their business and he let them get on

with it Harold did get home that's

another story later on we'll come to

that and everything went quiet until

January 1066 and then my world things

didn't half start to happen

firstly a brother confess had died on

January the fifth I think he was on

January the 6th Harold got himself crown

you think queen elizabeth ii was crowned

in June of 1953 but in fact she became

queen in February 1952 it took 16 months

to crown Elizabeth took our 24 hours

because he had to move fast he had to

get himself on the throne with the crown

on his head and 90 by holy oil approved

off by the church and all the rest of it

so that he was the rightful legal

honorable Christian King and he took him

24 hours so didn't hang about and then

what a year and 1066 saw not one King

but three on the English throne there

were two coronations there was Halley's

Comet ever heard of Halley's Comet well

it appeared in 1066 in the sky and it's

in the tapestry there is a picture of

this star in the heavens some people

pointing to it I'm wondering another

thing what on earth is that what does

that mean what on earth is going on

there and of course because it was a

celestial happening the world was not

short and England was not short of

people to wag their finger in the air

and say hey you mark my words no good

will come of it

so it set off all sorts of superstitious

reactions among the English there was

not one invasion of England then a tool

while before that happened Harald had to

build an army where most of his troops

were away farming William had to build

an army this is where he brought in all

those soldiers of fortune from all over

the place he also had to build a navy

how could he get his soldiers across the

channel to say nothing of thousands of

horses without building he had to build

a fleet first not just the odd ship

we're talking about hundreds of ships

we're talking about thousands of horses

you think of a feat of organization

that's required not just collecting the

personnel but a building of adapting

felling trees all the saws required all

the answers all the nails everything Oh

to be done in one year then of course

it's one thing to get all that ready but

then he needs an army and Isis in he

can't send out call-up papers he has to

persuade enough of his vassals enough of

his barons to commit themselves to

something which could lose them

everything life property family the lot

he had to be very very persuasive indeed

and there was not one battle in 1066

there were three and Harold then he

nearly won two of them the first one is

in the North called Fulford when the

king of norway arrived and won a battle

the second battle was a Stamford Bridge

where Harold marched 200 miles in the

space of a fortnight caught the Vikings

unprepared and annihilated them then

came news that William had landed so he

had to march 200 miles all the way back

again and took on William and hasting

and he very nearly won

it was touch-and-go right until the end

of the afternoon now you just think if

Harold had pulled that off if Harold and

Marx nearly 200 miles defeated the

greatest Viking alive and I rated his

army marched 200 miles back again

defeated William annihilated the Normans

his reputation want to run down the

centuries he would have been up there

with Mull bruh and the Duke of

Wellington possibly even higher and he

came so close

and that wasn't all I haven't told you

yet that Scotland was involved in all

this because the Scots never missed an

opportunity to invade England and cause

trouble if they thought England was in

trouble so there was an invasion from

Scotland there was an invasion - from

one of Harold's brothers there are

families six sons Swain had died Harold

was alright the next one of his younger

brothers were called toss T and toss

stick had been made Earl of Northumbria

made a mess of it Harold sacked him and

tossed expend the rest of his life

swearing vengeance and threatening to

invade with whoever could he could

persuade to give him an army and a fleet

so toss stick was going to invade as

well and toss ting finished up first was

Scotland and then with the king of

Norway toss he was a nuisance historian

nasty piece of work - so we had full

food we had Stamford Bridge we had

Hastings at the end of it all toss stick

was dead he died at Stamford Bridge

Harald Hardrada was dead he died at

Stamford Bridge the man who fired that

arrow must have all would have

congratulated himself for the rest of

his life had he lived he took a potshot

at Harald Hardrada six feet six and

struck him in the throat and had rather

died I no doubt that the Vikings went

berserk for revenge afterwards some bad

Archer couldn't have lived to enjoy his

success for very long even William you

would think having won the battle

everything would have been alright no

William got dysentery you can imagine

what camp life was like no hygiene at

all when it was laid out for four or

five weeks with dysentery so he could

have gone to imagine the vacuum and then

and even that was not the end because at

last he got himself crowned on Christmas

Day at 1066 and everybody who was

anybody those who were left was in

Westminster Abbey

ed with the confessors brand-new

Westminster Abbey

when he got to the stage where they had

to ask the crowd whether they approved

of King William so they all were gonna

shout long live King William they did

they let rip with an enormous shout and

the crowd outside heard it and the

Norman troops guarding the streets heard

