One way to understand the Normans in their conquests and control of Britain following the invasion by William the Conqueror in 1066 is through the recording of the event in the weaving of the Bayeux tapestry. The tapestry was commissioned by William's brother Bishop Odo as a memorial of the conquest. This enormous weaving was actually embroidered by English women. The enormous length of the tapestry, nearly 75 yards (3/4 of a football field) suggests it was planned to be hung in the cathedral of Bishop Odo at Bayeux in Normandy, France.
|Fig. 1 Bayeux Cathedral, Normandy, France, consecrated in 1077|
|Fig. 2 Bayeux Cathedral Interior Nave|
For the Norman invasion and its aftermath we have some excellent sources including the following:
1. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles help us to read of the 1066 Norman invasion of England and the Battle of Hastings and its aftermath.
2. The Bayeux Tapestry and translation guide.
3. Panoramic view of the Bayeux tapestry with Latin inscription
Sources on late medieval Britain
4. Scene by scene synopsis with narrative translation of the Bayeux Tapestry
5. Another Scene by scene synopsis and both transcription and translation from the Latin of the Bayeux Tapestry
Rose-Marie and Rainer Hagen, "Propaganda on cloth," A World History of Art. Web.
The following sections are copied from the Avalon Project Anglo-Saxon Chronicle entries for the years 1064-1066 CE.
....((A.D. 1066. This year died King Edward, and Harold the earl succeeded to the kingdom, and held it forty weeks and one day. And this year came William, and won England. And in this year Christ-Church [Canterbury] was burned. And this year appeared a comet on the fourteenth before the calends of May.))
ET VENIT AD EDWARDUM REGUM. HIC PORTATUR CORPUS AEDWARDI REGIS AD ECCLESIAM SCI PETRI APOSTILI. HIC EADWARDUS REX IN LECTO ALLOQUITUR FIDELES. ET HIC DEFUNCTUS EST.
The Scene of the King Harold's Coronation following the death of his father King Edward and the appearance of Haley's Comet.
"And came to King Edward. Her King Edward's body is carried to St Peter the Apostle. Here King Edward in bed speaks to his faithful. And here he died."
HIC DEDERUNT HAROLD CORONAM REGIS. HIC RESIDET HOROLD REX ANGLORUM, STIGANT ARCHIEPISCOPUS. ISTI MIRANT STELLAM.
"Here they gave the royal crown to Harold. Here enthroned is Harold, King of England. Archbishop Stigand. These people marvel at the star."
Harold is crowned King of England on 6th January 1066 - Edward’s funeral was that very morning. The new king sits on a throne with nobles to the left and Archbishop Stigand to the right. At the far side people cheer him. On the far right Halley's comet appears; people think it is an evil omen and are terrified. News of the comet is brought to Harold; beneath him a ghostly fleet of ships appears in the lower border- a hint of the Norman invasion to come.
HIC ODO EPISCOPUS BACULUM TENENS CONFORTAT PUEROS. HIC EST WILLELM DUX.
"Here Bishop Odo with a staff in his hand encourages his Squires. Here is Duke William."
ET CECIDERUNT QUI ERANT CUM HAROLDO. HIC HAROLD REX INTERFECTUS EST.
"And those who were with Harold fell. Here King Harold was killed."
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle excerpts on the Battle of Hastings
((A.D. 1066. ...These two general battles were fought within five nights. Meantime Earl William came up from Normandy into Pevensey on the eve of St. Michael's mass; and soon after his landing was effected, they constructed a castle at the port of Hastings. This was then told to King Harold; and he gathered a large force, and came to meet him at the estuary of Appledore. William, however, came against him unawares, ere his army was collected; but the king, nevertheless, very hardly encountered him with the men that would support him: and there was a great slaughter made on either side. There was slain King Harold, and Leofwin his brother, and Earl Girth his brother, with many good men: and the Frenchmen gained the field of battle, as God granted them for the sins of the nation. Archbishop Aldred and the corporation of London were then desirous of having child Edgar to king, as he was quite natural to them; and Edwin and Morkar promised them that they would fight with them. But the more prompt the business should ever be, so was it from day to day the later and worse; as in the end it all fared. This battle was fought on the day of Pope Calixtus: and Earl William returned to Hastings, and waited there to know whether the people would submit to him. But when he found that they would not come to him, he went up with all his force that was left and that came since to him from over sea, and ravaged all the country that he overran, until he came to Berkhampstead; where Archbishop Aldred came to meet him, with child Edgar, and Earls Edwin and Morkar, and all the best men from London; who submitted then for need, when the most harm was done. It was very ill-advised that they did not so before, seeing that God would not better things for our sins. And they gave him hostages and took oaths: and he promised them that he would be a faithful lord to them; though in the midst of this they plundered wherever they went. Then on midwinter's day Archbishop Aldred hallowed him to king at Westminster, and gave him possession with the books of Christ, and also swore him, ere that he would set the crown on his head, that he would so well govern this nation as any before him best did, if they would be faithful to him. Never the less, he laid very heavy tribute on men, and in Lent went over sea to Normandy, taking with him Archbishop Stigand, and Abbot Aylnoth of Glastonbury, and the child Edgar, and the Earls Edwin, Morkar, and Waltheof, and many other good men of England. Bishop Odo and Earl William lived here afterwards, and wrought castles widely through this country, and harassed the miserable people; and ever since has evil increased very much
The Domesday Book (circa 1086)
(searchable by placename here): A systematic registry of the lands and assets of the new Anglo-Norman Kingdom ordered to be compiled by William the Conqueror in order to divide his assets and account for revenues owed to the crown form his new kingdom. An excerpt with a segment on how the survey was to be conducted is available here from the Fordham Internet Sourcebook.
Texts Related to the Bayeux Tapestry
- A verse tale by the Abbot Baudry de Bourgueil, probably written between 1085 and 1102.
- Historia Novorum, written before 1107 by the monk Eadmer in Canterbury Cathedral.
- Gesta Normannorum ducum, by the monk William in the abbey at Jumièges, written circa 1070.
- Gesta Willelmi by William of Poitiers, chaplain to Duke William, circa 1073 and 1077.
- Historia Ecclesiastica by Orderic Vital, a monk in the abbey of Saint-Evroult, 1140.
- Gesta regum Anglorum by William, monk at the Abbey of Malmesbury, 1125.
- Historia Anglorum by the Archdeacon Henry of Huntingdon, written circa 1130
- Roman de Rou, circa 1170 by Wace, canon of Bayeux Cathedral.