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William's claim to the crown of England came through his aunt Emma, mother to king Edward. And by a promise Edward made back in 1051, which was before his nephew "Edward the Exile" showed up in England to assume the right to the crown, after the childless king Edward should die. The "Exile's" son Edgar the atheling - the prince - assumed his father's rights. William probably did not try for anything more at this stage than a gamble: you never know your luck unless you try. His best bet was Harold: with such an influential vassal in England, William's chances of a peaceful succession were that much improved. What neither he nor Harold could have foreseen was the adamant refusal of the English magnates, lay and church, to accept Edgar's assumption of the crown. When Harold realized that William would come with force to take up his rights to the crown - should any but Edgar the atheling become king - and that the country would be divided and weakened if they did not all stand behind a single leader: and that he himself was that only leader, he submitted to the will of the royal council and accepted the crown. Foresworn, but with a united people behind him (once, that is, he had convinced the northern earls Edwin and his brother Morcar to accept a Godwinson king, by marrying their sister Edith), Harold prepared to meet the storm. Afterward - he must have thought - he could overcome the stigma with Rome of having violated the most sacred oaths in Christendom: master to vassal, the very fabric which kept the world from coming apart.

This is a clean-shaven crowd. What has become of our mustachioed Englishmen? Harold's prominent mustaches are back, but the crowd of onlookers in the side room are all smooth-faced. Are they meant to represent Normans in the crowd - watching eyes for William? Their stances are with hands raised in a timeless gesture, a shrug as if to say "hey, what gives here?"

Stigand is shown administering the coronation rites. Actually, archbishop Aldred of York was present too. But by showing Stigand, the schismatic and uncanonical archbishop of Canterbury, the Tapestry puts in another dig against the situation in England: Rome wanted to reclaim her wayward flock, and Stigand represented what was going wrong in the English church. In fact, after the conquest, Stigand was deposed and exiled, while Lanfranc was installed in his place. (Stigand lacks a mitre, which fairly dates the Tapestry prior to the 12th century.)

The close connection between Edward's death and Harold's being offered the crown is clear: the man with the crown points back to the dying king, recalling no doubt his last words. The witan in fact would have nothing to do with crowning Edgar the atheling. This forced Harold's hand. He could not stand by, the best man for the job, and witness his country turned over to a king they would all hate. The only alternative was to take the throne and unite his people. They wanted him. Edward had at least made it sound like he too wanted Harold to save them all. He allowed himself to be persuaded, despite all his solemn oaths to William as his friend and vassal. Perhaps there was more than a modicum of ambition in Harold too.

Here we have another scene out of sequence. The reason is obvious with hindsight: after the conquest the prodigy of Halley's comet was remembered as a portent of great changes in kingdoms. To have the man bending Harold's ear taking the role of soothsayer, predicting doom, is conjecture. Since the Tapestry artists have already demonstrated the deliberate expedient of saving effort by reversing the literal sequence of events, it is not unlikely that that is what is happening here. They do not have to depict more than one messenger to William, and none from him to Harold.


The phantom ships in the lower border represent news of the coming Norman invasion, which William already put in motion long before Halley's comet appeared in late April. Certainly by then William had sent envoys to remonstrate with Harold and offer again the bargain William claimed between them because of Harold's oaths. But Harold refused to give up the crown. Harold's mustache is gone again: did he shave it off as a feeble outward sign to convince William's spies and messengers that he was still the duke's friend and sympathizer? Or am I simply up in the night, and the Tapestry artists just goofed by adding and taking away Harold's 'stache? In any case, he does not appear here or in the coronation scene as anything more grand or larger than life - no royal majesty - and in fact in this last appearance of Harold before the battle of Hastings, he looks off-balanced and sneaky, with his head bent low to hear the latest news about what his enemy William of Normandy is planning against him.

The English ship bears news of Harold's perfidious theft to duke William. If it is the first to come to Normandy since the crowning then it is out of sequence. But since the following scene is the duke ordering ships built for his invasion, this ship here must represent the English envoys returning to the ducal court with Harold's refusal to give up the crown the witan bestowed upon him. If so, then this scene would fall between the comet and Harold being informed of the forthcoming Norman invasion.


The tonsured man at William's left is surely his half-brother bishop Odo. They are conversing with shipwrights (notice the shaping axe in the hands of the man at Odo's left). The workmen are felling trees. The one type of ship William would require that he could not simply find in ports and river mouhts was horse transports. These would have to be built.