it and they thought there was a riot

they thought everything had gone wrong

so they dashed round all houses round

about the abbey and burning them down

they could have been within an inch

burning down the abbey itself they say

even William was was shaken by what have

happened the chronicler refers to the

fact that Williams knuckles whitened as

he held on to the arms of the coronation

throne but all right it turned out to be

a false alarm but it was a very close

call once again so what do you know

about the Bayeux Tapestry short answers

probably not much but you know it's a

tapestry obviously you know that it was

made a buyer equally obviously buyers in

France yes you know that you know it's

all about the Norman Conquest that's how

he knows so much about the Norman

Conquest unit it was made by William the

Conqueror and you know that is all about


well not quite historians are the most

terrible killjoys they will tell you

that Harold was not shot in the eye with

an arrow after all more of that perhaps

later on they tell you that Alfred

didn't burn the cakes what a shame they

tell you that Robin Hood did not know

like Errol Flynn and he didn't win the

war against King John all by himself he

probably didn't exist at all and King

John didn't sign Magna Carta as he

couldn't write so by the same token I

have to tell you being a killjoy a

historian that the Bayeux Tapestry was

not made in by you so he talked about

they only call it the Bayeux Tapestry

the first reference to it comes in the

15th century over 400 years after it was

commissioned and they found it in a

church inventory inventory in India

that's why they call it the Bayeux

Tapestry otherwise they're nothing that

they would buy oh it was not ordered by

William we know that we think that most

of the scholars seemed to agreed that it

was ordered by William brother

odo Bishop abaya Thank You st. William

Williams mother

I'll let remember our lit when Robert

died she married again when husband died

she married again more reason not the

man who was thought of as bump of our

partner and died she married he she

really did marry this chap he was a

tradesman in in fellows I think and she

had two children one of them is odo and

William made him Bishop a buyer when he

was 14 so the Bayeux Tapestry was not

made in buyer it was not ordered by

William and as for being all about the

Battle of Hastings they don't mention

the Battle of Hastings said it's about

75% over only 25% of the tapestry is

about the Battle of Hastings oh yeah and

the final thing what in the tapestry

it was an embroidery so there you say it

wasn't about Hastings all about all

those pictures the axis and the swords

and the horses and the arrows are is

true true true but 75% of that Bayeux

Tapestry is about other things as well

the Bayeux Tapestry tells you only what

the norma's wants you to know give an

example I told you that it was created

by odo Bishop abaya

now to Norma Bishop's fought at Hastings

one was odo himself bully for him bully

for odo another was a man called

Geoffrey who was the Bishop of cou

taunts of town in western Normandy

now odo and Geoffrey didn't get on and

it's most interesting that when you look

at the tapestry you'll see odo

depicted three or four times that you

don't see Jeffrey at all

odo edited Jeffrey right out of of the

Bayeux Tapestry so it tells you what it

wants you to know so you mean it isn't


oh yes is true but it's not the whole

truth it's out to prove something many

all historians always wanted a moral to

their stories history was not just one

damn thing after another it all meant

something and you could always get a

lesson from it it was a great deal of

finger-wagging involved with medieval

historians God was involved Harold had

lost not because he wasn't good enough

how lost because he ought to have lost

he had sinned and God had punished him

serve him jolly well right he was a

perjurer in medieval illustrations

funnily enough blinding is often shown

as as a punishment for the sinner even

though we're told that Harold got shot

in the eye more of that later so the

idea that a sinner was blinded by God's

order was quite a common walk take the

idea of Samson if you're right whether

you could interpret that as God's

punishment what if the Bayeux Tapestry

wasn't about the buyer about the Battle

of have seen what the devil was it about

well pretty well everything else Kings

castles hunting feasting shipbuilding

sailing getting shipwrecked

types of military equipment horses

cavalry chart absolutely everything

under the Sun I mentioned I barely

scratched the surface and there but two

hundred and thirty feet of it there are

two hundred thirty feet of it now and as

far as we know very little has been lost

apps if you want to write a history of

almost anything in the medieval world

you'll find evidence in the Bayeux

Tapestry you'll get some ammunition out

of the Bayeux Tapestry now let's go back

from it

why would Harold

go to Normandy doesn't seem to make

sense the verb one of the very first

paddles in the tapestry appears to show

us that King Edward is ordering Harold

to go to Normandy which seems odd the

interpretation is that Harold is being

sent by Edward to Normandy to confirm

the promise that William will get the

crown now this doesn't make sense either

because Harold is the second man in the

kingdom he's the obvious next King how

is it the Edward is able to get Harold

to go to Normandy to promise a thing

like this did he have the authority

