Anglo-Saxon Propaganda in the Bayeux Tapestry

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This study details the secret, subversive and sustaining Anglo-Saxon messages encoded in a work of art that purportedly celebrates the Norman French conquest of England. This is a pioneering perspective that no other scholar has brought to the Tapestry.


“[This] is literally an eye-opening study that adds a new and important dimension of meaning to an important visual text. It is also wittily and authentically written. The iconography of the Bayeux Tapestry has been explored in the past almost exclusively from the Norman perspective. The heart of Clermont-Ferrand’s book details previously unnoticed elements in the composition of the story the tapestry tells, and convincingly interprets the social and political meaning of those signs. The author sets out to answer such questions as, “What does it mean that William the Conqueror is never called King?’ and “How are we to ‘read’ Harold Godwinson’s rescue of the Norman soldiers at Couesnon so reminiscent of Christ’s Harrowing of Hell?” (Preface ix), following her suspicions that a subtext underlie the primary text of the tapestry, this being a common feature of medieval texts. She concludes that the tapestry is more about the vanquished Harold, and its patron, Odo, than about the conquering hero. The result is not only a robust sub-text, but a politically subversive text, designed for a very different purpose and a very different audience from that intended for the surface text.” (From the Commendatory Preface) Christine Herold The College of Saint Rose “The Bayeux Tapestry is perhaps the most famous surviving artwork from the medieval period. Its depictions of the events surrounding the victory of William at the Battle of Hastings are familiar to scholars, school children and a broad general public. Yet whilst this remarkable object offers invaluable testimony to this pivotal moment in English history, nine hundred years later it poses two significant questions for the modern viewer. First, where was it made? Secondly - and more intriguing - how was it read? Clermont-Ferrand begins by addressing this first question, for it is the key with which we may hope to unlock the second. Recent art-historical discussions have sought to locate production in either England or Normandy, citing artistic style, linguistic detail and military expertise amongst a range of arguments to build support for each. Building upon this foundation, Clermont-Ferrand argues convincingly for English production - more precisely a Canterbury workshop - under the patronage of the Norman Bishop Odo of Bayeux, Earl of Kent. And it is this dynamic, of a Norman propaganda piece made by a workshop of the recently subjugated nation, that allows for the possibility of a dual reading of the Tapestry.” - Dr Paul Hardwick, Trinity & All Saints, UK

"Clermont-Ferrand's book makes an essential contribution to the already large corpus of critical analyses about the Bayeux Tapestry."- Prof. Michèle Bacholle-Boškovi?, Eastern Connecticut State University

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Anglo-Saxon World after 1066
The Question of Saxon or Norman Origin
Workshop Methods, Collaborations and the Tapestry
Who’s Who? The Main Characters in the Bayeux Tapestry
Who Said What? The Anglo-Saxon and Norman Chronicles
Harold, D?m and Normandy
Harold and the Beowulf Legend
Harold II’s Coronation and the Throne of England
Comets, Vikings, and the Norman Invasion
The Battle of Hastings and the Tapestry’s Norman War Technology
Interfecit, Mordor, Murdrum and William’s Murder of the King
Odo, Patronage and Pelèrinage: The Dissemination of the Tapestry’s Anglo-Saxon Subtext

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