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Edmund Ironside, who had been invited from Hungary, Edward obeyed the dictates of personal regard, and appointed William to be his successor; that he sent Harold to announce to him this disposition, and that Harold, sailing to Flanders for the purpose of travelling to the Norman court on this important mission, was thrown by a tempest on the coast of the count of Ponthieu, who seized and imprisoned him (1).
To these circumstances it is added, that before Edward sent Harold, he had commissioned Robert the Norman, the archbishop of Canterbury, to make to William the same annunciation.
This last assertion, however, cannot, for a moment, be believed, because Robert was exiled from England in the year 1052, on Godwin's reconciliation. He went to Normandy not on public business, but fled with precipitation to secure his personal safety (2); and so far was Edward from having adopted William in 1052, that in 1057, the son of Edmund Ironside came to England on Edward's express invitation, and for the avowed purpose of being his successor. It is also hostile to the tale of Robert's mission, that William was himself in England after Godwin's rebellion, the year before Robert left it. If Edward had then determined on William's succession, it is more probable that he should have imparted his intention to William himself, than that in the next year he should have sent it in a message by a fugitive. The testimony of Ingulf of Croyland is also adverse. He expressly declares, that while William was in England, he received no hopes of the succession; it was not then mentioned (3). Robert may have exerted himself in nurturing William's secret wishes. He may, in revenge to the family of Godwin, have commenced intrigues in favour of William; but it is not credible that Edward thought of William as his successor until after the death of his cousin from Hungary.
The celebrated tapestry of Bayeux presents to us the Norman account of these transactions.
The tapestry of
In the cathedral church of Bayeux in Normandy, Bayeux. this ancient monument has been preserved: "The ground of this piece of work is, a white linen cloth or canvass, one foot eleven inches in depth, and 212 feet in length. The figures
(1) Ingulf, a contemporary writer, p. 68. Guil. Pictav. 191. Will. Gemmet. 285. Orderic. Vital. 492. Ann. Petrob. 45. Walsingham Ypod. 28. Wike's Chron. 22. and many of the MS. Chronicles.
(2) Sax. Chron. 168. and the fuller Chronicle quoted there, 167. Hoveden, 443.
(3) De successione autem regni spes adhuc aut mentio nulla facta inter eos fuit. Ingulf, 65. Ingulf describes himself as born in England, and as having studied at Westminster and Oxford. When William visited Edward, Ingulf joined his train, and sailed with him to Normandy; he became his secretary and a sort of favourite. He went to Jerusalem through Germany and Greece, and returned by sea to Rome. He says, that he and his companions went out thirty fat horsemen, and returned scarcely twenty, and emaciated pedestrians. He attended William to England, 73-75.
of men, horses, etc. are in their proper colours, worked in the manner of samplers, in worsted, and of a style not unlike what we see upon China and Japan ware; those of the men more particularly being without the least symmetry or proportion (1). It is in one piece; it was annually hung up and exposed to view, in the nave of the church, from the eve of Midsummer-day, and continued there for eight days. At all other times it was carefully locked up (2). This tapestry is called, by the tradition of the country, "La toilette du Duc Guillaume (3)." The same popular account ascribes it to his queen, Mathilda, and her work-women (4). It has been engraved, and may be seen among the plates of the Académie des Inscriptions, and in Ducarel's Anglo-Norman Antiquities.
It represents the transactions between Harold and William. The first figures are, a king with a sceptre, sitting upon his throne; his right hand is pointed towards two men, as if giving them orders. Above is an inscription of two words, “Edward. Rex (5)." This has been fairly thought to portray Edward, directing Harold to go to Normandy. It therefore illustrates the Norman account, that Harold was sent by Edward to William (6).
The next figures are, five men on horseback, preceded by a cavalier with a bird in his left hand, and with five dogs running before him. The inscription to this is, "Ubi Harold dux Anglorum et sui milites equitant ad Bosham." The dogs and the bird mark the cavalier to be a nobleman, and of course to be Harold, who is proceeding with his train to Bosham (7).
(1) Ducarel's Anglo-Norman Antiquities, p. 79. M. Lancelot has written two memoirs on this tapestry, in the Mémoires de l'Académie des Inscriptions, t. ix, p. 535–561.; and t. xii. p. 369-469. M. Lancelot's description is thus :-" C'est une pièce de toile de lin de dix-neuf pouces de haut, sur deux cent dix pieds onze pouces de long, sur laquelle on a tracé des figures avec de la laine couchée et croisée peu près comme on hache une première pensée au crayon." p. 370.
(2) Lancelot, p. 371. Ducarel, 79. This tapestry is still at Bayeux. At the commencement of the war, after the peace of Amiens, while the invasion of these islands was in agitation, Bonaparte bad this tapestry conveyed to Paris, for his own inspection. A comet having appeared about that time, he is said to have observed, with great earnestness, the comet represented in the tapestry.