could he make Harold go did he really

have the strength to confirm his orders

we don't know

so was he just obeying the king or was

it something else was Harold using the

opportunity was he he was a great

opportunities opportunist if Edward had

ordered him to go Harold might have said

well all right I'll go it'll give me a

chance to size up the opposition find

out what sort of a man William is case

the joint

get the feel of Normandy so Harold could

be using it for his own purposes I

haven't told you yet Harold had a couple

of relations our brother Alec and a

nephew when William had visited normally

in 1051 and Edward had promised him the

crown so they said hostages were given

it was a regular thing in the Middle

Ages if you had an agreement promised

anything like that one sign gave

hostages to the other for good behavior

obviously if they if the if the partner

in the agreement didn't didn't obey then

the hostages the ostriches could kill

and these two young Saxon hostages have

been living in Normandy since 1051 so

the suggestion is that Harold went to

Normandy to get these two young men back

why obviously because he was clearing

the deck

for when the time would come when he

would have to defend England against

William because he obviously would

everybody knew that these two men were

out for the crown and they were rivals

and clearly some kind of reckoning was

going to come somewhere so was Herald in

normally simply to try to get these two

boys back from being hostages was he

simply clearing the decks or another

interpretation was he not going to

normally at all it was quite common in

the 11th century for noblemen those with

ships to travel by sea when the

alternative was available travel by land

was terrible roads were awful I'm not

only all thing could be dangerous I mean

there was no police force no traffic

alarms or anything like this anything

could happen on the road as late as the

18th century 700 years later John Wesley

the Methodist preacher nearly drowned in

a pothole on the Great North Road that

gives you some idea of how uncomfortable

road travel was so if you had a chance

to travel from one part of Hampshire to

Sussex shall we say and you've heard the

Chancellor of traveling by sea you

travel by sea but she's here

and Harold he was the earl of wessex he

had access to seaports all around

Hampshire and Sussex it makes perfect

sense that Harold was on a boat trip and

another thing that gives you that

impression to the third or fourth panel

in the Bayeux Tapestry

shows you Harold leaving the king but

he's not just riding away

he has hounds and Falcons with him now

if you're going to travel to Normandy on

on an embassy do you normally take

Vulcans and hounds with the suggestion

is that Hara was simply on a hunting

expedition went on bull ship to go

somewhere else hunting and there was a

storm the English Channel is not noted

for its similarity to a Mill Pond

the storms are quite frequent Harold

could simply have been caught and when

you're caught in a westerly storm most

of them were westerly ships in the 11th

century were so poorly constructed that

there was no way they could sail against

the wind so the only alternative if you

were hit by a westerly gale was to go

was to go in front of it up the channel

until you got tipped onto the shore at

the mouth of the river Somme as Harold

was once again of course we don't know

many historians have asked why Harold

took the chance of going to assuming he

did going to Normandy by intent why it

seemed a very risky thing to do he was

one claimant to the English throne

William was another claimant to the

English throne did it make sense for one

claimant to put himself under the roof

of at the mercy of the other claimant

was it not simply asking begging for

trouble we don't know we know that

Edward was childless we know that the

throne was going to be vacant everybody

knew that the atmosphere was becoming

more and more electric nothing was

actually said but everybody knew

so Harold spent the summer in Normandy

as Williams guessed he wasn't in fact

captured by some obscure norman baron

who thought how will make a very good

material for ransom but when everybody

found out who Harold was William

travelled to meet this Baron tapped him

on the shoulder and said look if you

know what's good for you you'll hand

Harold over to me which he duly did so

Harold was the guest of William for the

whole of that summer which of course

raised the question to questions once

again what on earth was Harold up to

secondly what on earth do we do with him

do we just entertain him and give him

Borden lodging for as long as necessary

how long is necessary one obvious thing

of course is to cut his throat which

would simplify the arithmetic

considerably but William knowing what he

was about to embark upon has to make

sure that he's in the right dammit he's

gonna steal somebody else's territory

he's got to be in the right and heave

his if it's proved that he has committed

a crime like murdering a guest he won't

do his public reputation any good so we

can't kill him he doesn't want to send

him back without getting some kind of

profit he's had Harold dropped in his

lap if he lets him go back with nothing

done it seems that he's missed a

wonderful opportunity what do we do well

in the summer it was quite common for

feudal lords barons counts dukes

whatever Kings they went campaigning

there was always a campaign to fight

somewhere there was always somebody on

the borders of your land causing trouble

