For the first time in 950 years, the Bayeux Tapestry will be leaving its home in France. President Emmanuel Macron has agreed to loan the artefact to Britain, a decision announced at an Anglo-French summit last week. The tapestry, depicting the Norman conquest of English in 1066 will be relocated from Normandy to the UK.
Using this to her advantage, UK Prime Minister Theresa May emphasised the strength of the relationship between these two nations post Brexit, as the decision involved lengthy discussions between each country’s respective departments of culture.
Although agreed in principle, the relocation will not take place for a few years due to work needed on the tapestry. The Bayeux Museum has estimated five years before the move will occur, to ensure no damage will take place. It is yet to be decided where the tapestry will be displayed once in the UK.
Extremely symbolic for both countries, the Bayeux Tapestry is believed to have been made shortly after the Battle of Hastings in the latter part of the 11th century, commissioned by William the Conqueror’s half-brother Odo. Measuring 70m long and 50cm high, some claim it was produced in Kent, England. The series of vibrant scenes depicts the Norman conquest of England, complete with Latin inscriptions, detailing how William crossed the English Channel to take the English crown. The tapestry vividly shows the death of King Harold, who was shot through the eye with an arrow.
It is a prime example of how history was recorded by the victors, with the two sides differentiated by their polarised aesthetics – the English feature shoulder length hair coupled with moustaches, whilst the Normans are clean-shaven with short hair.
This successful outcome marks the third in a string of failed attempts to negotiate a loan of the tapestry to the UK – it has only been moved twice within France. It will no doubt have had a positive impacts on the subjects discussed between May and Macron at Sandhurst military academy last week, namely the migration crisis at Calais and prospective military aid from Britain for the French campaign against Islamist extremists in North Africa.
Those interested in History, Classics or Modern & Medieval Languages might want to consider how culture and important historical events are recorded and preserved. Those considering Politics should think about the impact that important artefacts and art can have on international relations. The agreement to move the Tapestry to England is particularly noteworthy due to the fact that this is the first time a successful outcome has been reached in almost a millennium.