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Women on the Bayeux Tapestry

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message 1: by Carol (new)

Carol McGrath (carolmcgrath) | 158 comments Mod
There are only three women depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry. One is the mysterious woman named as Aelgiva placed beside a monk who reaches towards her face. Below in the border there is sexual imagery. Harold has just made his infamous promise to William Who is she? The second is probably Edith, wife of Edward the Confessor. She is present at the death - bed scene and the third is fleeing from a burning house on the eve of The Battle of Hastings. They are probably all royal women so who is she? Could she be Edith Swan-Neck with her small son Ulf? What do you think?


message 2: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen I guess it depends on who actually had the Tapestry made..Was it Odo or his followers?
If a Norman commissioned it would they want to represent Edith fleeing a burning building? It would make sense for it to be her but wouldn't that have been a negative scene to put in it?
Edith the wife of the Confessor in the death bed scene makes sense.


message 3: by Carol (new)

Carol McGrath (carolmcgrath) | 158 comments Mod
I think it could be argued that Odo commissioned the Tapestry but that it was made in England in at least two locations. Canterbury was where it was designed and then there were workshops in several places, Wilton is one such. At a British Museum Conference on it some years ago this point was made on the basis of differences in the panels . There are joins etc. I will look that up and come back to it later. The fleeing the burning house could be ambiguous. The Normans had no love for family Godwinson. The sons rebelled, attacked England, plotted with the king of Denmark. The youngest Ulf , only a child was taken as hostage to Normandy where he remained for twenty three years. He was released by Robert Cuthorse after William's death. So you see that the tapestry could show Edith Swan-Neck in flight but, equally, the intention could be a more general representation of flight prior to Battle. However, the haste with which Harold rushed to the south coast after Stamford Bridge is said to have been because his personal estates were attacked. He could have put Leofwine his brother in charge of the campaign. He had a wound to his leg for a start from the Northern fight, was not terrifically fit at Hastings. There is so much we just do not know but it is interesting to make informed speculations. I adore mysteries.


message 4: by Carol (new)

Carol McGrath (carolmcgrath) | 158 comments Mod
And, of course, the scene is negative no matter who the mysterious woman really is.


message 5: by Helen (new)

Helen Hollick (helenhollick) I made Aelgiva one of William's daughters in my novel Harold the King, based purely on a novelist's view. Logically, William would have offered one of his daughters to Harold in marriage, to cement his loyalty, it therefore fitted well that the daughter would have objected & had been reminded of her duty by the monk (who was very probably Odo)
That's the nice thing about writing historical fiction, you can make things up where there is no firm proof - as long as they are plausible.


message 6: by Helen (new)

Helen Hollick (helenhollick) By the way the scene isn't necessarily negative. The priest could just as easily be caressing the woman as reprimanding her. Perhaps she was Odo’s lover/mistress/wife. Why she is there we don’t know – maybe she was supporting Odo, had some interest or influence in the events that were happening?


message 7: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen I was referring to the burning house and woman and child fleeing as having a negative connotation as the Normans would have attacked his estate..do you think the other mystery woman with the monk is the same? I thought they were 3 different women..
mysteries are fun..


message 8: by Carol (new)

Carol McGrath (carolmcgrath) | 158 comments Mod
I think it is open season frankly. Helen could be right. I know you have this theory, Helen. Equally, it may simply be an old story that reflects badly on the House of Cedric , the English Royal House, suggesting that Edgar the Aethling's father was in fact illegitimate and therefore Edgar Aethling's father was not a true inheritor of England. Edgar Aething's grandmother possibly had an affair with a churchman. I sort of go with this smear on the House of Cedric from which King Edward came. This vignette did come after 'the promise' scene thus giving further weight to Duke William's claim to the throne. Remember this is few years before Harold Godwinson was elected king. As for The Burning House, I did realise what you meant, Kathleen. I am not sure that the Normans would actually have cared if it gave a bad impression, should it have represented Edith Swan-Neck.