anew sent off a punitive expedition to

wrap him over the knuckles and tell him

to behave himself Paul you went did some

raiding yourself it worked both ways and

at that particular time the Duke of

Brittany next Otto normally it was

causing trouble Conan his name was

William embarked on a campaign and took

Harold with him it seemed to make sense

it was something to do it kept he would

keep his eye on Harold it was a way of

testing Harold it was a way for William

to find out how Harold behaved what sort

of a man have we got here and Harold by

the same token say to himself right I'll

watch William on campaign see what a

sort of commander he is what's he like

what's he made of so off they went to

Brittany to besiege count Conan in his

castles and it was very successful and

in the course of it they had to cross a

river which was noted for its marshes

and quicksands and to normal soldiers

got into trouble

and guess who fished them out but Harold

earl of wessex and the picture is in the

tapestry there is Harold you can tell is

Harold cause he has a mustache all that

all the Englishmen are depicted with the

mustaches the Normans are was shown as

clean-shaven say you know who's on which

side and there is Harold dragging these

two Norman soldiers out of the river

kuennen well William decides to make

something out of this so he has to thank

Harold for what he's done and he decides

to thank him publicly so he gives him a

sort of Dukes honour he makes him a

knight as the Queen did in her recent

Birthday Honours but you see in the 11th

century knighthood meant a bit more than

a gong knighthood in the 11th century if

you became a knight created by somebody

you became that somebody's vassal you

became their inferior you became their

servant you were committed to service to

them so what William had done was to set

up a ceremony in which everybody could

see that he was the overlord Harold was

the vassal wonderful for public

relations that was not the whole of it

either the next set of panels we see is

this famous oath in which Harold lays

his hands on two altars and swears that

when King William died god forbid he Oh

Harold would help him Duke William to

become the King of England

while at the time it seemed just an

ordinary routine day-to-day oath but

when the oath was over the story goes

that Bishop odo once again up to no good

Bishop odo had the covers taken off the

altars and there underneath the covers

in the altars were the relics of saints

now as you well know the medieval world

set great store by the relics of saints

they were magical they could produce

miracles they were very very significant


so everybody utters Gus was oh my god

Harold has sworn the most holy of oaths

that he will help in William become King

of England

well of course we all know and any

lawyer will tell you that any of Warren

under duress doesn't count but it didn't

have count in 1066 William trumpeted

this as you can imagine all over Europe

Harold didn't give a damn as long as he

got him out of England got him home it

achieved the object of the exercise but

that's what happened this was the famous

both dire it may sense for William

certainly because it was a wonderful

coup for public relations now you're

gonna go into another general idea from

them and it said work will entertain you

to a little bit of background once again

in the Middle Ages one of the great

problems for rulers was public relations

how on earth do they transmit what they

want to the people how do they transmit

laws how do they transmit orders how do

they make their will known to the people

well most people as you know couldn't

read and write there was no printing

press I mean no television there was no

radio there were no newspapers how on

earth do they do it while all sorts of

ways they grab any possible technique

they can lay their hands on they paint

pictures they draw pictures they they

embroider pictures like the Bayeux


they build statues they mint coins it's

no coincidence that the king's head

appears on the coins they put up great

buildings to make everybody suitably

impressed with the enormity of the Kings

rule look at the size of the Egyptian

public buildings and they travel

themselves one of the great tricks of

kingship is to be seen they know who you

are and they've seen you and they know

where you are they know you turn out

regularly travel travel travel quite a

lot of medieval kings they say

practically rode themselves to death

going all around the country being seen

and that was during these travels that

they had to provide justice then they

had to show everybody that everything

was secure that everything was all right

the king went on these great big

progresses and he continued into the

modern period the Tudors were great

travelers and progresses think of how

many manor houses where they tell you

the Queen Elizabeth slips here or where

enry the eighth slept here whatever they

loved progressing all over the place

Elizabeth was a vain woman she adored

doing this making a great fuss of waving

her hands people cheering and good Queen

Bess and all the rest of it so they but

it there was a reason behind it and so

you have these you comic strips I

suppose but they did have a reason and

they did have a message and that bit

about giving herald knighthood and the

swearing of the earth was absolutely

invaluable because it could be seen this

was why so many ceremonies took place in

public it was no good a few barons

meeting in a hole somewhere and signing

