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The wavy line under the horses probably represents the two parties meeting on the coast near Eu.

The lewd figures directly below Harold, when compared to others later on, relates to his reputation as an "adulterer;" one of the charges against his character that later justified William's invasion of England.

Count Guy is riding, interestingly enough, a mule. This is quite certainly a mule and not a "black charger" as some have said: check out the long ears (stitched in a quite distinctive color, and because of their size the viewer cannot miss them): also the lack of male genitalia. Few mounts in the Tapestry are without noticeable male organs. Guy's here is clearly, deliberately, lacking the equipment of the standard stallion mount. What this implies is utterly open to conjecture. Mine assumes a slur upon the count of Ponthieu. A man who would ride a mule is either being compared to a cleric (who is forbidden to ride a horse normally), or else his parentage is open to question. Guy was definitely alive and well at the time the Tapestry was made. Who would want to besmirch his reputation or piss him off? No answers. So this curious little detail and the questions it raises must be followed up by the historical novelist. (I have been happy to oblige: my novel Jackals in Iron follows the career of the protagonist, count Guy de Ponthieu: and the "mule thing" is explained.)

Hair styles in the Bayeux Tapestry are used to differentiate between Englishmen and the Normans/French. The shaved heads behind the ears is typically Norman (Guy has the same cut however)and caused the English later - when they saw William's troops disembarking in Sussex - to declare that the Norman army was filled with warrior priests (the style does resemble the clerical tonsure). The Englishmen are universally long-haired, and most sport mustaches; some later depicted with beards as well.


The way William is depicted in this scene deserves note: he is leaned back, completely casual, with a hawk on his wrist, while his stallion is shown to be anything but docile! This seems to be an art device to show what a potent horseman and warlord the duke is, that he can manage such a firey steed with ease.

Is the fellow pointing to Harold either Hackon or Wulfnoth? Both were hostages at the Norman court already. And Harold's reasons for going to Normandy were primarily to spring his nephew and brother. Harold appears to caution silence from his kinsman; they will speak later when alone.

In his spacious palace the duke and his court listen to Harold recount his misadventures.


The naked executioner in the lower border seems to represent the life-and-death power William holds over his English guests.

Another lewd figure of a man below suggests a scandal well-known at the time, which needs no further explanation. As both these sexually explict figures and the previous ones are directly beneath the scenes involving Harold it seems evident that he is the centerpiece of the understated scandal. Harold was not a particularly chaste man: his handfast wife was Edith Swanneck, a famous beauty, by whom he had had a numerous brood of children before he found himself in Normandy. Perhaps while he stayed at the Norman court he let himself go a little (or a lot). The woman Aelfgyva rates as the only female figure (of only three depicted in the main panel) with a name: not even queen Edith rates that distinction. Why? Some have conjectured that she is the abbess upon whom Harold's brother Swein got Hackon. Her reputation was ruined by this affair. Other rumors associated her immorally with a bishop - and this old gossip could certainly fit in here. But I don't believe this is the answer. "Aelfgyva" (I believe a pseudonym) is not being caressed by this cleric: the posing of figures in the Bayeux Tapestry is definite, and this man is reaching out at the end of a striking motion. The door posts capped with lions (not dragons, because they always show some sort of forked or three-pronged fire, and usually much longer than these single, curled tongues) must be a motif of Normandy, whose duke had two lions on his banner. Behind the doorposts the face-slapping scene is played out, and this must mean secrecy, or a bit of gossip William found personally embarrassing.

Soon after his arrival at the Norman court, Harold accompanied William on a campaign to discipline his difficult Breton vassals. The first armored figure in the Tapestry is carrying also the first example of a standard: typically three-pronged and with a Christian cross as the symbol. Whether or not this is a unit standard or merely a personal one is open to question: but I think the coincidence of it's being a Christian cross, and the very next figure (see following page) being William himself, is evidence that this flag is meant to draw attention to the duke as the soon-to-be champion of Holy Church in the invasion of England.

"The Fox, the Crow and the Cheese" is back in the lower border.