(3) Lancelot, 371. This gentleman says of it, "L'extrémité commence à se gâter." This occasioned the Chapter to have it copied.
(4) Lancelot, 373. William of Poitou declares, that the English ladies excelled at their needle, and in gold embroidery. lb. 375. Lancelot thinks, " qu'elle ne peut être d'un siècle postérieur à celui de Guillaume," 374. Mathilda died in 1083. lb. 377.
(5) Lancelot, 378.
(6) Il faut observer la simplicité du trône du roi Édouard, semblable à celui que nous représentent les sceaux et les autres monuments qui nous restent de ces temps-lå Les bras du trône sont terminés par une tête de chien--Ceux des empercurs d'Allemagne avoient ordinairement un lion. Son sceptre est terminé en fleuron, p. 541.
(7) The tapestry has sustained some injury at the beginning of this inscription. Lancelot, 378. "C'étoit alors l'usage de la noblesse de marcher ou en équipage de
A church follows, before which are two men with bending knees. Above is the word "Ecclesia." After this is an apartment where men are drinking, one from a horn, another from a goblet.
Two men are descending from this place of refreshment, one of them with an oar. A person with an oar is standing next. Another holds a dog in his arm, looking towards a ship, close to which is Harold, with a dog under his arm, and a bird in his left hand. The inscription is, "Hic Harold mare navigavit." It of course represents Harold embarking at Bosham in Sussex (1).
Two ships follow in full sail. The remark of Lancelot is just, that in their equipment they are not at all like fishing vessels. The words are, "Et velis vento plenis venit in terra Widonis Comitis." The next figures represent Harold becoming the prisoner of Guy, the count of Ponthieu, who carries him to Belre (2), and detains him. The inscriptions will explain the figures which follow: “Here Harold and Guy converse; here the messengers of William came to Guy; here a messenger comes to William; here Guy conducted Harold to William, duke of the Normans; here William proceeds with Harold to his palace.”
This part of the tapestry portrays the history as given in the chronicles. When Harold was detained by Guy, on whose coasts the winds impelled him, he sent information to William, whose menaces and gifts produced his release (3).
That William conducted Harold to Rouen, the chief city of his dominions, is the assertion of a contemporary chronicler (4). The tapestry says, to his palace, and exhibits a kind of hall, where a chief upon his throne, resting one hand on his sword, is attending to a person in the attitude of speaking, behind whom are some
guerre, quand il y avoit quelque expédition à faire, ou en équipage de chasse, quand la guerre ne l'occupoit point.-La noblesse seule avoit le droit de porter l'épervier ou le faucon sur le poing." p. 543.
(1) Walter Mapes informs us of the punning trick by which Godwin got Bosham from the archbishop of York. See it in Camden and Lancelot, p. 545.
(2) This was, says M. Lancelot, Beaurain le Château, two leagues from Montreuil, castrum de Bello ramo, p. 555. Le roman de Rou, par Robert Waice, est le seul des auteurs de ce temps-là qui, en rapportant la circonstance de la prison de Harold à Beaurain, confirme ce qu'en dit le monument dont il s'agit :
Guy garda Heralt par grant cure,
(3) In the tapestry, William is on his throne, with his sword in his left hand; his right is extended close to the face of a man, who is listening or speaking to him in a deprecating and intimidated manner. Lancelot says, "Deux vers du roman de
Rou expriment ce que le duc faisait en cette occasion :
'Tant pramist au Comte et offri,
Ce sont les menaces qu'il semble que la tapisserie a voulu désigner." p. 381. (4) Guil. Pictav.
armed men. It is most likely Harold addressing William on the subject of his excursion; but there is no inscription on this part of the tapestry.
The next figures represent William's warfare with Conan, a count of Bretagne, in which Harold assisted (1). The inscriptions are: 'Here Duke William and his army came to Mount St. Michael, and passed the river Cosno (3); here Harold duke drew them from the sand; and they came to Dol, and Conan fled. Here the soldiers of Duke William fought against the Dinantes (3), and Conan extended the keys."
All these circumstances are very expressively told by appropriate figures, which give a curious delineation of the military equipments and manners of the period.
The events which follow are peculiarly interesting to us. William, in complete armour, extends one hand to Harold's right temple; his other is upon Harold's right arm and breast. Harold is a little inclining towards him, and supports a lance with a banner in his left hand. The words above are, "Here William gave arms to Harold." A Norman historian mentions, that William rewarded the exertions of Harold with splendid arms, horses, and other insignia (4).
