Post-classical history

9

The Battle of Hastings

Down on the Norman side, the embroidered duke is strutting proudly on his horse [scene 48]. Holding up his club, like a baton, he makes a last-minute rousing speech to his men.1 He exhorts them to prepare manfully and wisely for the battle against the English army: HIC WILLELM DUX ALLOQUI-TUR SUIS MILITIBUS UT PREPARENT SE VIRILITER ET SAPIENTER AD PRELIUM CONTRA ANGLORUM EXERCITU[M]. It is known that he placed his Normans in a central position, with allies from Brittany arranged on one flank and the French and Flemings on the other. The lines are now drawn and, according to William of Poitiers, the moment the battle began was signalled by a harsh bray of trumpets.

In the embroidery, a squadron of mounted knights, the elite of the invaders, starts to make its move; each knight is seated upon a stout warhorse; each is protected by chain-mail armour and a conical helmet; each grips a lance in one hand and a wing-like shield in the other; each glares through his narrow eyes at the enemy ahead. The horses quicken pace. The knights are tilted forward in the saddle as they move steadily ahead of a body of archers who, just now, have launched a volley of arrows against the English position. Spurs have been kicked and muscles tensed, and now the knights are charging forward at full speed, hoof is thundering upon hoof in a magnificent, breathless attack across the wide open ground, up towards the distant wall of coloured shields behind which the English have made their stand. Some of the knights are holding their lances ready to be thrust or thrown; others tuck them underarm, to be used as a sharp battering weapon. Up on the ridge the English have ducked and caught the lethal rain of arrows on their wooden shields. Now they stand again, and the linen air is scored with spears, and some men lie already dead, as the first horseman arrives and thrusts his couched and bannered lance into the arrow-pierced shield of a standing Englishman [scene 49]. The Englishman stands firm. He is defending his land. He is rooted tree-like to the spot, at least for the embroidered moment, and he even retaliates with his own spear. Battle is truly joined.

The English repel the attack. They are clustered on foot in close, disciplined formation behind their tall, kite-shaped shields. Harold's elite troops, his housecarls, are wearing the same armour as the invaders; but their special weapon is the two-handed battleaxe, 'murderous axes' William of Poitiers calls them, which 'easily penetrated shields and other protections'.2 In the midst of the phalanx, a lone English archer, without armour, does his best to repel the invaders. Harold'sarmy seems to have had fewer archers than the Normans and his men fought on foot, without cavalry. Another attack is launched by the invading cavalry, apparently from the other flank [scene 50]. The charging knights must be losing momentum as they reach the top of the ridge. Their spears pour down on the English, but the English still stubbornly stand their ground. A moustachioed housecarl prepares to swing his great axe into a horse's neck but the rider plunges his lance into his attacker's chest before he is able to do so. 'The loud shouting, here Norman, here foreign, was drowned,' William of Poitiers writes, 'by the clash of weapons and the groans of the dying.'3 The tapestry illustrates the slaughter in all its terrible confusion. The lower border becomes a mass grave for the mute and mutilated bodies of the dead, bodies whose nationality, so important in life, is now appropriately indiscernible. One has died of arrow wounds in his mouth and leg; some have suffered lance blows to the back, throat, chest or shoulder;another's severed head, still wearing its protective helmet, lies some distance from the body to which it was formerly attached.

At some point during the day Harold's brothers, Earl Gyrth and Earl Leofwine, both perished while fighting loyally by his side. The death of both in close-quarter combat is remembered in the embroidery [scene 51]. HIC CECIDERUNT LEWINE ET GYRD FRATRES HAROLDI REGIS (Here died Leofwine and Gyrth, King Harold's brothers). Leofwine is stuck in the back by the lance of a mounted knight before he has a chance to swing his great axe at the attacker. Gyrth, holding a round shield, is felled by another laniferous lance plunged into his mouth. Many more men and horses are struck down in agony and tumble over and die and their bodies, broken swords and severed heads lie strewn across the lower border.

