An astonishing solution has emerged to a mystery that has long vexed historians of the Battle of Hastings in 1066. A recently rediscovered memoir by Aelfflaed the Badger-Legged, one of the nuns who embroidered the Bayeux Tapestry on the orders of Bishop Odo of Bayeux, conclusively proves that England’s last Saxon king Harold II is actually the figure being cut down by a Norman knight on horseback, while the figure next to him with an arrow in his eye is a ‘tapestrybomb’.
‘I had just finished sewing the words Harold Rex Interfectus Est – King Harold is killed – when in sauntered that joker Count Guy de Lussignac in full armour,’ states Aelfflaed, who was 17 at the time, translated from the Latin by Professor Stuart Hudson of the University of Durham. ‘He saw what we were doing, then staggered about clutching at a pretend arrow, saying “Ecce puellae, Harold Rex sum”.
‘As he had perjured his oath to let William have the throne, Harold was meant to die that way, you see. I imagine all this loses something in translation from Norman French but it was really funny at the time. I giggled so much next Complines I nearly wet my sackcloth. Anyway, Beornwyn the Fair, who was the fastest stitcher in the convent, asked him to keep still then did a quick picture of him to fill the gap. Sorry for any confusion.’
The memoir, scribbled on the back of a manorial court roll, also clears up many other uncertainties about the Norman Conquest. Gryphons were put into the tapestry ‘for a laugh’, while two anatomically correct naked men were the work of Eadgifu Chafed-Neck ‘who was like a total slag before she took her vows’. And early plans to pick out the Saxons by sewing in tiny balls of glass were abandoned after another nun Editha de Spooner, said she had seen a sign in the nearby park saying ‘Please do not bead the fyrds’.
Professor Hudson has, however, poured scorn on suggestions that an even earlier form of ‘paintingbomb’ has been identified in the famous cave paintings at Altamira in Northern Spain. ‘I’m no expert on Neolithic art,’ he said, ‘but just look at those bulls and mammoths running away from left to right while the caveman stares straight back at you waving his spear in the air. That’s a selfie if I ever saw one.’