The Battle of Hastings, 1066
by M. K. Lawson
Tempus, £25, pp. 252, ISBN 0752426893
The Bayeux Tapestry, nearly 75 yards long, the mother of all newsreels and the father of all strip cartoons, was embroidered at Canterbury (most probably) some years after the Conquest. With ‘626 human figures, 202 horses, 55 dogs, 505 other animals, 49 trees, 37 buildings and 41 ships’, plus as many corpses, some stripped, some in bits, as any self-respecting modern movie, and two sex scenes, it is one of the world’s great historical documents and its survival is a minor miracle.
Its vivid images are stamped on our views of 1066, and on a great deal of All That. There is ‘ ’Arold’, as Stanley Holloway told it, ‘with ’is ’awk in ’is ’and’ and later ‘with an arrow in ’is eye’, and that is the end of Anglo-Saxon England. Very sad, say the nostalgics, the end of fair government, of exquisite Anglo-Saxon art, the birth of class warfare, the start (if one forgets Rome, that is) of unwelcome Continental intrusion in our affairs. Inevitable, reply the realists, the Anglo-Saxon regime was unstable, Danes had ruled twice, there were strong links with the Normans (King Edward was half- Norman), they and/or the Norwegians were bound to invade and, even if beaten once, would be back; Vikings or Vikings à la fran