Of course, in The Handfasted Wife I am writing fiction so I am being speculative there. I throw out ideas to make us think but I do use historical records where they firmly exists. Looking at the provenance of a source is really interesting too though they still provide those tantalising mysteries.


message 9: by Helen (new)

Helen Hollick (helenhollick) My fault I assumed the "negative" referred to Aelfgiva and the monk. I don't think the woman in the burning house was Edyth Swanneck - she was too important a person for one thing, would have been taken prisoner as a hostage, not left to burn inside a house - although on the other hand, this scene could be suggesting that the burning house was Harold's own manor. Personally, I think Edyth would not have been left anywhere near where William could have got at her or Harold's sons - Harold well knew what the Duke was capable of! Had she been in Sussex she would have been whisked away as soon as William landed. Plus, I firmly believe that she was in Essex (at her home of Nazeing or at Waltham Abbey, where she returned when Harold took Alditha as his Christian-blessed wife.) I base my theory on the fact that Harold went to Waltham Abbey before marching to Sussex. Why did he go out of his way when he was in such a hurry to block William? Yes Waltham Abbey was important to him - but Westminster would have been even more important. However if he went to say goodbye to Edyth, this detour makes sense.


message 10: by Carol (new)

Carol McGrath (carolmcgrath) | 158 comments Mod
It isn't the way I wrote The Handfasted Wife which is a novel not a biography and , of course, your theory is as possible as any other, indeed. This is the interesting nature of discussion. We must get your book on the shelf here too this month.


message 11: by Martin (new)

Martin Lake (goodreadscommartin_lake) | 14 comments It is fascinating how many interpretations we can give to the historic documents, including the tapestry. I am intrigued that although it was intended as a work of propaganda it was as you say, Carol, probably made by Englishwomen. Were they tempted to put in an alternative view at all? There do appear to be some fragments missing at the end. Were these excised at the command of Odo? Perhaps we should all write a book called Da Odo Code.


message 12: by Kathleen (last edited Jun 09, 2013 03:41PM) (new)

Kathleen Helen's books were just wonderful, can't wait for the 3rd one..I was not doing so much reviewing then and was just starting my blog. I adored her book on Emma.

Actually all the books about Emma that I have read I enjoyed and each gave me a different perspective.She was a very strong and resiliant person and definitely dealt well with the hand she was dealt.


message 13: by Carol (new)

Carol McGrath (carolmcgrath) | 158 comments Mod
I have to read Helen's Emma story and will read that soon. She was a fabulous character. Have you read Queen Emma and Queen Edith, Pauline Stafford. It is factual, autobiographical and very good too. We shall put Helen's books up here today on the virtual book shelf for sure.


message 14: by Carol (new)

Carol McGrath (carolmcgrath) | 158 comments Mod
I think there is a panel missing at the end of the tapestry too of course. Logically it should show William's coronation. So did Odo who fell out with William and who was imprisoned have it removed on his release. Who knows? It would certainly make a good da Odo Code. There are so many mysteries re The Bayeux Tapestry. Sometimes Trevor Rowley who has just written a book on Odo runs a course in Oxford on The Tapestry . It is excellent. I admit I based my burning house theory on Andrew Bridgeford who wrote a book about it. If you google him you should find it. I shall look it up and post the title. May be the Hidden Messages in The Bayeux Tapestry. I also used Carola Hicks analysis which suggests some panels were made at Winchester or Wilton and that Dowager Queen Edith was behind it all. I incorporated this notion into the Handfasted Wife. Best of all is the British Museum book on the tapestry, a compilation of lectures given at a conference around six years ago. It was a terrific conference. Inspiring.


message 15: by Martin (new)

Martin Lake (goodreadscommartin_lake) | 14 comments It's a tribute to your book Carol that I rooted for some characters (I always think, would I like to spend a few hours in a bar with them) and loathed others. I wasn't keen on Queen Edith as you depicted her. Far too willing to comply with the changed order.

