19.2.08

Odo, Bishop of Bayeux

Odo was half-brother to William I of England and it was William, as Duke of Normandy, who granted Odo the bishopric of Bayeux in 1049. Odo joined in the conquest of England 1066 and in 1067 was granted the earldom of Kent and the fortress of Dover Castle, with the task of defending this vital section of coastline.

Left, A print of the battle of Hasting in 1066 depicting the point in the battle where the Normans lost sight of William and feared he had fallen. William (1) raised his helmet off his head to show his face. His brother Odo (2), on horsback behind him points out his brother to the knights. He carries a ceremonial mace as a sign of his importance.

In his role as a trusted agent of the king, he often acted as Vice-regent for William, becoming the second most powerful man in the kingdom and amassing great wealth in the process. Almost certainly it was Odo who commissioned the Bayeux Tapestry, which depicts the story of the Norman invasion of England. In 1082 Odo fell foul of King William, as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle succinctly records, 'the king seized Odo'. He was stripped of his lands and imprisoned, and not released until 1087.

In 1088, following William I's death and the crowning of William Rufus, Odo joined a rebellion which aimed to put another of William I's sons on the throne, Robert Duke of Normandy. The plot was quickly defeated and Odo was exiled from England to return to Normandy. He went on the first crusade in 1096 but died at Palermo in 1097, before reaching the Holy Land.

Odo was born in 1036 and died this month in 1097.

de Brantigny

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