There are innumerable casualties. HIC CECIDERUNT SIMUL ANGLI ET FRANCI IN PRELIO (Here English and French fell together in the battle). In the midst of it all, a moustachioed English housecarl strikes his axe deep into a horse's head, the horse recoils in agony, but from behind another knight uses such venom with his sword that not only does he kill the Englishman but knocks the head off an axe of another surprised fighter as well. Many horses are now falling. They twist and turn and are upended on to the ground, as the riders lose their grip and tumble off. One knight struggles to throw his lance as his horse collapses underneath him. Duke William himself is said in the written sources to have lost two or three horses during the battle and he had to remount on others. On the top of an isolated hillock, a group of lesser Englishmen, with shields and spears, but without chain mail protection, continue a manful defence. They are suffering heavy losses [scene 52].

The carnage at Hastings began at the third hour after dawn. It continued for the whole day, neither side gaining a decisive advantage until late in the afternoon. The account in the tapestry is, of course, an abbreviated one. The artist presumably got his information at second hand; he reorganised some of the events for artistic, dramatic or iconographical effect;and he ignores, for example, the role played by Duke William'slesser-born foot soldiers, who probably made the first assault. The extent to which some of the details of arms and armour derive from conventional artistic templates rather than the real battle is debated. Nevertheless it is undeniable that the artist captures the essence of the contest in a flowing series of brilliant and memorable pictures. Most sources agree that there were times when the English came very close to winning. At one point, a breakout by some of Harold's troops, probably undisciplined, pursued the retreating Bretons and inflicted heavy casualties before William was able to stem the tide with own Norman cavalry.

Earlier in the day there had been another moment of panic;the ducal army almost took to flight when a rumour spread that the duke himself had been killed. The tapestry now highlights this incident and makes it the turning point of the whole encounter [scenes 53-55]. First Bishop Odo of Bayeux, named and depicted once more, rides unexpectedly into the thick of the fighting, waving his baton and shouting words of encouragement to the younger knights [plate 10]. HIC ODO EP[ISCOPU]S BACULU[M] TENENS CONFOR-TAT PUEROS (Here Bishop Odo, holding a baton, cheers on the young men). The rumour is flying around that the duke is dead, so William raises his nosepiece to show his face and reveal that he is still alive. HIC EST DUX WILEL[MUS] (Here is Duke William). At his side is Count Eustace II of Boulogne, his name displayed prominently in the upper border - EUSTATIUS [plate 11]. Eustace is carrying the greatest banner in the whole of the tapestry; it flutters high in the upper border, as he swings round on his horse and points to the indomitable duke. Battle recommences swiftly under the words HIC FRANCI PUGNANT ET CECIDERUNT QUI ERANT CUM HAROLDO (Here the French do battle and those who were with Harold fell). The momentum is now regained and the final stage of the embroidered contest draws near.

In quick succession three combatants for the Norman side are named by the artist - Bishop Odo, Duke William and Count Eustace - and these are the only three who are named. The duke, of course, could hardly be ignored, but the choice of his only identified battle companions is much more surprising. The tapestry's flattery of Odo has been noted and often discussed by many historians. The image of Odo in battle is as noteworthy as his other appearances. According to William of Poitiers, Odo was present at Hastings but only for the purpose of helping by prayer, a feat of war that was presumably accomplished at a safe distance from the action.4 The tapestry is alone amongst contemporary sources in placing him in the thick of fighting and giving him such a remarkable starring role. Consistent, however, with his status as a bishop, Odo is not wearing chain mail but rather a padded tunic and he encourages the troops with a mace, not a sword. Less commented upon, but even more remarkable, is the named appearance of Count Eustace II of Boulogne. A thousand books and postcard images persist in calling the pointing Eustace a 'Norman', but he was, of course, not a Norman at all but rather a Frenchman whose lands straddled the border between northern France and Flanders. Count Eustace II of Boulogne, a noted descendant of the Emperor Charlemagne, was the most high-ranking and prestigious of William's foreign allies and he was Duke William's equal as a grand feudatory of the king of France. He had previously been hostile to the duke and he had only recently joined forces with him, perceiving that the risk of leading his Frenchmen in the fight against King Harold was worth taking. What is more, some time in the autumn of 1067 Count Eustace attacked Odo's castle at Dover and embarked on a mysterious, though ineffectual, rebellion against his one-time Norman allies. He may even have been attempting to advance his own rival claim to the English throne. As a result of this abortive invasion, Eustace was disgraced, and lost his share of the spoils, although he was able to contrive a remarkable reconciliation with the Normans during the early 1070s.5

