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Harold sat on William's councils, and William sought his advice on everything. It seems evident enough that they had grown to like each other - as much as men can who are potentially at odds in their self interests. Harold's companions pressed increasingly upon him to leave Normandy. Finally he did so, sans Wulfnoth his brother: but the duke let Hackon his nephew free, as a gesture of good will.

The earl of Wessex returns in one ship - where he was shown outbound in four: different stages of the voyage, as already mentioned. The lookout on the building is dismayed at the approach of Harold's vessel: he is bringing calamity upon England, surely a piece of Norman propaganda, because at the time of his return no one could have foreseen the way things would turn out.

How long Harold stayed on in Normandy is perhaps attested by the little detail of his suddenly missing mustache. All of his companions are smooth-faced too, in contrast with their previous facial hairs. I think the detail of Harold's missing mustache is not an accident. It either represents his "prostitution" in the eyes of his people, i. e. their memory of him; or else he really did shave it off while in Normandy - perhaps to impress William with how much he felt sympathetic toward his claims. By aping the Norman fashions he was better able to keep his feelings hidden. Once he had escaped William's clutches, he must have repented of the oaths he had sworn to allay William's feelings and suspicions. The later blackening of Harold's name by William shows how much he had in fact come to like him, and how his turning against William hurt his feelings. William's amor for his friends is one of the strongest personality traits that we can observe. He was slow to take vengeance upon those who turned against him, as the tragedy of his friendship for Harold shows.

Harold reports his return to king Edward. Here we see royal housecarles with their famous broadaxes. But again, there is no armor. It is peace time. Harold's missing mustache is clearly seen. His humble, obsequious pose must represent the weight of his conscience - and the roasting that Edward likely gave him: note the pointing fingers of the king and his two axe-bearing guards; and the fact that Edward and Harold are separated and not touching fingers as they were in the first scene. Harold had been warned, before making that fateful voyage, not to underestimate William's ambition. Or perhaps he even went without the king's permission. In any case, the Tapestry shows a very crestfallen Harold with hands held up imploringly, trying his best to explain a rotten situation.

Aesop's "The Wolf and the Crane" and "The Fox the Crow and the Cheese" are shown in the upper border.


The sequence is back-to-front: Edwards death is portrayed after the funeral, so as to be in sequence with the scenes of Harold being offered the crown and then being enthroned. As the Tapestry shows it, Edward's final words to Harold, followed by the witan's offer of the crown have a more dramatic impact. (I would not put it past the designer, however, to depict the scenes this way merely to save time and effort: this way they had only one St. Peter's church to embroider.)

The king's corpse is fully embalmed and wrapped in its winding sheet: no lying in state here. Young boys ring bells. Clerics follow, reading prayers. Many carry pilgrim staffs, in remembrance of Edward's commuted oath to go on pilgrimage to Jerusalem (he was allowed by the pope to build the church instead). The little figure on the roof puzzled me for awhile. But then it made sense, depicting how newly St. Peter's had been consecrated, even while it was receiving the last-minute details, like hanging up the weathercock.

The hand of God blesses the church. If the last scene of the Tapestry survived, I would expect a similar hand blessing the crowning of king William.


Edith Godwinsdaughter has been ministering to her husband, holding his cold feet in her lap. She is shown mourning as Edward dies. A servant props his king. Harold kneels before his sovereign - fingers touching again - while Edward utters the fateful words "I commend. . .all the kingdom to your protection." Stigand, at least, swore to the witan later that the king had in fact pronounced a deathbed bequest upon Harold.

The reputation of Edward as one with the gift of prophecy created quite a stir when his final words were spread about: he had accused his people of wickedness and said they were going to witness great destructions for a long time in the land. The fatalstic acceptance of the Anglo-Saxons, for the main part, of the Norman conquest, can be said in part to result from the last judgment of their former king. So great was his reputation and so terrible the misfortunes of England in 1066 that later the people could only sit and wonder. Such rebellions as there were against William died out for lack of any sustained zeal. The memory of a saintly old king's doomful prophesyings, while the pope backed William of Normandy, sapped any real patriotism the English had left.