The Bayeux Tapestry – The Missing Ending

William The ConquerorThe Bayeux Tapestry is a beautiful historical artefact that never fails to impress. It depicts such a pivotal moment in British and Channel Island history, that of the invasion & conquest of England by William the Conqueror in 1066. However this thousand years old embroidery, (it’s not technically a tapestry), has a secret. It’s ending is missing!

The tapestry was commissioned immediately after William’s bloody victory over King Harold at Hastings in 1066. The surviving portion is 70m (230ft) long but when it was rediscovered in a cedar chest in Bayeux Cathedral in the 15th century it ended in frayed threads. At least 3m is believed to have been lost; no one knows whether it was torn off, eaten by moths or just never completed.

Enter the Residents of Alderney

In 2013 the final stitch was put in the Bayeux Tapestry, almost 950 years after it had begun, thanks to the combined efforts of more than 400 Channel Islanders and the next in line to William the Conqueror’s throne.

The missing fragment has now been reconstructed and embroidered by islanders in Alderney who spent a year sewing three new scenes. A total of 416 people contributed at least a stitch, including the Prince of Wales, a descendant of William, and the Duchess of Cornwall, who visited the island as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in the summer of 2012.

The New Panels

Although it is unknown exactly what was depicted on the lost portion, the designers of the new piece have been able to make an educated guess.

Panels 1 and 2

New Panels 1 & 2 :  William and his nobles dining on the field of battle at the spot where Harold was killed also William accepting the surrender of Edgar the Aetheling,

New Panels 1 & 2 :
William and his nobles dining on the field of battle at the spot where Harold was killed also William accepting the surrender of Edgar the Aetheling,

The first new panel depicts William and his nobles dining on the field of battle at the spot where Harold was killed, according to legend, by an arrow in his eye. It was Norman tradition to feast that night where the enemy had been vanquished. However they weren’t sure where to set up the table because they didn’t know which body Harold was. His body had been so badly mutilated it took his wife, Edith “Swan neck”, who had borne him six children, to identify him from ‘secret marks’ that only she knew.

The next scene shows William accepting the surrender of Edgar the Aetheling, the only surviving member of the English Royal Family, and other nobles at Berkhamsted.

Panel 3

William's coronation at Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1066.

Panel 3 : William’s coronation at Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1066.

The final panel is William’s coronation at Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1066. During the ceremony William, who spoke only Norman French, mistook a cheer from the English for a call to rise against him. In the border the Normans are shown rushing out to devastate Southwark. Construction work can be seen on William’s best known monument in his new capital, the Tower of London. The final caption, in Anglo-Saxon between the White Tower’s turrets, reads “The end will be good, if God wills it.”

All of the new sections of the tapestry were created with great attention to period detail. The team used the same 55 count linen cloth as backing and crewel wool for the pictures as the original embroiderers.

