Monsieur Macron seems to have blessed us with a visitation of the Bayeux Tapestry, which must be classed as the world’s first (and longest) comic strip. I have seen it going round the walls of the Musée de la Tapisserie, in Bayeux. It is stunning. And it is truly stunning that, after the roughing up the UK has gotten over its EU withdrawal, post-referendum, we are being lent this truly great objet d’art.
On Radio 4’s Today programme, it was suggested that we might want to loan the Rosetta Stone in return, dug up in Egypt by a French Army officer, Pierre-François Bouchard at the end of the 18th century, and captured by Britain soon after in the wars against Napoleon.
I loved seeing the Bayeux Tapestry on all the occasions I hitched, cycled, trained or drove to Normandy
It’s funny how having guns and armies allows you to pick things up in one vicinity of the Earth, really Egyptian through and through, and for them to become something we now associate with our national treasure.
Napoleon’s greatest piece of thievery – but then again, he did have the legitimacy of ‘might’ on his side – was probably the nicking of da Vinci’s Mona Lisa from what later became the country of Italy. The Louvre is full of stolen goods, although, like most European nations, their museums would be empty without plunder. Our own plundering, via bargain deals made with occupiers, is much in evidence at our own museums, so we don’t get away with the higher moral ground argument here either.
I loved seeing the Bayeux Tapestry on all the occasions I hitched, cycled, trained or drove to Normandy. It is the genuine article: no one can say they stole it from a weaker party.
The fact that it celebrates the stealing of a whole country, viz the Norman Conquest, the thousand-year anniversary coming up fast in 2066, has been well and truly absorbed into our national consciousness (although I’m sure there are those that still can’t put it behind them).