Contrary to popular belief, very few of William the Conqueror's companions at Hastings can be identified with certainty. William of Poitiers names a small roster of men. He singles out for special praise Robert of Beaumont, and names several others whom he viewed as Normans such as William fitzOsbern, Walter Giffard, Hugh of Montfort and William of Warenne.6 None is named in the tapestry. Poitiers also confirms the presence of Count Eustace; but he was writing after Eustace was in disgrace and perhaps because of that describes him as a rank coward. According to William of Poitiers, Eustace's most notable contribution at the battle was to advise the duke to retreat, before receiving a blow between the shoulders and being carried away half-dead by his men, with blood streaming profusely from his nose and mouth. This, then, was the Norman view of Count Eustace II of Boulogne, after his disgrace, and it is quite clearly different from what we see in the Bayeux Tapestry. What is going on?Why, out of a ducal army of thousands, is the artist choosing to highlight the 'rebel' Eustace, of all people, and to ignore so many high-ranking Normans? The date when the Bayeux Tapestry was made is not certain, but whether it was made before or after Eustace's reconciliation with Duke William in the early 1070s, the appearance of such a rival and enemy at the pivotal moment in the embroidery is striking. It deserves much greater attention than it has ordinarily received.

The Bayeux Tapestry's treatment of Count Eustace is more akin to the Carmen de Hastingae Proelio {The Song of the Battle of Hastings) than it is to any Norman source. The Carmen is the very earliest surviving account of the battle. Its author, Bishop Guy of Amiens, was a close kinsman of Count Guy of Ponthieu and Count Eustace II of Boulogne. In the decade after the Battle of Hastings there was a very lively polemic between the Normans and their less numerous French allies as to who had really made the most telling contribution to the victory. The non-Norman French got in first with the Carmen. In the Carmen's account of Hastings, the Normans are hardly mentioned at all; indeed the only Norman mentioned by name is the duke himself. Instead, the stress is placed on the contribution of the non-Norman Frenchmen (Galli orFranci) and, like the tapestry, their leader Count Eustace II of Boulogne. William of Poitiers seems to have written his pro-Norman account shortly after the Carmen. Without doing so in express terms, he set about correcting what he perceived to be an unsavoury downgrading of his fellow Normans by the Bishop of Amiens and especially the latter's heroic portrayal of Count Eustace.7 With more than a hint of exaggeration, he concluded that 'Duke William with the forces of Normandy subjugated all the cities of the English in a single day . . .without much outside help.'8 Since the Carmen was only rediscovered in 1826, and William of Poitiers' work was known, directly or indirectly, to later medieval writers, it is the Norman account that has dominated subsequent historiography and popular myth. In the process it is the Norman account that persists in colouring interpretations of the Bayeux Tapestry and obscuring some of its extraordinary meanings.

The momentum of battle is regained in the tapestry under the specific words HIC FRANCI PUGNANT (Here the French do battle) [scenes 55-56]. For the second time the tapestry calls the invaders 'French' (Franci). Nowhere, in fact, does it call them 'Normans'(Normanni). 'French' was an ambiguous term. It could mean the people from Francia generally, the French-speakers, and in that sense, common enough in England, it included the Normans as well as people from Paris, Picardy, Boulogne, Maine, Aquitaine and many other regions. In the more restricted sense, which is used both by William of Poitiers and in the Carmen de Hastingae Proelio, the Franci are quite distinct from the Normans; but the term undoubtedly includes men from north-eastern France who were the followers of Count Eustace II of Boulogne.9 We are so used to thinking of the Battle of Hastings in purely binary terms, as a conflict between Anglo-Saxon and Norman, that the rivalries between the disparate elements of Duke William's army are easily overlooked. It is, however, improbable that the artist of the tapestry, an obviously well-informed person, was so naive as to be unaware of the lively polemic that was going on between the French and the Normans in the aftermath of the battle. Once more, he is playing a dangerous double game. Does he mean FRANCI in the inclusive or exclusive sense? He is, in fact, purporting to illustrate the Normans at all in these famous battle scenes?