The Original

EDWARD REX. UBI HAROLD DUX ANGLORUM ET SUI MILITES EQUITANT AD BOSHAM. : King Edward. Where Harold, Earl of the English, and his retinue ride to Bosham.
Click on the image above to scroll through the whole tapestry [please wait for the page to completely load 1st]
ECCLESIA. HIC HAROLD MARE NAVIGAVIT ET VELIS VENTO PLENIS VENIT IN TERRAM WIDONIS COMITIS. : The church. Here Harold took to the sea and came with full sail to the territory of Count Guy. Text in previous and next slides HAROLD. HIC APPREHENDIT WIDO HAROLDUM ET DUXIT EUM AD BELREM ET IBI EUM TENUIT : Harold. Here Guy seized Harold and led him to Beaurain and retained him there. UBI HAROLD ET WIDO PARABOLANT. UBI NUNTII WILLEMNI DUCIS AD WIDONEM. TUROLD NUNTII WILLELMI : Where Harold and Guy converse. Where Duke William's messengers came to Guy. Turold William's messengers. ... See previous slide ... HIC VENIT NUNTIAS AD WILGELMUM DUCEM. HIC WIDO ADDUXIT HAROLDUM AD WILGELUM NORMANNORUM DUCUM : Here the messengers came to Duke William. Here guy took Harold to William, Duke of Normandy. HIC DUX WILGELM CUM HAROLDO VENIT AD PALATIUM SUUM. UBI UNUS CLERICUS ET AELFGYVA. : Here Duke William comes to his palace with Harold. Where a certain clerk and Aelfgyva. HIC WILLELM DUX ET EXERCITUS EJUS VENERUNT AD MONTEM MICHAELIS : Here Duke William and his army came to Mont St Michel. ET HIC TRANSIERUNT FLUMEN COSNOSIS. HIC HAROLD DUX TRAHEBAT EOS DE ARENA. ET VENERUNT AD DOL ET CONAN FUGA VERTIT. REDNES. : And here they crossed the river Cuesnon. Here Earl Harold pulled them out of the sands. And they came to Dol, and Conan fled. Rennes. HIC MILITES WILLEMI DUCIS PUGNANT CONTRA DINANTES ET CUNAN CLAVES PORREXIT. : Here Duke William's soldiers fight against the inhabitants in Dinan, and Conan handed over the keys. HIC WILLELM DEDIT ARMA HAROLDO. HIC WILLELM VENI BAGIAS.UBI HAROLD SACRAMENTUM FECIT WILLELMO DUCI : Here William gave Harold weapons. Here William came to Bayeux.Where Harold gave his oath to Duke William. HIC HAROLD DUX REVERSUS EST AD ANGLICAM TERRAM. : Here Earl Harold returned home to England. 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. : And came to King Edward. Here 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 HAROLDO 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.HIC NAVIS VENIT IN TERRAM WILLELMI DUKIS. HIC WILLEM DUX IUSSIT NAVES EDIFICARE. : Harold.Here an English ship came to Duke William's country. Here duke William ordered the buiding of ships. ... see previous slide ... HIC TRAHUNT NAVES AD MARE. ISTI PORTANT ARMAS AD NAVES. ET HIC TRAHUNT CARRUM CUM VINO ET ARMIS. : Here they pull the ships to the sea. These men carry weapons down to the ships. And here they pull a cart loaded with weapons. HIC WILLEM DUX IN MAGNO NAVIGIO MARE ...... : Here William crosses in a large ship over the sea ...... TRANSIVIT ET VENIT AD PEVENSEAE. : and came to Pevensey. HIC EXEUNT DE NAVIBUS . ET HICMILITES FESTINAVERUNT HESTINGHAM UT CIBUM RAPERENTUR. : Here the horses go ashore. And here the soldiers hurried to Hastings to requisition food. HIC EST WADARD. HIC COQUITOR CARO. ET HIC MINISTRAVERUNT MINISTRI. : Here is Wadard. Here meat is cooked. And here the servants serve the food. HIC FECERUNT PRANDIUM. HIC EPISCOPUS CIBUM ET POTUM BENEDICIT. ODO EPISCOPUS. WILLELM. ROTBERT. ISTE IUSSIT UT FODERETUR CASTELLUM..... : Here they dined. And here the Bishop blesses the food and wine. Bishop Odo. William. Robert. He ordered defences dug..... AT HESTENGAMCEASTRA. HIC NUNTIATUM EST WILLELMO DE HARALDO. HIC DOMUS INCEDITUR. HIC MILITES..... : at Hastings. Here William received news of Harold. Here the house is set on fire. Here the soldiers left Hastings, and went to do battle with King Harold. EXIERUNT DE HESTENGA AT VENERUNT AD PRELIUM CONTRA HAROLDUM REGEM : left Hastings, and went to do battle with King Harold. HIC WILLELM DUX INTERROGAT VITAL SI VIDISSET EXERCITUM HAROLDI. : Here Duke William asks Vital whether he has seen Harold's army. OSTE NUNTIAT HAROLDUM REGEM DE EXERCITU WILLELMI DUCIS. : This man informs King Harold about Duke William's army. ... see next slide ... HIC WILLELM DUX ALLOQUITUR SUIS MILITIBUS UT PREPARARENT SE VIRILITER ET SAPIENTER AD PRELIUM CONTRA ANGLORUM EXERCITUM : Here Duke William exhorts his soldiers to prepare themselves like men and wisely for the battle against the English army. HIC CECIDERUNT LWEINE ET GYRD : Here fell Leofwine and Gyrth, FRATRES HAROLDI REGIS. HIC CECIDERUNT SIMUL ANGLI ET FRANCI IN PRELIO. : brothers of King Harold.Here fell the English and the French simultaneously in the battle. 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. EUSTASIUS. HIC FRANCI PUGNANT. : Eustace. Here the French do battle. ET CECIDERUNT QUI ERANT CUM HAROLDO. HIC HAROLD REX INTERFECTUS EST. : And those who were with Harold fell. Here King Harold was killed. ET FUGA VERTERUNT ANGLI. : And the English fled.

The original is believed to have taken a decade to create, probably in Kent, and was displayed at the dedication of Bayeux Cathedral in 1077 by William’s half-brother Bishop Odo.

Alderney and the other Channel Islands were part of the Duchy of Normandy when Duke William, as he was, won the English crown. Islanders still drink a loyal toast to “The Duke of Normandy our Queen!” and half-jokingly refer to the islands as the senior partner in the relationship. Various symbols, including a toad for Jersey, a donkey for Guernsey and a puffin for Alderney were incorporated in the design. (check out our article entitled “Donkeys, Toads and Crows to see the origin of these iconic animals in local history.)

For more information why not check out our article on the original tapestry.

Author: Robert

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