The characters

The Bayeux Tapestry depicts some 600 characters.

 

Some 600 different characters are depicted in the central panel of the Bayeux Tapestry, including three women and three children. Most characters are not identified, but fifteen key characters are, and have their names written in Latin.

 

Characters  Representation  Naming 
Harold, Earl of wessex, then King of England  27  21
William, Duke of Normandy  23  19
Edward, King of England  05  04
Guy of Ponthieu  05  03
Odo, Bishop of Bayeux  04  02
Stigand, Archbishop of Canterbury  02 ?  01
Conan, Duke of Brittany  02  02
Robert, Count of Mortain  02 ?  01
Turold  01  01
Wadard  01  01
Vital  01  01
Eustache de Boulogne ?  01  01
Aelfgyva  01  01
Gyrth  01  01
Leofwine  01  01

 

To help with the identification of characters, the artis has added significant features, such as crowns for kings. Edward wears the same crown on his deathbed, which is conventional in medieval iconography. In the same way, William can be recognised on the battle field by the staff he is holding. The artis has clearly distinguished the English from the Continentals; The first wear a moustache and long hair, the others wear their hair short.

Aside these identified figures, most of the depicted characters are soldiers, dressed in civilian clothes or military uniforms. They generally carry spears, sword or shields. A few craftsmen - woodcutters and carpenters - are working on the construction of boats. Many servants go about their tasks. A number of clerics can also be distinguished by their tonsure and sometimes their ornaments.

The three women depicted in the Tapestry are Aelfgyva (maybe one of William's daughters, engaged to Harold), Edith (sister of Harold and wife of Edward) and an English aristocrat whose house is being burned down; Only three children are represented : two altar boys, present at Eward's burial and the son of the aristocrat evicted by the Normans.

 

Pierre Bouet and François Neveux
International experts on the Bayeux tapestry

 

Further reading:

The Bayeux Tapestry by Pierre Bouet and François Neveux
Hardback due out in October 2013, éditions Ouest France