Ooh, on another note, does anyone know what the English and Normans would have called the resistors in the woods. The word silvatici sounds Latin to me.


message 16: by Carol (new)

Carol McGrath (carolmcgrath) | 158 comments Mod
The Norman Chroniclers used it. They wrote in Latin. It was used by Oderic Vitalis I think and that was where I got it, from Norman Chronicles. I read everything primary ie within 100years of Conquest. I must find out the English term though. It will be something else perhaps. Good question.

Must look at AS Chronicles. I think Edith is not entirely dislike able. Pragmatic, always pro Norman. She really did help with the settlement re her mother. I read this too and must check which chronicle. Will post if I find which one. But she is the wicked Queen of the piece in a way. I love Gytha. now, I wonder what you think of Count Alan because he is big in my second book in the trilogy!


message 17: by Martin (new)

Martin Lake (goodreadscommartin_lake) | 14 comments Count Alan is one of the arch-villains in my second book, 'Wasteland.' He benefited greatly from William's harrying of the north, ending up as one of the ten richest men who have ever lived. (I think William and Odo were 4th and 6th.)


message 18: by Carol (new)

Carol McGrath (carolmcgrath) | 158 comments Mod
Oh now I have to read it, absolutely have to. You know there is new research suggesting he eloped with Gunnhild in the 1070s not later. She took up with his brother after his death in 1089. In my second book I do imagine Gunnhild at Castle Richmond and maybe a tad disappointed with the elopement. And the marriage. The research in Haskins Journal suggests that they had a daughter, Maud who married William D'Aincourt of Lincoln. Do you know anything about this story?


message 19: by Carol (new)

Carol McGrath (carolmcgrath) | 158 comments Mod
Oh I meant to say that Richard Sharpe in Haskins Journal thought that maybe the Anselm letters referred to Alan's half brother also called Alan and who inherited Richmond. That was when she was told to go back to Wilton. All this is so long ago that it is hard to work out historical truths but these events make fabulous stories.


message 20: by Carol (new)

Carol McGrath (carolmcgrath) | 158 comments Mod
It was Andrew Bridgeford who wrote so well about The Bayeux Tapestry and about the House that Burned. I think it is open season with theories about women in the tapestry. I think that there are some superb theories about them. What do you think? Join in please.


message 21: by Paula (last edited Jun 10, 2013 02:54PM) (new)

Paula Lofting (paulalofting) | 40 comments Carol wrote: "There are only three women depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry. One is the mysterious woman named as Aelgiva placed beside a monk who reaches towards her face. Below in the border there is sexual image..."

Hi Carol, this is a theory that Andrew Bridgeford put forward and I think its quite a plausible one!It would explain why Ulf was in William's custody and perhaps she was taken to the battlefield to identify Harold's body. I'm sort of baffled about how or why she would have been in Sussex. Like Helen says, i dont think Harold would have wanted her to be anywhere near the Sussex Coast whilst he marched North. But who knows what might have happened. It's certainly plausible


message 22: by Carol (new)

Carol McGrath (carolmcgrath) | 158 comments Mod
I think the fact she had title to a great deal of land means she could have been anywhere . If she is Edgyth the Fair of Domesday probably she moved around. They did move around estates. The Nazing idea is because there is the Godwin connection with Waltham Abbey and Nazing is recorded in Domesday too. Harold evidently did marry a second time that year. Why should she necessarily be at Nazing particularly if she had estates and two houses in Canterbury. Look at my blog on Edith Swan-Neck. I have quoted from Domesday. There is a lot of romantic legend around Edith Swan-Neck and Harold. Most of this was instilled into us by Victorians viewing the period romantically. One such was Edward Bulmer- Lytton . I don't dispute the romance. Simply we don't know. I have read all the books on the Tapestry and found Bridgeford very plausible. I also have seen for myself in John of Wocester chronicle entry re Ulf and his long captivity. He was knighted after William's death and freed by Robert Cuthose. Not sure myself exactly when Ulf was taken. But the Bridgeford idea certainly appeals and that vignette on the Tapestry inspired The Handfasted Wife. I do know when Ulf was released as it is recorded even though I view much of early primary source material with cynicism. It contained agendas. So really we do not know. And, of course, I think novelists are not historians and sure, spin away, take an idea whether Nazing or Reredfelle or Crowhurst and run with it. But preserve whatever atmosphere that is faithful to the historical era that you can via research as a writer of fiction.


