The Bayeux Tapestry is one of the best-known historical artefacts in the world. Probably originating from around the 1070s, it is a finely embroidered cloth, nearly 70 metres (230 ft) in length, that tells the story of the Norman Invasion of England, beginning with King Edward the Confessor, and concluding with the death of King Harold at the Battle of Hastings. The tapestry is now exhibited at the Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux in Bayeux, Normandy, France.
The tapestry contains 70 scenes, the final scene showing English troops fleeing the Hastings battlefield. This ending presents something of a mystery, as it appears that the last part of the tapestry is missing. Nobody really knows what this missing part may have shown, but a number of modern artists have attempted to “complete” the work by creating panels depicting events after Hastings.
In 1997, the embroidery artist Jan Messent created a reconstruction showing William accepting the surrender of English nobles at Berkhamsted.
In 2012, a community project on the Island of Alderney in the Channel Islands began work on an embroidered reproduction of the “missing” Bayeux Tapestry scenes, inspired by the work of Jan Messent. The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall visited Alderney, and took great interest in this unique and ambitious project. In February 2013, the Alderney Tapestry Finale was completed.
The scenes on the Alderney Tapestry Finale are:
- 14 October 1066: Duke William holds a victory banquet, surrounded by the bodies of slaughtered Saxon soldiers;
- Early December 1066: At Berkhamsted (Berchehasteda), the nobles of London surrender (Edwin of Northumbria, Morcar of Mercia, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Archbishop of York and Edgar the Aetheling);
- Christmas Day 1066: William is crowned at Westminster Abbey, and the English acclaim their king;
- Christmas Day 1066: Builders start construction of of the Tower of London; an Anglo-Saxon motto reads “The end will be good, if God willst it”, a quote from the entry for 1066 in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.
Since its completion, the Alderney Tapestry has been displayed at a number of notable locations, including the Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux (under the same roof as the original Bayeux Tapestry), Cambridge University, and the Carpenters’ Hall in London. In 2016, to mark the 950th anniversary of the Norman Conquest, the Alderney Tapestry went on a roadshow to be displayed at historically significant locations in the UK and the Channel Islands, including Battle near Hastings, Guernsey and Jersey.
From 2-5 November 2016, we were privileged to display the Alderney Tapestry in Berkhamsted Civic Centre, and from 7-11 November in the Old Hall at Berkhamsted School, an event that attracted hundreds of visitors and reminded us once again of our fascinating history.
The Alderney Tapestry is now on permanent display at the Alderney Library, and high resolution replicas can also be seen at the Alderney Museum and at the museum in Bayeux. You can also view high-resolution images of the tapestry online on the Alderney Bayeux Tapestry Finale Flickr page.
We are grateful to the Alderney Bayeux Tapestry Finale for their permission to include photographs of the tapestry here.
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A fascinating and colourful account of the Bayeux Tapestry by embroiderer and artist Jan Messent.
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