A famed relic of the Norman invasion of England is about to be displayed in the United Kingdom after the French government agreed to allow the original Bayeux Tapestry to leave its shores for the first time in 950 years. The needlework masterpiece depicts aspects of the campaign that led William to cross the English Channel and conquer England in 1066 as a result of the decisive Battle of Hastings and the defeat of the English King Harold.

The Norman duke would henceforth be known as William the Conqueror. The invasion set off changes in language, cuisine, religion, and polity that are still felt nearly 1000 years later. In a cartoon-like fashion, the Bayeux Tapestry depicts the story of William’s conquest of England. Rarely moved, it has been on permanent display at a museum in the town of Bayeux, in Normandy. 

French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to announce the loan of the tapestry during his visit with British Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday. Macron said the tapestry would not be transferred before 2020. The Times of London said the loan was subject to the outcome of tests to ensure that the tapestry is safe to move. The agreement over the tapestry came after months of talks between French and British officials. However, the location of its display in England has not yet been announced. 

Art historians have long debated the origins of the tapestry, which is 230 feet long and 20 inches wide. While the earliest written reference to it is a 1476 inventory from Bayeux Cathedral, little is known about how or why it was created. A replica of the famed tapestry is found at Reading Museum in England that was probably commissioned in the 1070s by the half-brother of William the Conqueror - the Bishop Odo of Bayeux. Some experts theorize that it was made by nuns in England - not France - possibly in Canterbury. A researcher at the University of Manchester said in 2012 the tapestries’ needlework was "consistent throughout," thus suggesting one group of specialist embroiderers worked on it, in the same place at the same time.

The events depicted on the tapestry start with Edward the Confessor, who became king in 1042, and tells the story of his death and the questions over who was the rightful heir. On the day of his funeral in 1066, his brother-in-law Harold was crowned king. When news of Harold’s crowning reached France, William claimed that he was rightfully king of England, arguing that Edward had promised him the throne of England.

After crossing the English Channel with an amphibious invasion force, William met King Harold II on October 14, 1066, where succession to the throne was decided by the Battle of Hastings. Each side boasted as many as 5,000 to 7,000 men each when they met in battle at a hilltop near Hastings. Thousands of men were killed that day, as was Harold. Thus ended nearly 600 years of Anglo-Saxon rule in England. What began was the transformation of England into the feudal patterns of France, which also introduced its language and customs to the misty, doughty little island. 



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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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