After three horsemen in armour, with the letters, "Here William comes to Bagias" (Bayeux), William appears without armour on his throne with a sword, his left hand extended. Near this are two repositories of relics. Harold is between them, with a hand on each. Officers are at both ends. The inscription is: "Here Harold swears to Duke William."
The historians state, that Harold swore to promote William's accession to the throne of England on Edmund's demise, to marry his daughter, and to put Dover into his power (5). Some other
(1) See Lancelot, 388-401., on William and Harold's war in Bretagne. William of Poitiers is the only historian who has at all detailed this warfare, mais il s'en faut beaucoup que son récit ne soit aussi circonstancié que ce qui se voit dans la tapisserie," p. 389. Lancelot's Observations on the weapons of the combatants are worth reading.
(2) C'est la rivière de Couesnon qui sépare encore à présent la Normandie de la Bretagne, Lan. 396. Les flots de la mer et les sables font changer souvent le lit de cette rivière, ce qui rend le gué difficile. La tapisserie représente le passage de cette rivière par les troupes de Guillaume avec une exactitude trés-détaillée. Ib. 397.
(3) This circumstance the tapestry only has preserved, "C'est la prise de Dinan, ville de Bretagne, à six lieues de Dol; aucun historien du temps n'en a parlé." Lan. 399.
(4) Order. Vital. lib. iii. p. 492. Le Roman de Rou places the ceremony at Avranches (Aurences) when the Duke was going to Bretagne. Lan. 402.
(5) Guil. Pictav. says this on the evidence of eye-witnesses: "Sicut veracissimi multaque honestate præclarissimi homines recitav qui tunc affuere testes," p. 191. He is so angry with Harold for his subsequent breach of this oath, that he apostrophizes him with great warmth, p. 192. Both Pictav. and Ord. Vital. 492. place the oath before the war in Bretagne. On the oath see Ingulf, Malmsb.,' M. Paris, Eadmer, and others.
authorities mention that William, after Harold had sworn, uncovered the repositories, and showed him on what relics he had pledged himself; and Harold saw, with alarm, their number and importance (1). If this be true, these two great warriors were, at least in their religion, men of petty minds, or they would not have believed that the obligation of an oath was governed by the rules of arithmetical progression.
The tapestry represents a ship under sail, expressive of Harold's return, and afterwards Harold making his report to Edward. The king's sickness and funeral follow (2).
The next figures show Harold's coronation. One man offers him the crown, and another a battle-axe. Beyond this, Harold appears on his throne, with the globe and cross in his left hand, and a sceptre in his right. On his right two men are presenting to him a sword; and Stigand, the archbishop, is standing on his left (3).
On the evening of Edward's funeral, which was the tion. day after his death, Harold possessed himself of the crown of England. As there were other pretenders to the dignity, of whom one at least, Edgar Etheling, the grandson of Edmund Ironside, was invested with the interesting right of hereditary descent, delay was perilous to the ambition of Harold (4). Hence, while the nobles were agitated with divided minds, Harold boldly decided the splendid question by availing himself of the support of his friends (5), and by obtaining an instantaneous coronation from the suspended archbishop of Canterbury (6).
That Harold used his authority with kingly dignity, and for the great ends of public utility, is asserted (7), and must be admitted, with the qualification that as his reign was so short, the panegyric
(1) So the Roman de Rou and la Chronique de Normandie affirm. Lanc. 404, 405. I may here mention that the author of the Roman is stated to be Robert Waice; that he lived about fifty years after the conquest, and was a canon of Bayeux. Lan. 379.
(2) The figures of the funeral seem to precede the sickness.
(3) The inscriptions are: "Here they gave the crown to king Harold; here sits Harold, king of the English; Stigand, archbishop.”
(4) Matthew says some of the proceres favoured William; some Harold, and some Edgar, the grandson of Edmund Ironside; but that Harold, extorta fide a majoribus, obtained the diadem, 433. Malmsbury intimates a violent seizure, p. 93. So Rudborne, p. 24. Ordericus says, he was consecrated sine communi consensu aliorum præsulum et comitum procerumque, p. 492.; and see Matt. West. 433. and M. Paris, 2.
(5) Florence, Hoveden, Simeon of Durham, Rad. Dic. and Saxon Chronicle, imply, that a very large part, if not all, of the nobles chose him. The tapestry, which certainly tells the story in the Norman way, hints nothing of a violent seizure. It represents two men offering the crown to Harold, who is uncovered.
(6) Though most of the writers say that the archbishop of York crowned him, yet, as the tapestry shows Harold on his throne, and Stigand, who held Canterbury, near him; and as Guil. Pictav. 196. and Ord. Vitalis state that Stigand crowned him, I adopt this opinion, which M. Lancelot supports, 421.
(7) As Hoveden, Florence, and others. Malmsbury, 93. admits it,