When teaching kids about the Bayeux Tapestry, it's important to convey that historical facts can be elusive. Even for recent events, facts are sometimes difficult to establish, so events and artifacts from as long ago as the middle ages can be shrouded in rumour, errors, propaganda and other misrepresentation. History is a dynamic subject and new findings are always colouring new interpretations of past events.
What it is
One of the first things to explain to children about the Bayeux Tapestry is that it is not actually a tapestry. A tapestry is a woven form of textile art, whereas the Bayeux Tapestry is embroidered, or sewn. It is essentially a commemorative work of art in honour of William, Duke of Normandy, who became knows as William the Conqueror. Created in the 11th century, the Bayeux Tapestry is roughly 70 metres in length and half a metre wide.
Why it exists
History is written by the victors, so the saying has it. In other words, the people who win wars or are victorious in other ways have good reason to document their triumphs. This is why the Bayeux Tapestry exists. According to BBC History, it is reasonably clear that the Bayeux Tapestry came into existence because Bishop Odo of Bayeux, who was a relative of William the Conqueror, commissioned the work to commemorate the events leading up to the Norman conquest of Britain.
What it shows
In 1066, William, Duke of Normandy organised a large invasion fleet in readiness for an attack on England. Armed men supporting William gathered from several parts of France. William led the Norman conquest of England, landing in Pevensey in September. The Bayeux Tapestry depicts events before the invasion, the invasion itself and the Battle of Hastings, including the death of King Harold, who was the monarch before William became king.
According to Middle-ages.org.uk, there are over six hundred people on the Bayeux Tapestry, yet only three of them are women. There are over two hundred horses, indicating just how important horses were in medieval warfare. Over forty ships are shown, which is not surprising considering the work depicts an invasion by sea. Bishop Odo, who commissioned the work, can be seen four times in the tapestry, according to historian Richard Gameson.