Fascinating Facts About The Bayeux Tapestry

Image credit: FacsimileFinder.com

Fascinating Facts About the Bayeux Tapestry

1. The Bayeux Tapestry consists of 75 scenes depicting the events leading up to the Norman conquest and culminating in the Battle of Hastings in 1066, which significantly impacted how English society evolved. The Tapestry’s end is now missing, but it most probably showed the coronation of William as King of England.

2. The viewer can tell the difference between the Englishmen and Normans depicted in the Tapestry by their hairstyles; the English soldiers have shoulder-length hair and moustaches and they’re fighting the clean-shaven Normans, whose hair has short back and sides.

3. About a month after Harold was crowned king, Halley's Comet shot across the sky. Its blaze is recorded in the Bayeux Tapestry, not as a remembrance of a wondrous astrological phenomenon, but rather to commemorate what was seen as a portent of things to come, as a result of Harold breaking his oath to support William’s right to the throne.

halley's comet 1066

The image depicts people looking at Halley's Comet in 1066. Image credit: mediumaevum.tumblr.com

4. The Tapestry features 190 horses and mules, 35 dogs, and 506 other animals, including a variety of identifiable birds, from doves to hawks to peacocks.

5. In one of the embroidery’s first scenes you’ll see a man without pants sporting a prominent erection. No one seems to know why. In the Reading Museum’s Bayeux Tapestry replica, created in the 1880s, he received a pair of pants to cover up his exposed parts. 

    6. The Bayeux Tapestry features 626 people, yet only three of them are women:
    • In one of the embroidery’s first scenes is a woman whose identity has remained a mystery (other than her name, Aelfgyva)
    • In a later panel, Queen Edith, wife of King Edward, is shown at the foot of her husband’s deathbed.
    • The third woman is an shown fleeing with a child from a burning building.

    7. The Bayeux Tapestry has been restored more than once, and in some details the restorations are of doubtful authority.

    8. The best-known scene in the Bayeux Tapestry shows King Harold being killed by an arrow through the eye. However, early accounts of the battle suggest he met a much more grisly death at the hands of several Norman warriors, dying from a lance to the chest before being hacked to death. The arrow from the sky may have been Norman propaganda to suggest he received judgement from God. 

    death of king harold

    The death of King Harold. Image credit: strangehistory.net

    9. Napoleon put the tapestry on display in Paris in 1804, while he was planning an invasion of England. It was exhibited in Paris again during World War II.

    10. There have been many failed attempts by England to borrow the Tapestry, in 1931, 1953, 1966 and 1972. The requests were rejected by the city of Bayeux or by the French government. The fragility of the textile was cited as the main reason.

    11. The Bayeux Tapestry depicts the last time England was successfully invaded by a foreign power.

    Want to learn more about this iconic masterpiece? Here's a great read: Bayeux Tapestry Guide: Civilization's First Graphic Novel


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