It is the picture, not the words, that shows where his sympathies lie, for the word FRANCI is pictorially linked, inextricably, to the preceding image of Count II Eustace of Boulognes [scene 55]. A great lion in the upper border marks out the letters F and N with its paws whilst Eustace's enormous banner shares the same, uniquely elongated compartment in the border and even touches the lion's chest. What is more, the knight who takes up the charge carries a lance which underlines the very word FRANCI and at the same time he is pointing back at Count Eustace with his index finger. To make the connection even more explicit, the far end of the lance is touched by Eustace's left hand; it even seems to grow out of his skin. There can surely be no doubt, at this deeper level, that it is the French under Count Eustace, and not the Normans, who are indicated by the word FRANCI. Extraordinary as it may seem, all those charging knights in the Bayeux Tapestry, so often described as 'Normans', are at the deeper level nothing of the sort. This is a whole new layer of meaning, a layer of meaning which has lain hidden and unsuspected for almost a thousand years. The implications are profound. The tapestry began by undermining the Norman claim by subtly recording the English viewpoint and now it has discreetly highlighted the controversial Count Eustace II of Boulogne and his northern Frenchmen over and above the Normans. So much for telling the story 'strictly from the Norman point of view'.

Roused by the trio of Odo, William and Eustace, the bloody fighting resumes in earnest and the battle is now entering its final bitter stage. Up to now no clear advantage had been gained by either side, and a great many lay dead or maimed. If William could not deliver a killer blow before dusk the situation would probably be dire. Harold's reinforcements would soon arrive, perhaps the next day, perhaps in the days that followed, and the battered ducal army would be no match for fresh troops eager to defend their country and to repel the invaders.

The embroidered knights press on with another attack deep into the redoubtable English position. A French knight seems to be intent on pursuing one housecarl in particular, for he ignores the nearest enemy and thrusts his sword straight at the face of the one standing behind [scene 55]. Another French knight has been knocked out of the saddle but he still manages to ride on the neck of his horse and strikes down a goatee-bearded Englishman with a single blow of his sword. Presumably these two incidents really happened. Next, in a very enigmatic picture, a knight with spurs on his heels is standing on the ground; he is the only knight not on horseback in all the battle scenes. Grabbing the hair of an unarmed Englishman, he is about to decapitate him in a formal-style execution [scene 56]. His victim's decapitated body lies beneath, in the lower border, together with the sword that did the job. As he performs this gruesome task, the knight has another sword in his belt. The handle of his belted sword protrudes from his groin as if it were a penis, whilst its tip seems about to obscenely penetrate a stallion behind. The meaning of this scene remains obscure.

The lower border is now full of archers, shooting skyward in a desperate attempt to inflict further damage on the English position. Harold is standing amidst his men by the dragon banner of Wessex. He is still holding fast; but the end is near. Under the inscription HIC HAROLD REX INTERFECTUS EST (Here King Harold was killed) the King of the English appears to have been suddenly hit in or around the eye by an arrow [scene 57; plate 12]. He must be in agony now, as he tries to extract the shaft from his face, but then a mounted knight arrives at the scene and swinging down his heavy sword he strikes Harold on the thigh. The king collapses. A great English battleaxe, presumably representing Harold's military power, splits in two under his falling weight. The sprightly Harold Godwinson, whose tragic story has been animated so poignantly and memorably in the Bayeux Tapestry, now lies dead upon the very ground that he was attempting to defend.

