The tapestry has more than 50 scenes chronicling the events leading up to the Battle of Hastings in 1066, one of the most important battles in English history. The Norman Conquest transformed England’s language, laws and customs. Queen Elizabeth II is the 40th monarch in a royal line that traces its origins to William the Conqueror, who led the invasion and occupation.
The piece has been moved very few times in its history. Napoleon put it on display in Paris in 1804, when he was planning an invasion of England. It was briefly exhibited again in Paris during World War II, before being returned to Bayeux.
Britain has tried before to display the tapestry: Requests were made for the queen’s coronation in 1953 and for the 900th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings in 1966. Both were unsuccessful. (There is a replica at the Reading Museum, in southeastern England.)
Historians have long debated the origins of the tapestry. The earliest written reference to it is from 1476, in an inventory from Bayeux Cathedral, but it is not known whether it was made in England or France.
According to the Reading Museum, there is evidence to suggest that the work was commissioned by William the Conqueror’s half brother, Bishop Odo of Bayeux, and made in Kent, in southern England.