Guy of Ponthieu captured Harold of Wessex he arrived from England in 1054 and his boat was wrecked off modern day Picardy– whether it was a fishing trip gone wrong or a diplomatic mission to have his brother and nephew released from the custody of Duke William or even on the orders of King Edward. Guy based the capture on the laws of Wreck. Essentially any ship wrecked mariner could find himself sold into slavery, kept imprisoned or ransomed back to his family. Guy liked, it would seem, to entertain his captives in the interval between capture and release by torturing them. The Bayeux tapestry suggests that on receiving the news of Harold’s arrival Guy rode in person to view the sailors who had the misfortune to make land fall upon his coast.
William upon hearing the news at Rouen from a messenger ordered Guy to hand the earl over into his custody. Guy does this because he is a vassal of Normandy – which makes it all sound very straight forward and Guy’s part in the tale very small but as is the way of these things there is a back story.
Guy succeeded to the County of Ponthieu after the death of his brother Enguarrand (the second count of that name) who was William, Duke of Normandy’s brother-in-law. The marriage with Adeliza or Adelaide, Daughter of Duke Richard, was annulled in 1049/50 on the grounds of consanguinity. There was a daughter also called Adeliza from the marriage.
Just to make life that little bit more entertaining Enguerrand and Guy’s sister was married to William of Normandy’s uncle. The uncle, William of Arques, had contested his nephew’s claim to the duchy of Normandy based on the fact that William of Normandy was illegitimate. By 1053 the two Williams had come to blows and the French had waded in on William of Arques’ side. Enguarrand’s family ties with William of Arques not to mention the fact that his ex-wife had retained her dower despite their annulment goes some way to explaining why the Count of Porthieu fought against William of Normandy rather than with him. He was killed in 1053 at the siege of Argues by William’s men.
Guy, the count on the Bayeaux tapestry, sought to be revenged for his brother’s death by joining forces against William. Unfortunately he was captured following the Battle of Mortemer (6thFeb 1054) and spent the next two years in custody at Bayeux until he was released having sworn fealty to Duke William. Consequentially when William of Normandy demanded the release of Harold Earl of Wessex Guy didn’t have a great deal of choice.
Guy is shown on the Bayeux tapestry on four occasions. Harold is shown being captured by Guy mounted on a horse as he comes ashore; then on his throne – replete with a Norman looking hair cut and stipey socks (I know they’re not called socks but just roll with it.) He’s shown for a third time when William’s men turn up demanding Harold’s release into their custody. William’s men are all taller than Guy who appears to be wearing a rather colourful tunic along with a set of yellow and green hose. The final occasion for Guy to appear on the tapestry is when he takes Harold to hand him over to William.
Is it my imagination or is Guy riding a mule whilst William is riding a horse – either way Guy’s mount has a very small head? The camels in the side panels above are interesting. They are symbolic of something! Endurance, lust or even humility …take your pick.