message 23: by Carol (new)

Carol McGrath (carolmcgrath) | 158 comments Mod
One wonders exactly where Harold's new wife Algyth was on the eve of Hastings. She could have been at Nazing, in the North or at Chester. Nazing indeed is the popular Edith Swan-Neck residence. It is just not necessarily where she was that year following Harold's coronation. Equally, although Waltham is very significant where is there a chronicle entry that even suggests she ever lived there? It comes out of traditional legend. And it especially is a story loved by Victorians. Yet it is , of course, possible too.


message 24: by Martin (last edited Jun 10, 2013 09:18PM) (new)

Martin Lake (goodreadscommartin_lake) | 14 comments Carol wrote: "Oh now I have to read it, absolutely have to. You know there is new research suggesting he eloped with Gunnhild in the 1070s not later. She took up with his brother after his death in 1089. In my s..."

Carol wrote: "Oh now I have to read it, absolutely have to. You know there is new research suggesting he eloped with Gunnhild in the 1070s not later. She took up with his brother after his death in 1089. In my s..."

I think that an elopement date in the 1070's is more realistic. It was a time made for such acts and Alan would have been keen to have a high-status English wife. It's a pity that his successor was also called Alan. I have a lot of trouble choosing my characters' fictional names and it is made worse by the paucity of choices which the people of that time selected from. I think I shall call Alan Niger Alain to differentiate. Maud is another example of a very popular name.

Yes please do read my books. Reading yours gave me fresh perspectives and insights which is always helpful.


message 25: by Carol (new)

Carol McGrath (carolmcgrath) | 158 comments Mod
I call the half brother, for that is his status, Niall as it is a Celtic version of Black and he is Breton as you know . Why not use this too! As long as one explains in a fictive way as I did re Elditha or in notes fine. This is fiction we are writing, informed for sure but it is story telling. Shall have to read the book.


message 26: by Carol (new)

Carol McGrath (carolmcgrath) | 158 comments Mod
Oh and I am convinced re the elopement date and that the Anselm letters refer to the second Alain, Niall in my version.


message 27: by Martin (new)

Martin Lake (goodreadscommartin_lake) | 14 comments Carol wrote: "Oh and I am convinced re the elopement date and that the Anselm letters refer to the second Alain, Niall in my version."

It's clever to use the Breton version.


message 28: by Paula (new)

Paula Lofting (paulalofting) | 40 comments I did a 6 part series of an investigation into the identity of Aflgyva on my Sons of the Wolf blog. I came up with the conclusion that the woman they must have been referring to was Alfgifu of Northampton. Why she was involved in the plot is a mystery though and I had a very controversial idea why.


message 29: by Carol (new)

Carol McGrath (carolmcgrath) | 158 comments Mod
I think that is the most popular theory. Either that or the Odo one suggested by Helen.


message 30: by Helen (new)

Helen Hollick (helenhollick) Kathleen wrote: "Helen's books were just wonderful, can't wait for the 3rd one..I was not doing so much reviewing then and was just starting my blog. I adored her book on Emma.

Actually all the books about Emma th..."


Thank you Kathleen. I will get around to the 3rd book one day.....


message 31: by Paula (new)

Paula Lofting (paulalofting) | 40 comments Hi Helen, great to see you here!


message 32: by Paula (new)

Paula Lofting (paulalofting) | 40 comments Carol wrote: "I think it could be argued that Odo commissioned the Tapestry but that it was made in England in at least two locations. Canterbury was where it was designed and then there were workshops in severa..."