The tapestry's image of Harold stuck by an arrow in the eye is one the most famous and enduring in English history;but it is not universally accepted as the correct reading. It has sometimes been argued that Harold is not, in fact, the famous figure wrenching an arrow from his face under the word HAROLD but rather that he is only the second figure, the one struck on the thigh beneath INTERFECTUS EST (was killed).10 This has never been entirely persuasive.11 It rests upon some doubtful generalisations about the conventions followed by the artist and ignores the obvious implication that the arrow-in-the-eye figure who stands under (and even breaks up) the letters HARO/L/D must be the eponymous casualty. He even looks up at the letter O in his name. Moreover, the tapestry is not alone in telling the arrow-in-the-eye story, or something like it. The arrow story may have been circulating in some Norman accounts even before 108012 and in the first third of the twelfth century two Anglo-Norman writers recorded a version of Harold's death that seems very close to the tapestry. The first, William of Malmesbury (c. 1125), wrote that Harold's 'brain' was 'pierced by an arrow' before 'one of the knights hacked his thigh with a sword as he lay on the ground'.13 The second, Henry of Huntingdon (c. 1130), was the earliest known English writer explicitly to mention Harold's eye: 'the whole shower sent by the archers fell around King Harold and he himself sank to the ground, struck in the eye', whereupon 'a host of knights broke through and killed the wounded king'.14 Whether these writers were basing their accounts on an interpretation of the Bayeux Tapestry or were recording a similar but independent tradition, the view that the Tapestry is following the arrow story is rendered more probable. Moreover, in his poetic re-rendering of the work as a luxurious wall hanging around Countess Adela's bedchamber, written between 1099 and 1102, Baudri of Bourgeuil writes that Harold was hit by an arrow, albeit without specifying the point of impact: 'a shaft pierces Harold with deadly doom'.15 This was evidently Baudri's interpretation of the tapestry and as a contemporary observer it may be assumed that he was familiar with the artistic conventions of his day.

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A more serious challenge to the traditional view proceeds upon the fact that this section of the tapestry was much restored in the nineteenth century.16 Did the restorers faithfully follow the evidence of original stitch holes or did they do a bit of embroidering of their own? In the earliest known drawing of this scene, rendered by Antoine Benoît in 1729, the figure standing under the word HAROLD is apparently not wrenching an arrow from his face but appears possibly to be holding up his own English spear which he is about to throw. Certainly the weapon has no arrow flights on it, whereas arrows in the tapestry are invariably depicted with flights. It is, therefore, suggested that the arrow-in-the-eye, complete with little flights, was a nineteenth-century 'restoration' by persons who thought that they could 'improve' upon the original. The force of this argument is undermined by the fact that the eighteenth-century artists were not infallible; nor can Baudri's evidence - that the embroidered Harold is pierced by a shaft - easily be dismissed; and if Benoît's drawing shows no flights on the 'arrow', equally it shows no point on the 'spear'. If the nature, path and length of the weapon in Harold's hand really were drastically altered in the nineteenth century, evidence of the original stitch holes should presumably still be discernible through a close forensic examination of the fabric itself. The generally accepted view is that Harold is shown twice, first hit by an arrow and then struck down by a sword. It may be that the arrow-in-the-eye interpretation of the embroidery will one day have to be jettisoned, but until forensic evidence proves otherwise beyond doubt, the current view will probably continue to prevail.

This is not to say that the Tapestry, or any other source, is necessarily giving a true account of Harold's death. Battles are confused; stories differ. The most that can be said is that there is nothing inherently implausible about the notion that an arrow hit him around the eye and that he was then struck down by advancing knights. An arrow-wound in the face, leaving him bloodied and maimed, would have allowed the interpretation that the shaft had struck him specifically in the eye, whether or not this was actually the point of impact. It has been argued by an American historian, David Bernstein, that blinding would have had symbolic value in contemporary thought: the perjurer had received an arrow in his eye, his eye had been put out as God's punishment.17 Such a story would have quickly spread and the tapestry's artist may be following it on account of its resonant symbolic overtones. This may be so; but the tapestry does not actually show the arrow in Harold's eye, rather it enters his head at some undisclosed point on the other side of his helmet. Strictly speaking, the belief that it has hit him specifically in the eye is merely a matter of surmise on the part of the observer. Had the artist wished to show the arrow entering Harold's eye, he could no doubt have done so more explicitly.

