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This is one of those great scenes, where a whole story is suggested by the figures and setting. Count Guy is seated impressively in comital state, his sheathed sword held conspicuously on his left thigh. He has either given Harold's sword back to him, or presented him with one, perhaps as a gift or sign of honor. One of the Norman guards surrounding the companions of Harold also has his sword unbelted and grounded. A lurking figure to the right behind a post appears to be listening in and must have carried the news of Harold's capture to duke William. The absence of armor of any kind so far in the Tapestry suggests that even guards on duty usually were not required to be fully-armed, a detail that movies seldom follow. Only when a state of war existed would a lord have his men stand to arms in their armor.

Two details stand out for me: Guy's huge battleaxe, and the first example of a garment with strange diamond patterns that he is wearing. The axe is usually associated as the weapon distinctive of the English warrior at this time, particularly the elite housecarles. However, the presence of it here, and in such a formal interview setting, tells me that the long-handled war axe was a sign of authority and not at all uncommon on the continent before the Norman invasion of England. It would be typical of the Normans to use the weapons of their ancestry, and also for the French to adopt such weapons. The difference in their use of the broadaxe is what changed after the Norman conquest. Seeing how the English used it at Hastings impressed them; but more on this later. The diamond-pattern garment is a fashionable statement of position and wealth (both William and his brother Odo are shown wearing them later on). Guy dressed the part of a great lord. I don't believe that it is a form of scale body armor, because no one else is wearing any armor at all; and armor is hardly a peace-time fashion statement.

"Turold" simply has to be the dwarf, and not the name of the knight behind whose back the name appears. There is no reason to include a dwarf here, unless his presence is unique; and the Bayeux Tapestry invariably puts names of characters near or above their heads. Who Turold might have been - aside from one of the three tenants of bishop Odo the earl of Kent - is unknown. He could have been a dwarf, and that would not have made him any less formidable in battle. His status at this time was lowly: he is holding the horses of William's messengers. But after the Conquest he was rewarded. His and Wadard's and Vital's names form a unique group of those few named on the Tapestry: and the theory that these three men of bishop Odo of Bayeux had a direct hand in the creation of the Bayeux Tapestry is one that pleases me.

The borders of the Tapestry have depicted a variety of things, from fables by Aesop (proving not that the Tapestry is of later date, but that scholars are mistaken to state that Aesop's fables only came into England after the First Crusade), mythical creatures, animals of many sorts and one hunting scene so far. But these figures are revealing in several ways. Although the oxe was the prefered draft animal in plowing fields we see an ass and a horse employed here - the fable of the "Ploughman" being alluded to most likely. The ass digs furrows and the horse grades the field smooth. Meanwhile, a slinger brings down a bird in flight - an indication of real skill for a weapon seldom mentioned in the middle ages. The original Latin used to describe "crossbows" could be rendered perhaps to indicate slings and stones instead. There are no crossbows depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry - but slingers are not either, except for this lowly example out hunting. Notice that his released stone is "leading" the target (see the next picture), a depiction of "deflection" shooting which I find remarkable. Let us not forget that David hit Goliath squarely between the eyes. And the Balearic Island slingers that served in Roman armies were trained at home to hit a dinner plate before they could eat. It seems that slingers have always been very good shots. Perhaps they have been scorned by historians. They have this single disadvantage: they cannot fire in depth or dense order. But if a commander wanted a single point or individual hit during a battle, he would be best served by using a humble slinger.


Here are two great depictions of the typical "dragon" emblem used on Norman shields. I especially like the evident punk look of the closer rider. His hair appears to be spiked back in stiff locks, and he seems to be wearing earrings (or a single ring, who can tell); equally plausible, the spiked back hairs could be a representation of riding in great haste. These messengers are another set, not a "flashback" scene. Evidently William had to send ultimatums to count Guy, requiring another brace of messengers to back up the first.

The bear-baiting scene in the border is very cute. The daring swordsman inches forward into range on his knees, shield held out. the bear cannot bite him, being muzzled, but claws are dangerous enough! Again, this little supplementary scene falls in with the main story: William has sent two more messengers, and count Guy is "baiting" William by being stubborn. (Then again, it could be merely another fable.) Eadmer of Canterbury mentions William sending a messenger twice to Guy, or, as the Tapestry depicts, a pair of messengers twice.


The messenger is obviously meant to depict an Englishman - note the mustache. He has explained everything. And as the following scene shows, William wasted no more time on sending messengers, but went with troops to spring Harold from Guy's clutches.

A state of threatening hostilities exists between Normandy and Ponthieu. Lookouts posted in trees watch the border. Rouen is guarded by sentries keeping watch on the walls.

William is depicted for the first time in the Tapestry, sitting in state with his sword upheld like Guy was doing. The details of their thrones, the foot cushions, their clasped cloaks, can reveal far more to us of the appearance of even the most homely items, if we take the time to look. Not being an enthusiast of clothing in history, nevertheless even I notice the "tassles" fastened just below the duke's knees. This lord is sitting in state and the details of his ducal trappings have been carefully executed in this introductory scene of the Bayeux Tapestry's central character.