Harold had a wounded leg? That's really interesting. could i ask what the source was for that Carol?


message 33: by Carol (new)

Carol McGrath (carolmcgrath) | 158 comments Mod
It is mentioned in quite a few secondary sources and if you look in Harriet Harvey-wood you might get the primary source. I am here in the Mani without my library. I shall look in July. Not in Barlow . Could be mythical like so much else. I shall try to put Harriet's book on the bookshelf. It is a paperback.


message 34: by Paula (new)

Paula Lofting (paulalofting) | 40 comments Oh right yes I've read her book sometime ago. I know that he recieved a nasty hit to the leg by a sword as according to the BT but I wasnt aware about the wound from Stamford. I wouldnt be surprised though. A lot of them would have had wounds. It would be doubtful to go that long fighting without getting something even if it was just a scratch!


message 35: by Carol (new)

Carol McGrath (carolmcgrath) | 158 comments Mod
I think they are one and the same. It is mentioned in a few sources I have at home.


message 36: by Carol (new)

Carol McGrath (carolmcgrath) | 158 comments Mod
Actually, the sources, primary ones are not necessarily what really happened. The Tapestry is an amalgamation of The Carmen and Poitiers. This is what Barlow goes into great length about in his notes in the back of his translation of The Carmen. I think though we can safely say that Harold took a wound to his leg, thigh possibly at Stamford but positivity is difficult.


message 37: by Zoe (last edited Jul 07, 2013 11:31PM) (new)

Zoe Porphyrogenita | 157 comments As Carol already knows, Alan Rufus and his family are an interest of mine. Is there any witness to his bearing some guilt for the Harrying? The record suggests that he had, if anything, a fondness for the English. After the first northern rebellion, he was granted extensive lands in Yorkshire, so he must have helped defeat it, but what's odd is that he retained the old English lords.
Orderic Vitalis condemned King William for the subsequent Harrying (1069-1070), in which I read Bishop Odo played a major role, but Orderic is full of praise for Alan's decency: "He was ever studious for peace, a great lover of the poor, and an especial honorer of the religious; his death without issue occasioned no little sadness to the people".
Edwin and Morcar couldn't stand the ill-treatment of their people so they rebelled in 1071. After their defeat, Alan obtained a swathe of Edwin's towns, incorporated them into his "Land of Count Alan" and distributed the lordships among his brothers Ribald and Bodin, a brother-in-law Enisant Musard, and other Bretons. However, he also arranged for some Englishmen to be promoted to tenant-in-chief.
To compound the puzzle, Alan excluded Bishop Odo completely from his territory, restricted King William's claims to Ainderby Steeple, and allowed no other Norman lords to hold any land in his territory.
Alan's heirs portrayed the concession of Richmondshire as given, reluctantly, by a King who was surrounded by Breton knights.
Anselm is clear that Alan's and Gunnhild's love was mutual. Alan acquired much of Gunnhild's mother's, Edeva the Fair's, land in East Anglia.
Matilda d'Ayncourt was said, prior to Richard Sharpe's proposal, to be Alan's sister, and to have married in Bourn, Cambridgeshire in 1065. At that time, Almer of Bourn was the town's lord, and Edeva was its Overlord. Alan retained Almer and gave him additional towns. It would seem that Alan was well-acquainted with Edeva, and that he favoured her men.
Draw what conclusions you may.


message 38: by Carol (new)

Carol McGrath (carolmcgrath) | 158 comments Mod
Thank you Zoe for commenting. I think Alan could well have known Edith Swan-Neck, and they were all nobles together after all. It is likely that Alan did love Gunnhild but also odd that she took up with his brother after his death , odd too, that there appears to be no other marriage for Alan or his brother. And have you read the Haskins entry. What do you think of that. It also uses land as a background too. I guess there are various ways to read his extensive land grants though certainly he did retain a number of English sub tenants and there were a lot of Bretons too. Have read the Domesday entry. Then two brothers one after the other inherit all!


message 39: by Paula (new)

Paula Lofting (paulalofting) | 40 comments Zoe wrote: "As Carol already knows, Alan Rufus and his family are an interest of mine. Is there any witness to his bearing some guilt for the Harrying? The record suggests that he had, if anything, a fondness ..."

