I highly recommend this book as it's engaging, detailed and flows wonderfully. Hicks has managed to trace the lucky, almost impossibly lucky, path of this most delicate of historical sources and she does it with unusual flair and wry humour.
No one now knows when it was made, who commissioned it or why. The ending of the embroidery is missing, it should show William I being crowned and might have made a judgement on his conquest of England. The captions stitched above the images are abbreviated and frustratingly assume prior knowledge of the events that we just don't have today. It has fascinated art historians and medievalists ever since it was re-discovered by those outside of Bayeux in the eighteenth century. Well, those that haven't criticised it as barbarous for its blue, green, red and yellow horses.
From being used by Napoleon as propaganda when he planned an invasion of Britain to being the subject of plays, being replicated by the good Victorian ladies of Leek to being seen as an Aryan artifact by the Nazis, the tapestry has had a very active life ever since people realised its worth. Hicks walks the reader through the story beginning with how the tapestry was made and likely patrons before moving on to its life in Bayeux Cathedral, being rediscovered, investigated and then treated as a political tool. It reads like fantasy fiction but it is all impeccably researched and true.
I must confess I added this to my stack of library borrowings to round out four books on the battles of 1066 and hopefully lighten the tone, I was doing this book a disservice as it was one of the most interesting history books I've read. I'd added it to my wishlist to buy my own copy by the end of chapter one and my delight only increased with each chapter. If you're at all interested in Anglo-Saxon or Norman history, the roots of the arts and craft movement or even just gender bias in how sources are considered and used by historians, you need to read this book.