The beaches of Normandy, France, are synonymous with the greatest amphibious invasion in history when Allied armies surged across the English Channel and began landing on D-Day, 6 June 1944. But the city of Bayeux, set amid these beaches, was the location of another great amphibious expedition, that of William the Conqueror in 1066. He launched his fleet, estimated to have consisted of 400 to 1,000 ships, from this same coast and achieved what Napoleon and Hitler later could only dream about: the conquest of England.
While thousands of photographs and newsreels document the 1944 invasion, only the 11th-century Bayeux Tapestry remains to record this historic event and the “dragon ships” that carried William’s army. Visitors to the Bayeux Tapestry Museum in the eponymous city will see the fragile 230-foot embroidery (it is, in fact, not a tapestry) displayed in a graceful darkened chamber. Its now-unknown embroiderers, stitching with eight colors of wool on linen fabric, depicted in detail the pivotal Battle of Hastings and the two years of diplomacy, political intrigue, and oath-breaking that preceded it.