Odo and the Bayeux Tapestry
The Bayeux Tapestry
Odo was given the Rape of Kent, which included Dover and Canterbury. This greatly irritated Eustace of Boulogne, the one-time vassal of Edward the Confessor, who obviously thought that he had a prior claim on Dover and resented it being given to Odo. He tried to seize the town, but was beaten off by the locals and fled back to Boulogne at the approach of Odo and his men.
We know a great deal about Odo because until his fall from grace in 1082, he acted as regent of England whenever William was out of the country: first in conjunction with William fitzOsbern, then as sole regent after fitzOsbern's death in 1071. It was he who commissioned the Bayeux Tapestry, as a monument to his half-brother's achievement that was intended for display in his new cathedral at Bayeux.
The Bayeux Tapestry was actually made in Canterbury, and the story it tells follows the tradition followed by the chronicles in the Canterbury archive. It not only depicts Odo himself, several times, but also some of his most prominent personal retainers, whose lands can be traced in post-Conquest England. Vitalis of Canterbury, the man who brought news of Harold's approach to Hastings, was a prominent landholder in the Whitstable area north of Canterbury, and was friends with Wadard, depicted organising supplies for the landing on the Bayeux Tapestry. Turold, the man on the Tapestry who brought William's message to Count Guy of Ponthieu, became castellan of Rochester and was one of Odo's most trusted men and powerful tenants.
Odo was arguably the most powerful man in England after the King, with lands throughout England, but his main power base lay in Kent. His position there inevitably put him into conflict with the other great landowner of the area, the Archbishop of Canterbury. This developed into a personal feud between Odo and Lanfranc, the Archbishop after 1070, which was waged largely through the law courts. Great land disputes such as the epic three-day Trial of Penenden Heath saw these two great magnates vying with one another for control of Kentish land. In this trial, Turold is named as one of the agents of Odo most responsible for seizing land on his behalf. Turold ultimately became Constable of Bayeux, but the fortunes of his family were so intimately tied with those of Odo that it fell along with Odo at the end of his career.
Odo's fall was a long and protracted one. It began in 1082, when he attempted to take several Norman barons to Italy with him in a bid to buy the papacy. William could not allow this to happen, and with the help of Lanfranc, tried and imprisoned Odo for sedition. He was never reconciled with his half-brother, and Odo was only released after William's death. He repaid the generosity of the new King, William 'Rufus', by leading a revolt of the barons in favour of Rufus's brother, Robert. Rufus savagely suppressed this revolt and besieged Odo in Rochester Castle. In a fitting end to his career in England, when Odo surrendered he came out of the castle to the jeers of his English subjects demanding the hangman's noose. He was exiled and died on crusade with Robert in 1097.