Bayeux Tapestry to leave France for first time in 950 years

Updated 18th January 2018
Circa 1090, The Norman army crossing the channel and food being prepared in the Norman conquest of England depicted in the Bayeux tapestry. Original Artwork: The Tapestry of Bayeux - Plate 10 (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Bayeux Tapestry to leave France for first time in 950 years
Written by Oscar Holland, CNN
The Bayeux Tapestry may leave France for the first time in 950 years, as the country considers loaning it for display in Britain.
French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to announce the historic loan at a meeting with UK Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday.
The artwork depicts the Battle of Hastings and the events leading up to William the Conqueror's Norman conquest of England in 1066. Embroidered onto a series of 20-inch-tall linen panels, it concludes with the death of King Harold and the retreat of his army.
"I think it is very significant that the Bayeux Tapestry is going to be coming to the United Kingdom and people are going to be able to see this," British Prime Minister Theresa May said Wednesday when asked about the loan during today's Prime Minister's Questions.
However, during a press conference, Antoine Verney, director of the Bayeux Museum, insisted "nothing is set in stone," and that the feasibility of the loan would be explored in the coming years.
Bayeux mayor Patrick Gomont said that the huge tapestry, which measures approximately 225 feet (69 meters) long, would most likely be loaned in 2023, a year before the reopening of the Bayeux Museum.
Before then, the tapestry will undergo a series of tests, Bayeux Museum spokeswoman Fanny Garbe told CNN.
"We have to see first if it needs some restoration because we don't know -- as it is fragile -- if it can transported," she said.
A section of the Bayeux Tapestry
A section of the Bayeux Tapestry Credit: Courtesy Musée de Bayeux
Although some scholars believe that the Bayeux Tapestry was created in England, it has been housed in Normandy for the last 950 years.
Currently on show at the Bayeux Museum, the artwork has only twice been displayed outside the region -- once when Napoleon ordered the tapestry to be exhibited in Paris as he plotted to invade England, and again in 1944, when then Gestapo took it to the Louvre during the Nazi occupation of France.
A museum in the British town of Reading carries a full-size copy of the artwork. But previous attempts to bring the real artifact to the UK -- for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, and for the 900th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings 13 years later -- have proven unsuccessful.
While the invasion depicted in the tapestry marked a sour point in Anglo-French relations, the loan will be seen as a sign of solidarity between the two nations amid difficult Brexit negotiations.
The announcement is expected during a meeting in which Macron and May will discuss defense arrangements and the plight of migrants hoping to cross the Channel into the UK.
This story has been updated to reflect the latest comments from the Bayeux Museum.