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The Bayeux Tapestry - Seven Ages of Britain - BBC One

The Bayeux Tapestry celebrates William's conquest of England, starting with King Edward the Confessor's death and King Harold's succession. This needlework masterpiece, 70 meters long, shows vivid scenes of battles, daily life, and Aesop's fables. It brings to life William's invasion and Harold's famous death with an arrow in his eye.

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Video transcript

This is the Bayeux tapestry it was commissioned to celebrate Williams conquest of England It begins with the events that led up to it the death of Edward the Confessor king of England and the succession of a new king Harold It's magical to be taken back a thousand years in this dark chamber to see history Spelled out for you 70 Metres long right down to the end right round and the back and the story very vividly told That at the same time along the friezes top and bottom wonderfully vivid pictures Some of them of aesop's fables some of little stories some nobody knows what they are little details of farming life here ploughing Sowing and the man Killing birds with a sling It's not strictly speaking a tapestry. It's actually Needlework sewn with Wool onto Linen I Suppose the story that we know best begins with the death of Edward the Confessor and his burial in West Minster Abbey West minster Abbey here with the hand of God blessing it and Here Harold receiving the crown With his orb and his scepter people looking on and then spies come across and Explain to William in Normandy what's happened in England. That Harold has seized the crown and Here he orders ships to be built for an invasion so the first thing to cut down the trees and start building the ships putting aboard suits of chainmail leading two men to carry them and Spears Arrows and The last stage is to get the horses on board these long ships very tricky, and they don't look particularly happy The boats set sail they cross over to Pevensey Land safely at Pevensey ago ashore, and then the real task begins, but first the army has to be fed There's a tureen, there, being boiled. They're sort of chicken Kebabs they look like and here William feasting with his men and then they're preparing for war They build a a castle of wood at Hastings William's Followers set light to some of the anglo-Saxon houses a woman leading her child away from her burning house and then battle commences quite slowly to start with with the cavalry charging against Harold's forces Heads chopped off hands chopped off and the battle rages all day long in the confusion of the battle as swords and axes clang against shields a dangerous rumor sweeps William's Army that he has been killed so what does he do he turns around in his saddle? lifts his helmet off and shows himself to his troops and the Battle goes on And then we come to the famous design of Harold with the arrow in his eye Nobody quite knows whether that is what happened and here slaughtered I've seen this many times every time I see it. I have to say just brings the whole story of William's invasion of England alive, you rarely feel here because this was done by people Living only a Few years after the event you rarely feel the power and the passion that went into it It's a completely magical work of art