By Dave MacLeod
Last updated 2011-02-17
The tapestry has survived through time by a combination of luck and good judgement. Indeed, its own history tells us much about France at various times. It is assumed that it was displayed in Bayeux for around 700 years after its completion, but it was put at risk at various points. It was nearly used as a tarpaulin to cover ammunition during the French Revolution and was moved around a lot during this time of incessant fighting.
It became a subject of much interest to 19th-century scholars and in 1818 an English draughtsman spent two years inspecting and cataloguing the work of art. This detailed examination included listing every pin-hole, and resulted in a plan for restoration which was completed in Bayeux in 1842.
It had been kept on scrolls for many years and after it was restored the tapestry was displayed under glass. When the Franco-Prussian War broke out in 1870, it was moved again and, later, it was spirited away during the Nazi invasion to prevent it being sent to Berlin like so much other foreign art.
We have seen from our examination of the Bayeux Tapestry how problematic sources can be. History is often like this. What evidence of the past we have, has survived by chance or because it is valued and kept for all sorts of non-historical reasons. Sometimes historians simply don't have enough evidence to be certain about what happened, and must fall back on educated guesswork. Even so, to be good history, whatever account they come up with must fit with what evidence there is.