The Tapestry is a very useful document to learn about weaponry in the 11th century, and particularly during the Battle of Hastings.
The Tapestry is a very useful document with regard to weaponry in the 11th Century, and particularly during the Battle of Hastings. The combatant shown in the embroidery is a Norman knight. Numerous representations allow us to know about his arms, both defensive and offensive.
The fighter wears a hauberk, which covers his entire body down to the knees, with a slit at the front and back to allow him to ride. The hauberk consists of a leather tunic covered with metal plates of various shapes and secured by rivets; This is what scene 37 suggest, showing the transport of arms onto the boats. It is possible that some fighters wore coats of mail, later more widely used. The head is protected by a conical nasal helmet and the body by an oblong shield.
The knight brandishes his spear, which he uses to bring down his opponent. He wears a sword to his side, which he uses as a last resort in close combat.
Foot soldiers, who were not so well armed, are seldom represented in the Tapestry. The archers however feature twice, at the beginning and at the end of the battle.
The English have the same arms as the Normans, but they are all foot soldiers. Housecarls, handling their axes with both hands, and the Fyrd, composed of farmers, more or less armed.
The Bayeux Tapestry highlights the knights at the expense of the foot soldiers, who in fact played an essential role during the Battle of Hastings.
Pierre Bouet and François Neveux
International experts on the Bayeux tapestry
The Bayeux Tapestry by Pierre Bouet and François Neveux
Hardback due out in October 2013, éditions Ouest France