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Thursday, 24 May 2012

The Story

Interpreting The Tapestry Scene by Scene: Scene 1


This is scene one of the embroidery. It starts with King Edward, shown resplendent in his palace speaking with two men. One of the men is obviously Harold, probably the taller because the tapestry seeme to show men of lower status as much smaller so perhaps Harold is with his most faithful huscarle or servant. Further on, 6 men are riding out with their hunting animals and the Latin text in the top of the border reads Harold, Duke of England: and his soldiers ride to Bosham.
From what we know of the tale of the embroidery, the Norman sources tell us that Harold was sent to Normandy on a great mission by his brother-in-law the King to convey his good wishes to Duke William and confirm him in the succession. As I have said in my previous post, the English account written by Eadmer tells a different story altogether. It would have us believe that Harold (very much his own man) informs King Edward that he is going on a journey to Normandy to meet with Duke William and negotiate the release of his brother and nephew who have been hostages in Normandy for several years. Edward advises against this mission and tells Harold that only harm can come of it, but Harold takes his leave despite Edward's advice. Either story can be represented in the scene.
Whichever theory you believe, the next scene can have no double meaning. It simply shows Harold and his men riding toward Bosham where he will embark on his journey in one of his ships. He most likely wanted to ride to Bosham to collect some gifts for William. If he was going to Normandy to get his brothers, he would need to make it worth his while.
Bosham was Harold’s father’s manor estate, granted to him by Cnut. It is said that Cnut’s daughter is buried in the church when she slipped and fell into the millstream. This was also where Cnut was said to have proved to his subjects that he was not all powerful by putting his throne on the edge of the beach to show them he couldn’t hold back the tide.  Godwine, Harold’s father, made it his family home and most likely the Godwin brothers and sisters grew up there. You can imagine the youngsters playing in the courtyard of their father’s longhall. I can almost hear Swegn, Harold and Tostig arguing amongst themselves, an omen of what was to come later.
Swegn was to grow up to be the black sheep of the family and Tostig would eventually go on to be betrayed by his brother Harold and then he in turn would betray Harold by attempting an invasion with Harald Hardrada. Tostig was killed alongside Hardrada at Stamford Bridge, playing his part in the downfall of Anglo-Saxon England.



Brian Kavanagh said...

The tapestry and Bosham feature in my novel, The Embroiderd Corpse. The tapestry is a fascinating thing and we are lucky it has survived.

paulalofting said...

Thankyou Brian, good luck with your novel. Is it published?
I hope you will join me in my journey through the tapestry.

Kathryn Warner said...

LOVE the tapestry! As Brian says, we're so lucky that it's survived.