Its a very interesting story and the remarks made by Orderic are very poignant. I wonder though, how Orderic knows that Alan was well loved, especially when he had spent so little time in the country of his mother's birth (i think he may have been born in England himself). But if we believe he had good reason to disparage William, I suppose we should believe that he was right about Alan


message 40: by Carol (new)

Carol McGrath (carolmcgrath) | 158 comments Mod
http://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot...

This is a link to my blog today on how it is possible that panels of the tapestry were made at Wilton Abbey.


message 41: by Carol (new)

Carol McGrath (carolmcgrath) | 158 comments Mod
Ah Paula, I do agree and Oderic was writing after the events. However I have looked at land tenure too and yes, he kept on Saxon/Norse lords in the north and I like to think he was clever about how he handled the north after the harrowing. That does not mean to say his relationship with Gunnhild was a successful one. She did take up with his brother. Maybe, as Zoe told me, Alan (Niall in my story) Alan's black-haired half brother was Launcelot to her Guinivere. I do use this notion in my new book. Thank you Zoe and Paula. You are both inspiring me here!


message 42: by Paula (new)

Paula Lofting (paulalofting) | 40 comments Wow! thats interesting! Thats going to make for some really decent author material!!! Carol, you have to write this!


message 43: by Paula (new)

Paula Lofting (paulalofting) | 40 comments Carol wrote: "http://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot...

This is a link to my blog today on how it is possible that panels of the tapestry were made at Wilton Abbey."


Carola Hicks I think-dont quote me- believes Queen Edith had something to do with its making


message 44: by Carol (new)

Carol McGrath (carolmcgrath) | 158 comments Mod
Yes I used her too when writing The Handfasted Wife. Excellent.


message 45: by Carol (new)

Carol McGrath (carolmcgrath) | 158 comments Mod
And I have already written 90 per cent of the first draft in this way of Gunnhild and Alan and Niall.


message 46: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen The Blog was very very good reading.. excited about the new book.. (Paula's also)


message 47: by Carol (new)

Carol McGrath (carolmcgrath) | 158 comments Mod
Me too. And Zoe has given me so much too for it. Very excited. Paula's story is excellent so I look forward to the next part. I have also been reading and have loved Peaceweaver. Put it on the book shelf and must add some more 1066 books too.


message 48: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen Along those lines Carol..Maureen Ash's newest that I am very much enjoying.. it is quite reasonable.. I read the sample from Amazon and then had to have it..
"It is 1087, twenty-one years after the Battle of Hastings, and William the Conqueror is dying. On his deathbed, the aging monarch surprises all of Christendom by dividing his patrimony, leaving his eldest son, Robert Curthose, only the Duchy of Normandy, and bequeathing his hard-won throne of England to his second son, William Rufus. Curthose, enraged that his father has deprived him of the better part of his inheritance, plunges the island kingdom into war as he and his uncle, the Earl of Kent, attempt to wrest the crown from Rufus’ head.

Robert fitzHaimo, faithful companion to Rufus since the days of their childhood, is at his lord’s side as the conflict rages across the south of England. His tale is told through the eyes of a Saxon monk, the story of a turbulent era when betrayal was far more common than honour and, so it was said, the devil stole the soul of a king "


message 49: by Kathleen (last edited Jul 09, 2013 02:19PM) (new)

Kathleen Actually it can be lent to someone? Amazon just informed me..Carol would you like to borrow it?


message 50: by Paula (new)

Paula Lofting (paulalofting) | 40 comments I loved the blog post Carol. Lots in there that I didn't know but do now!


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