The Bayeux Tapestry may be arriving in the UK, but what's it all about?

The Bayeux Tapestry may be arriving in the UK, but what's it all about?

The Bayeux Tapestry has spent the last 950 years in France

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

It's arguably the greatest and most important piece of political propaganda ever made.

The Bayeux Tapestry, which might soon be headed for the UK, has been proclaiming the greatest of Normandy - and rubbing English noses in it - for nearly 1,000 years, providing a gleefully one-sided (and, in the case of King Harold, one-eyed) view of the battle that has survived through the ages.

It's survived the Renaissance, the industrial revolution and the Nazi occupation of France, and it's still reminding us of that fateful day in 1066. Imagine HMS Victory still being moored in Portsmouth harbour in the year 2800 and you'll have some idea of its amazing longevity.

But what do we actually know about this famous artwork? Despite its longevity, and the fact that the Norman Conquest is one of the staples of British history teaching, it remains shrouded in a surprising amount of mystery and misinformation.

Here are five things you probably didn't know

1. Despite being known as a tapestry, technically it is in fact an embroidery as it has eight different colours of wool stitched into linen. It was also created by making six different pieces which were then put together, providing the story in different sections.

2. It measures 230 feet long and around 20 inches high and depicts 626 people, 202 horses, 55 dogs, 505 other animals, 37 buildings, 41 boats and ships, and an uncounted number of  weapons, clothes and agricultural implements. Why people were using dogs in the battle, no-one will ever know.

3. It wasn't commissioned by William the Conqueror himself, but rather by his half-brother, Bishop Odo of Bayeux. By way of gratitude, William subsequently threw him in jail. Thankfully he was eventually freed, but died on the way to Palestine in the crusades.

4. Despite being a victory for our Gallic cousins, it is believed the tapestry was actually completed in England and most likely in Kent. That must have been galling for whoever had to make it,.

5. The Normans and the English can be separated in the piece by their haircuts. The Normans have no moustache or beard and short hair at the back of their head whilst the English have hair to their shoulders and moustaches.