The vivid scenes on the thin, 70-metre long linen strip of the Bayeux Tapestry depict the events leading up to the Battle of Hastings in 1066 when William the Conqueror seized the English throne. One of Europe s greatest treasures, it tells a magnificent tale - but as Carola Hicks shows, its own story has been just as dramatic and surprising. From the start there are mysteries and controversies. Who commissionedthe tapestry? Was it Bishop Odo, William s ruthless half-brother? Or anotherambitious lord? Or was it Harold s dynamic sister Edith, widow of Edward the Confessor, juggling for a place in the new court?Hicks makes an entirely new, strong case for Edith, showing us her world and the miracle of the tapestry s making- talented women in convents plying their needles, the stitches and dyes, the strange details in the margins.The tapestry moved from a noble court to Bayeux cathedral where it lay dusty and ignored until its discovery in the eighteenth century, rousing fierce disputes between British and French antiquarians. In the French Revolution, the townsfolk narrowly saved it from destruction, while Napoleon displayed it in Paristo boost his own planned conquest. Nineteen
The Bayeux Tapestry has been a constant fascination throughout Carola Hicks's career.She studied archaeology and art history at Edinburgh University, and then went on to write her PhD thesis on animal decorations in medieval art, including the Bayeux Tapestry. Later, as a research fellow at Cambridge University, she began to look at how Christian art adopted pagan animal themes, and wrote her first book, Animals in Early Medieval Art. When she was Curator of the Stained Glass Museum at Ely, she wrote Discovering Stained Glass. Carola is now Staff Tutor in Art History at the Institute of Continuing Education at Cambridge University, concentrating on nineteenth and twentieth century art. The reception of women's art has become a major interest for her, and in 2001 she wrote the acclaimed Improper Pursuits, a biography of the eighteenth-century artist and designer Lady Di Beauclerk.