a document assuming they didn't write

nobody knew but if it was done out in

the open or in a great big hall or on a

field with hundreds and thousands of

people though actually witnessing it for

themselves there was no argument about

they had seen it with their own eyes and

that was proof

and it was not new the Bayeux Tapestry

was nothing like the first comic strip

as I said go back to ancient Egypt a lot

of all those pictures on the walls of

pyramids saw we're talking about

something three and four thousand years

old it's as old as the hills

the Babylonians did it look at what the

Greeks did on the on the frieze of the

Parthenon in Athens the Emperor Trajan

built this enormous column in Rome on

which were engraved carved the record of

all his victories Trajan's : pick a

trafalgar square is it any basically

different so there's a lot in the Bayeux

Tapestry don't be put off by if you look

at the picture of William giving arms

giving a knighthood to Harold it's very

easy to snigger the fact that he doesn't

look very much like a human being

nothing yes you can poke fun at some of

it but all the Johnson that you can

poke fun at some of the draftsmanship

but that's not the point because there

are times when the draftsmanship is

quite remarkable you visit Baier itself

go to the tapestry and stand in front of

the tapestry that part of the tapestry

when the normal cavalry are getting

ready to advance the drama is quite

palpable you will almost hear the

beating of the hoofs on the ground it is

quite remarkable the effect that these

these these embroiderers have not done

by military artists these are done by

ladies in Canterbury as far as we know

they're done by English women not Norman

women and they're done by seamstresses

in Canterbury how did they know all

about this it's also worth noting too

that the draftsmanship is remarkable for

its sheer scale there are something like

600 people embroidered on that tapestry

600 there are something like 200 horses

I don't have you ever tried to draw a

horse but it is extremely difficult and

there's one scene in that when there's a

Norman cavalry charge and

many horses obviously full and it is it

is so modern you can feel the impact of

those falling horses to this day it is

quite astounding that these women were

able to do it so don't be superior about

the Bayeux Tapestry

I said look at it from the point of view

of the 11th century judge it from the

standards of the time secondly don't be

afraid of the Bayeux Tapestry you say

well what's what what am I gonna get out

of it because all the inscriptions are

in Latin this is true but Latin is the

ancestor of English and there are lots

of Latin words which you who recognize

in English today you can make good

guesses for example if you see

Eduardo's you don't have to have an

awful lot of grey cells to work out the

dead while that's me as Edward or will

illness means William or have rolled us

means Harold bully for you go to the top

of the class you can deduce things you

see a picture of a ship and underneath

it says now regard you think what the

hell is now a gobbet mean but think of

our English were navigators and you've

got a picture of a ship so it seems a

reasonable guess that never garb it

means sailing and you'd be dead right so

you can do a lot of Sherlock Holmes

stuff as well we have foreign words

ourselves now we you shouldn't shy away

from a word justice is foreign we have

cafe we have buffet we have Blitz

we have spaghetti Plaza Vendetta all

these foreign words strewn across

English number used to them and sheer

gumption take the world sacramentum have

you ever heard it I don't suppose you

have but there is Harold sitting on the

throne with an orb in one hand and the

sceptre in the other and it says

sacramentum isn't it reasonable to

assume that this means that I know the

coronation so there's a lot you can get

out of the Bayeux Tapestry

and don't expect to grab it all off the

bat straightaway think about it read it

go away and pennies will drop when

you're not looking at it and you come

back oh yes yes of course

why did

I worked that out before and there

aren't all that many joy and there are

not all that many words there are far

more pictures there aren't words so you

can get a lot out of the Myo tapestry

and don't just look at the action bit in

the middle

they put a freeze at the top and they

gotta freeze at the bottom and all sorts

of fingers are going on in those freezes

right legendary animals and trees and

people and all the rest of it but they

use the freeze it's as if there was some

kind of roving reporter going over the

battlefield pointing his camera at

evocative scenes so you get pictures of

dead men obviously you get pictures of

the survivors pulling the chainmail

tunics off the head of dead men

you see disembodied arms you see one

head up in the air an axe has gone

through that man's male caller right

through the chainmail Carla once I

outside out the other side and taking

his head off with it it's an astounding

picture so it's all there is stark and

it's rude and it's realistic and it's

done by all these genteel ladies in

Canterbury how did they find out about

it there one or two rude bits as well as

a gentleman no clothes on it and the

clearly their mind is not on the Battle

of Hastings and these ladies carefully

carefully stitched at all so something

is dramatic and as clever and unique and

old it's nine hundred and fifty years

old it deserves a good look there is a

chance that the French government will

