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 The Saxon Statement: Code in the Bayeux Tapestry

Richard D. Wissolik

Annuale Mediævale, Vol. 19 (1979)

 Most writers consider the Bayeux Tapestry to be one of the primary authorities for the study of the Norman Conquest and its prologue, and they accept as true thaose events depicted in the Tapestry whenever they are corroborated by the contemporary accounts, usually the chronicles written by the Normans.  It is generally agreed, therefore, that the Bayeux Tapestry presents the Norman view toward the events of 1064-1066, a consensus which owes it popularity as much to the obvious narrative pattern of the Tapestry as it does to the exiguous nature of Saxon accounts on the matter.

The Bayeux Tapestry is thus often largely take at face value, and no serious attemtp seems to have been made to look beyond the work’s representation of the Norman point of view to the possibility that the Saxons who designed and stitched it might have employed covert devices in order to reveal occurences closer to the truth, which the Designer sought to articulare even the some of the facts were suppressed by the Norman conquerors.  This is the hypothesis which I will argue here and show to have substance, particularly as regards those events bearing on the true reasons for Harold Godwineson’s journey to Normandy in 1064, and on the political necessity for Duke William and his followers to establish a legitimate claim to the English throne.

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