William and Harold – the sharing of war Ideas.


The pennon on Harold’s spear proclaims him a knight. He had agreed to aid William in his rights in England. In William’s mind he was looking forward to the crown: Harold could not have believed such a thing, and probably felt that he could put William by merely becoming his vassal for certain holdings of his own there. This master-vassal relationship was viewed in France as unbreakable. But in England a thegn or housecarle was obligated to serve as a warrior because he was of the noble caste first. Whether or not he possessed even a single acre of land made no difference. If the king or his earl summoned the freemen to war he went. If he held land in his own right he could take his holding “where he would.” He could choose his own master, and later leave him and choose another. If he held his land from the king, church or an earl, he could renounce his claims at any time and go elsewhere, and nothing was viewed as wrong with that in England. If Harold had any knowledge of the differences of fealty in Normandy, this knighting of his should have sent off warning bells.

The rear of William’s helmet has tassles reserved for commanders. His mail is ornately decorated along the lower border. Although both hauberks appear to have “squared” rings, this is most likely the transition of the artisans from square and diamond patterns to rings, as they increased in familiarity with their work on the Tapestry. Note Harold’s sword scabbard extending below his mail, and the hilt showing through a slit in his armor. His sword belt is worn under his armor, very clearly depicted here.

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