The 230ft long tapestry will leave France where it has remained for 950 years to be displayed in the UK on a loan policy from president Emmanuel Macron, though it won’t be arriving until at least 2022.
The Bayeux Tapestry, currently at home in a museum in Bayeux, Normandy, is over 950 years old and depicts the Norman conquest of England, showing William the conqueror’s journey to Britain and culminates in the defeat of King Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, ending more than 600 years of Anglo-Saxon reign. Though the origins of the tapestry remain shrouded in mystery, the common assumption by historians is that it was commissioned by William’s half-brother in the 1070s, The Bishop Odo of Bayeux.
Despite its age, the tapestry remains in very good shape thanks to the work of restorers, and the images shown are important sources of comparison for 11th-century historians. It is the fullest artistic representation of a medieval battle ever made, though numerous restorations over the years have meant that certain details have been called into question. For example, the arrow through Harrold’s eye is a source of contention as to whether this ‘fact’ was added by restorers to comply with later accounts of the battle.
A comet is also shown going across the sky in a section of the tapestry much to the distress of onlookers, who saw this as an evil omen to signal the fall of Harold due to his wrongdoings. We now know this to be Halley’s Comet, which is visible only every 75 years from Earth.
Details such as these have made The Bayeux Tapestry an important piece of British heritage, and it’s an exciting prospect to have the real thing in Britain, even temporarily for people to marvel at. However, this won’t be until at least 2022 and museum experts have questioned the logistics of an overseas move, as the tapestry is delicate. It must, therefore, be tested to see if a temporary display in Britain is even within the realms of possibility.