lend it to us later on in the year and

if they do I strongly suggest that you

go and have a look you might be very

pleasantly surprised

so the Bayeux Tapestry do we swallow it

parts of a yes other parts clearly not

it was we remember all the time what the

intention was behind it to prove that

William was right and then Harrell was

wrong we also know from how other

studies of history that the actual

conquest of England took a good deal

longer than a few few hours slogging it

out on a hillside in Sussex now consider

the question of the result of all this

assuming that the Bayeux Tapestry has

done its job

Hastings is over the English to run away

William has been crowned king

incidentally they don't show you the

coronation of William in the Bayeux


I suppose it's possible that it would

have been the very final panel in the

Bayeux Tapestry but we know that the

last bit of it has been destroyed did

that last bit contain the coronation of

William which would have been the

perfect traumatic finale to the whole

thing Harold commits a crime he is a

perjurer he loses he is punished he is

killed and William as God's

representative his crown as king and

everybody lives happily ever after

well we've lost it so we don't know but

did the English accept Hastings did they

say in effect what okay William the best

side one and let's try and make the best

of it from now on Shelby

common sense will tell you that that

didn't happen therefore did it mean that

England for the rest of Williams reign

all 21 years of it was in a state of

permanent revolt common sense tells you

that that's unlikely as well you very

rarely find blacks and whites in history

it's all a series of Gray's bit of this

and a bit of that what we do know for

sure is that William was now the master

of an entire country and he he

physically owned it

he who he was the owner he was the

physical owner the legal owner the

actual owner that the the church

recognized owner every way you care to

look at it

William owned at like you own your house

or you own your bicycle

William owned England and he could do

with it as he liked and he proceeded to

do so of course he now had to run it he

couldn't run it himself and he had to

have his norm about the ones who had

been brave enough or rash enough to risk

all to follow him now could enjoy the

rich pickings in England as William

shared them out now the norman the saxon

nobility had very obligingly killed a

lot of themselves off at the Battle of

Stamford Bridge and the Battle of


so William to a certain extent had a

fairly clear run when it came to

allocating land of course these Saxons

left young boys as their heir and sadly

and many of them got pushed on one side

as the normal barons took over the

Saxons land it turned out to be the

biggest shift of land ownership pretty

well in English history up to that time

the only comparable shift in land

ownership came four or five hundred

years later with the dissolution of the

monasteries which is quite an epic in

itself what in ordinary people think

about the Norman Conquest what poor

souls they didn't really matter what

they thought about they were certainly

nothing they could do about it

but whether they could or not we don't

really know because they couldn't read

and they couldn't write they didn't

write anything down so we don't know we

can just make an intelligent guess life

was hard it had always been hard it was

going to carry on being hard he will

still have to pay taxes a landlord was

the landlord English weather didn't

change so in many many ways life hadn't

changed all that much for the English

except that their landlord now spoke a

different language and possibly couldn't


what about the winners what happens to

them you ask yourself from it it's

wonderful to have had the adventure to a

risk taught or won the battle to be


countless estate some in some of the

estate's Nolan Barrens

came into possession ready sell hundreds

all over the place what did they know

about these new lands did they even know

where they were how many of them had

visited England before how many other

knew anything about English family of

them spoke English how many of them knew

anything about English law English

customs English anything what about the

importing they know about the English

church what do you know about

communications in England and all this

whom remember has to be seen to and they

still got their estates in Normandy they

can't leave them alone for long they

can't neglect them because if they do

there are gonna be some naughty

neighbors sooner or later who are going

to take advantage of their absence so

these Norman barons have to commute

regularly William commuity

regularly between England and Normandy

so the Norman barons had an awful lot to

learn and that wasn't the end of it

either because England remember had

neighbours was was the kingdom of Norway

going to accept the defeat at Stamford

Bridge would they not come back for a

revenge expedition but would Denmark

have another crack at putting a Danish

king on the English throne with Scotland

start their antics again after one

England had a broken government had a

decimated nobility

he'd had a whole year of war it had two

invasions if ever there was a chance for

the King of Scotland the cause trouble

this was it

so you think of all those problems that

existed and all the disadvantages that

the normal barons would have to deal

with sometimes makes you wonder by the

Normans thought it was worth all the

trouble in the first place