If there’s one thing any English person interested in history should see in France, it is the Bayeux Tapestry, conveniently still located in Bayeux, Normandy.
The Bayeux Tapestry is a piece of propaganda featuring William the Conqueror’s “side of the story” in the lead up to his involvement in The Battle of Hastings in 1066.
The drama begins with Edward the Confessor, King of England and the kind of muppet who leaves things to the last minute (much like myself). He has no children and so sends his sister’s husband, Harold Godwinson, to Normandy in France. His mission is this: to tell Edward’s cousin, William of Normandy, that he is to inherit the throne when Edward dies.
Well, Harold gets kidnapped on his way by another French duke and William has to free him. After other pointless events (like William taking Harold to fight in a siege with him), William supposedly makes Harold swear his allegiance and fealty to old Will on some holy relics.
Harold returns to England, Edward dies very quickly after (see what I mean by last minute?) and instead of supporting Will of Normandy, Harold decides the crown would suit HIM much better, thank you very much. He crowns himself king and then IT ALL KICKS OFF.
William is pissed off, for obvious reasons, so prepares for war to claim back what was promised to him. Meanwhile, King Hadrada of Norway (who had no real claim to the throne but was just plain greedy) decided he wanted England too so he grabs his army and speeds towards England.
Harold is in a bit of a pickle and has to fight two armies. He goes up North and defeats King Hadrada at Stamford Bridge which is great because we’d had enough of Vikings by that point. But then he has to march his men all the way down to Hastings in the South to battle William of Normandy. Surprise, surprise – he flops big time and Will gets to be king.
The Bayeux Tapestry is a big bit of propaganda that explains why William was justified for going to war and to show what a big fat liar Godwinson was. It is basically a lot of pictures showing why “God Was On His Side”, which has sadly been used to explain away a lot of wars and death over the centuries.
When we went to see the Tapestry, I could see it in two lights. The first is the most important: as a historical document that illustrates life in the 11th century and highlights important events that took place in the fight for the throne. The second is the silliest: the Tapestry has some hilarious hidden gems that made us laugh A LOT and I’m going to share them with you.
Disclaimer: I didn’t use flash in my photography so didn’t damage the tapestry and there are more twists to this tale so if you’re interested then definitely go look it up!
NUMBER 5: THE TREES
Ah. Yes, the trees. Looking at these depictions, one could assume that the people who embroided the tapestry had never seen a tree in their life. But I have been assured that there were indeed trees in the 11th century and so maybe they decided to take artistic liberties?
NUMBER 4: THE PEOPLE IN THE WINDOWS
In this scene, it is supposed to show the awe that the army invokes in the general populace. Instead, the effect we get is more nosey neighbours poking their faces out to see what all the noise is. I particularly appreciate their long necks.
NUMBER 3: SHHHHH GURL
In this panel, William is in Normandy and is indicating to Harold (to the right outside of the shot) to swear fealty on the holy relics. But behind him, we see a beautiful sight: one courtier silencing another with a gentle touch of his finger to the lips. You can almost hear the “Shhhhhh gurl”. I love it.
NUMBER 2: THE “NO SPACE FOR FACE” MAN
The poor lad in the top right hasn’t got enough room for his head! He’s also been left bald (which is VERY UNFASHIONABLE for the time when bowl cuts were SO in) and it can’t be good for his neck/back. I think he’s well within his rights to complain after being in that position for 10 centuries. Ha.
NUMBER 1: A LITTLE WELL-ENDOWED FLASHER
Now let’s make this perfectly clear: yes, I am immature and I find this hilarious anyway but THERE IS NO REASON FOR THIS NAKED GUY TO BE ON THE TAPESTRY. He is not a character, he is in the decorative part and is clearly an 11th century version of someone drawing a massive penis in your school book. And since it was made 10 centuries ago, it is proof that these things never get old!