Are we being teased again with double meaning? Is the artist hinting at another version of Harold's death? The story of the arrow was not the only early story. In the Carmen de Hastingae Proelio, the very earliest account of the battle, the description of Harold's death is quite distinct from any Norman or Anglo-Norman source and it makes no mention of any arrow. Instead Harold is killed by four aristocrats, or rather the poem singles out the four aristocrats who led a melee that descended upon Harold all at once: 'Others indeed were there,' the poet admits, 'but [these four] were better than the rest.'18 The Carmen is quite clear about the identity of one of the four: it is none other than Count Eustace II of Boulogne, who apparently arrives first at the scene. As to the other three, the passage is unfortunately ambiguous but they are probably Duke William himself, Hugh of Ponthieu (Count Guy's younger brother) and Robert Gilfard (another French baron). Of these four persons only one, the duke, is Norman; the rest are French in the narrow non-Norman sense.19 Curiously William of Poitiers is silent on the manner of Harold's death, although in other respects he set about correcting the French bias of the Carmen.Was this because the thrust of the Carmen's story was uncomfortably close to the truth, that the French, and specifically Count Eustace, had played the greater part in the killing of Harold? It seems at first sight that the tapestry leaves us guessing as to the identity of the knight who is portrayed as cutting Harold to the ground. However, we shall return to this enigma in chapter 15. There are reasons to believe that the name of this person, shown as he inflicts the mortal blow at the very climax of the battle, is not unknown at all but has been ingeniously encoded in the tapestry: it is, once again, Count Eustace II of Boulogne.

The death of King Harold is the decisive moment. The morale of the English, an already exhausted and depleted force, has been cruelly sapped by the loss of their leader. The fighting seems to continue for a short while, but it is not long before any further resistance becomes futile. The last straggling remnant of Harold's worsted army is now pursued off the field of battle. Duke William has won, his enemy is dead and he can look forward to wearing the crown that he covets. Even as battle is still raging, looters have arrived in the lower border, hoping to retrieve anything of value from the littered dead. One man bundles more swords into his arms than he can possibly hope to carry. Two more quarrel over a shield, pulling it greedily between them as if it were a Christmas cracker. Others are slipping chain-mail suits off the sprawled white corpses of the dead, nonchalantly removing armour from fallen warriors as if they were doing no more than help the wearer undress. One of the looted corpses may even be Harold's, for William of Poitiers notes in his own account that Harold's body was 'despoiled of all signs of status'.20

Eadmer summed up the Battle of Hastings and all the death, turmoil and suffering it caused in a way that made sense to his fellow countrymen: 'although fickle fortune veered from one side to the other, so great was the slaughter that the victory they gained is truly and without doubt to be ascribed to the miraculous intervention of God who by punishing the evil crime of Harold's perjury in this way showed that He is not God that countenances iniquity'.21 This, too, is the most basic underlying meaning of the Bayeux Tapestry, and as such it would not have displeased the Normans. We have seen, however, how the story is told in an enormously subtle way, one that secretly undermines the Norman claim to the throne and records the English version of the succession, long before Eadmer was able to put that version in writing. Ultimately the tapestry seems to add its own twist by covertly turning the French under Count Eustace II of Boulogne into the true champions of divine will.

When evening fell on 14 October 1066 a large part of England's warring classes lay lifeless with their king on the field of Hastings. The body and face of Harold are said by William of Poitiers to have been so horribly mutilated that no one could be sure which corpse was his. Thus, according to one later story, his mistress, Edith Swan-Neck, was brought on to the scene of carnage and, picking her way over the corpses, was able to identify her lover - not by his face but by marks on his body known only to her.22 William of Poitiers tells us that Duke William took charge of the corpse. Harold's mother, Gytha, then approached him and pleaded to have custody of her beloved son so that she could give him a fitting burial. She even offered Harold's weight in gold in return for his body. William refused. In his view, Harold was a faithless perjurer; he had opposed God's will and his army had fought for an unjust cause. Had not the result proved William right?William of Poitiers tells us that the duke ordered that the mass dead of the English should be left where they fell, unburied and unremembered, and that Harold's body should be taken away and placed unceremoniously under a simple cairn of stones at the seaside. There, the Normans joked, he could continue to guard the coast that he had sought in vain to defend. It has recently been suggested that the bones of an eleventh-century warrior discovered in Bosham church in 1954, adjacent to the supposed remains of Canute's little daughter, may be those of King Harold.23 The evidence of written sources, however, indicates that Harold's body was shortly afterwards moved to his foundation of Waltham Abbey.24 An important tomb once marked his grave there but it was destroyed at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII. Today only a simple plaque on the ground within the ruined Waltham Abbey bears witness to the final resting place of Harold Godwinson, King of England.

