Review by Booklist Review
The Bayeux Tapestry, in the French town of Bayeux, draws half a million visitors a year. For more than 900 years it has been kept--and sometimes concealed--in several places around the town. The story of the Norman invasion of England in 1066 is set out in this masterpiece, recounting the Battle of Hastings, culminating in a victory for William the Conqueror and the death of King Harold. Although barely half a metre wide, the tapestry is about 70 metres long, embroidered on a plain linen background in wools of red, yellow, gray, green, and blue. Here are men feasting on birds, drinking from ivory horns, hunting, going to church, and loading provisions onto a ship. Bridgeford posits the quest of his book is to unravel the millennial mysteries of the work, to investigate the true origin and meaning of it, to understand more about the characters who are named in it, and to gain a new insight into some of the darkest events of the Norman Conquest. The result is a fascinating study. --George Cohen Copyright 2005 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
The simple linen background and bright woolen colors of the Bayeux Tapestry have always been interpreted as a French tribute to William the Conqueror, celebrating his victory over England in 1066 with its depiction of soldiers, archers, ships and battles. In an often riveting but ultimately unconvincing revisionist account drawing on the work of other scholars as well as on contemporary accounts of events, Bridgeford, a British lawyer, argues that the tapestry was more likely designed by English monks at St. Augustine's abbey in Canterbury under the direction of Count Eustace of Boulogne. English women, more famous for their embroidery skills than the French, stitched a tapestry containing a covert anti-Norman message. Bridgeford also provides details on minor characters in the tapestry, such as the dwarf Turold-who Bridgeford thinks might have written the medieval French epic poem Chanson de Roland and been the tapestry's patron-and Aelfgyva, the only woman named on the tapestry. While Bridgeford offers a fascinating look into the tapestry and the events it depicts, his language and method are so tentative ("Could it be that...?") that one is left doubting his interpretation. 16 pages of color illus., one map. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Definitely not the Norman version. The Battle of Hastings, in 1066, when the last Anglo Saxon king, Harold, was defeated by William the Conqueror, is one of the world's most commented-upon battles, partly because its effects (the fusion of French and Anglo-Saxon into English, for example) ramify to this day--and partly because it was illustrated by the near-contemporary Bayeux Tapestry, a masterpiece of Medieval art. What is there new to add to the library of references? Bridgeford attempts to overturn at least two old verities about the battle. According to the author, "close observation of the Bayeux Tapestry reveals that it is not a work of Norman propaganda that popular myth would have us believe, but a covert, subtle, and substantial record of the English version of events." He makes a very strong case by comparing real Norman propaganda, which is codified in William of Poitier's The Deeds of Duke William (circa 1070), with the Bayeux's scenes. Scene by scene, the Bayeux tapestry deviates significantly in its sympathetic treatment of Harold from the simple-minded vilification to which he was subjected after his death at Hastings. Bridgeford goes to less used sources, such as Eadmar's The History of Recent Events in England (circa 1090), to understand the images. If he's right, then another supposed fact about the tapestry--that it was commissioned by William's half-brother Odo, the Bishop of Bayeux--seems unlikely. Bridgeford believes, instead, that the tapestry was commissioned by William's occasional ally Count Eustace of Boulogne as a peace offering to Odo, with whom Eustace was often in violent conflict. This is solid historical detective work, enlivened with extensive speculations about the tapestry's mysteries (Bridgeford, for instance, has a fascinating theory about why a dwarf named Turold holds a special place in the story). On sound empirical ground, Bridgeford's work will no doubt generate much heat and some light among students of English history. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.