Lawyers Write History: The Mystery of the Bayeux Tapestry

The mysteries of the Bayeux Tapestry, which depicts the Battle of Hastings in 1066, have been uncovered by a lawyer and writer. Photo credit: V. Laino
The mysteries of the Bayeux Tapestry, which depicts the Battle of Hastings in 1066, have been uncovered by a lawyer and writer. Photo credit: V. Laino

William the Conqueror, the Battle of Hastings, and the Lawyer Writer who Figured It All Out

As some in the legal community contemplate the transferability of skills they picked up in law school—as gainful employment upon graduation does not always turn out quite as one would want it to—some lawyers have already put sharpened research and writing skills to good use in nonlegal contexts. Consider, for instance, the extensively researched book 1066: The Hidden History in the Bayeux Tapestry by lawyer and writer Andrew Bridgeford.

The Bayeux Tapestry,  a 270-feet long piece of cloth residing in France, is a handiwork (although not actually a tapestry, as it turns out, but an embroidery) made almost contemporaneously with the Battle of Hastings in 1066, when William of Normandy managed to conquer England and become its king. Simply the survival of the work, which managed to exist these last thousand years through the Hundred Years’ War, the French Revolution, World War I, and Nazi occupation of France in World War II, is a bit of a mystery, which Bridgeford has looked into at length.

Lawyer and writer Andrew Bridgeford helps the mystery of the Bayeux Tapestry unfold in his well-researched book, 1066: The Hidden History of the Bayeux Tapestry. Photo: Macmillan

Lawyer and writer Andrew Bridgeford helps the mystery of the Bayeux Tapestry unfold in his well-researched book, 1066: The Hidden History of the Bayeux Tapestry. Photo: Macmillan

Lawyer Writer on the Case

Now on display for tourists in Bayeux, France, the Bayeux Tapestry does indeed depict the main players in the buildup and the aftermath of the Battle of Hastings, but the subtext, or rather, the sub-embroidering, relate a more nuanced tale. Who commissioned this work? For what purpose? Are some more minor players given undue prominence here? For what reason? Using clues—the type of material used, the type of thread, the hairstyles of various figures depicted—and primary and secondary sources, Bridgeford has pieced together quite an engaging story about a very old and long piece of cloth.

Far more than a battle of old is shown here. Yes, there are knights in armor, battle scenes, broken oaths, and violent deaths, but there is also information about how life was lived back then, how food was prepared, how people got around. Interestingly enough, a bit of a sex scandal is also woven into this work.

Was the Bayeux Tapestry made by Queen Mathilde, for Queen Mathilde, or by and for others? A lawyer writer finds out. Photo credit: L. Tripoli

Was the Bayeux Tapestry made by Queen Mathilde, for Queen Mathilde, or by and for others? A lawyer writer finds out. Photo credit: L. Tripoli

Legal Skill Set

For writer wannabes who just happen to be lawyers, the success of this work just may be good news. Storytelling skills, research skills, writing skills are all part of a lawyer’s repertoire, and the legal set does seem to be inquisitive by nature. If one lawyer can craft a well-selling book about an old embroidery, perhaps there’s hope for the rest of us.

—Lori Tripoli

Interested in alternative legal careers? You might like this post:

View of Bayeux by Thomas Shotter Boys, 1832

View of Bayeux by Thomas Shotter Boys, 1832

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