There are a few final images in the embroidery, but they have been poorly restored and may not reflect the original. The yarn ends abruptly in the immediate aftermath of battle. In the upper part of a split scene, several prisoners, most linked by a rope, are filing past [scene 59]. Two of them, interestingly enough, seem to have arrows in the eye. In the lower part riders with whips are chasing a man who appears to be hiding in a bush. Originally, no doubt, there were some further scenes - the tapestry probably continued for several more yards - but even in the drawings of 1729 it ends where it ends now. The extremities of the work were no doubt especially vulnerable to damage. The ending must have been destroyed at some point before 1729, but rather than lamenting the loss, we should remind ourselves how amazing it is that so much has survived.

Modern embroiderers have produced reconstructions of the missing last section.25 This, of course, is largely guesswork as far as the details are concerned, but the gist of the lost scenes may probably be deduced from the poem of Baudri of Bourgeuil.26 Baudri probably saw the original tapestry before1102. His poetic description of the one he imagined in Countess Adela's bedchamber may be taken as a broad, personal account of the original work. After the death of Harold, Baudri tells us that the Normans attack the remaining English 'more savagely than a tiger' and that the English fall 'more meekly than a sheep'. When night falls the English take flight and hide wherever they can; some occupy caves while others 'find shelter in bushes'. Thus far it is possible that Baudri is describing what survives of the existing work. The following day, so Baudri tells us, William's army resumed the business of war. Baudri writes that the houses of the English resounded with wailing: 'No woman, youth or elder is spared the tears.' It thus appears that there was a second scene of civilians caught up in the conflict. A city, no doubt London, is surrounded. The men of the city are leaderless and disorganised and without proper arms. 'What shall they do?' asks Baudri. 'The frightened people imagine their walls torn down, their houses burned, themselves murdered.' In a pathetic effort at defence 'an unwarlike legion' of 'girls, old men and boys' gird up the city walls with whatever they can find. At this point, however, William offers peace. The city gratefully accepts the offer and the tapestry, as described by Baudri, ends with William's triumphant acclamation as king.

This abbreviated version of events between October and December 1066 is much as would be expected if the Bayeux Tapestry had continued until Duke William's coronation. It is known that he stayed for about a week at Hastings before moving slowly into Kent and taking Romney, Dover and then Canterbury. By late November he had advanced to Southwark and was ready to cross the bridge over the Thames at the site where London Bridge now stands. He judged, however, that the people of London still needed softening up and instead he led his army on a rapid rampage through Surrey, northern Hampshire and Berkshire. Once again his forces ravaged the countryside and the trail of devastation can still be traced in the Domesday Book written twenty years later. The English will to resist was sapped by this crude display of military might. The first major submissions, including that of Archbishop Stigand, took place at Wallingford, where William crossed the Thames. Queen Edith submitted to a Norman delegation at Winchester. Although she was Harold's sister she was able to retain for herself an honoured position as Edward's widow.

For a brief moment it seemed as if the city of London would hold out. The remaining English leaders rallied around the boy Edgar and in London they elected him as king. But the hopeless reality of their plight soon dawned on them and Edgar, Earls Edwin and Morcar, Archbishop Ealdred and the chief men of London all submitted to William at Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, by late November or early December 1066. William eventually came to terms with Edgar Ætheling, who went on to lead an eventful life and was still living in the English countryside as late as the early 1120s.27On Christmas Day 1066 Duke William of Normandy was crowned king of England at a tense service in Westminster Abbey, less than twelve months after Edward had been buried and Harold crowned within the same great walls. He was the third of England's kings in that tumultuous year of 1066. Of his two battle companions highlighted by the embroidery, Odo of Bayeux became Earl of Kent and was granted enormous landholdings in many English counties as his reward. Count Eustace had arrived back in Boulogne by Easter 1067.28 By the autumn of that year, and perhaps already at Easter, he was not a happy man.

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