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Bayeux Tapestry Documentary Sources

Five documentary sources provide useful accounts of aspects of the content of the Bayeux Tapestry:


The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles: The Worcester manuscript

The entry for 1066 in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles is the only contemporary English account of the Battle of Hastings. The account is surprisingly brief for such an important event:

Count William came from Normandy to Pevensey on Michaelmas Eve [28 September 1066], and as soon as they were able to move on, they built a castle at Hastings. King Harold was informed of this and he assembled a large army and came against him at the hoary apple-tree.

And William came against him by surprise before his army was drawn up in battle array. But the king nevertheless fought hard against him, with the men who were willing to support him, and there were heavy casualties on both sides.

There King Harold was killed and Earl Leofwine his brother, and Earl Gyrth his brother, and many good men; and the French remained masters of the field, even as God granted it to them because of the sins of the people … and always after that it grew much worse. May the end be good when God wills!

Translated by Dorothy Whitelock and others, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: A Revised Translation (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1961), pp. 142–45.

Guy of Amiena: Carmen de Hastingæ Proelio

The Carmen de Hastingae Proelio (Song of the Battle of Hastings) is a medern name for Carmen Widonis, the earliest history of the Battle of Hastings written in Latin. Bishop Guy of Amiens, a nobleman of Ponthieu and uncle of Count Guy of Ponthieu, who features in the Bayeux Tapestry when he captured Harold Godwisnon in 1064.

Bishop Guy eventually served as a chaplain for Matilda of Flanders, William the Conqerer’s queen.

William of Poitiers: Gesta Guillelmi

William of Poitiers was a Frankish priest who became chaplain of William the Conqueror. He wrote the Gesta Guillelmi some time after the Battle of Hastings (probably between 1071 and 1077). It tells of the preparation for and the achievement of the Conquest of England and justifies William’s claim to the English throne.

William of Jumièges: Gesta Normannorum Ducem

The Gesta Normannorum Ducum (Deeds of the Norman Dukes) was originally a chronicle written by William of Jumièges shortly before 1060. In 1070 William the Conqueror ordered William of Jumièges to extend the chronicle in order to show his right to the English throne.