Clubs & Maces in the Bayeux Tapestry

P.J. Thorne analyses the symbolism contained within the famed 11th-century embroidered tapestry.

The designer of the Bayeux Tapestry shows his leading characters carrying a variety of insignia to denote their authority. These include not only the sceptres of Edward and Harold, and the swords which William and Guy of Ponthieu hold upright when seated on their thrones, but also the clubs, axes, and spears which are being used for ceremonial rather than warlike purposes. Maces appear in three episodes but they do not yet seem to have acquired their later ceremonial significance.

With one exception, the designer does not identify any of these emblems or weapons as the distinguishing mark of any particular individual. In two successive scenes, for instance, Harold is shown enthroned and wearing his crown: but in one he has a sceptre and in the other a spear (which may have been the Sacred Lance given to King Athelstan); and in the preceding scene he is holding an axe when he is being offered the crown.

To continue reading this article you will need to purchase access to the online archive.

Buy Online Access  Buy Print & Archive Subscription

If you have already purchased access, or are a print & archive subscriber, please ensure you are logged in.

Please email if you have any problems.