Bayeux Tapestry to leave France for first time in 950 years

The Bayeux Tapestry is set to go on display in Britain after France agreed to allow the fragile artwork to be shown outside the country for the first time in 950 years.

French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to announce the historic loan at a meeting with UK Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday.

The huge tapestry, which measures approximately 225 feet (69 meters) long, will not be moved until 2020 as it must first undergo a series of tests, Bayeux Museum spokeswoman Fanny Garbe said.

“We have to see first if it needs some restoration because we don’t know — as it is fragile — if it can be transported,” she said.

The artwork depicts the Battle of Hastings and the events leading up to William the Conqueror’s Norman conquest of England in 1066. Embroidered onto a series of 20-inch-tall linen panels, it concludes with the death of King Harold and the retreat of his army.

Although some scholars believe that the Bayeux Tapestry was created in England, it has been housed in Normandy for the last 950 years.

Currently on show at the Bayeux Museum, the artwork has only twice been displayed outside the region — once when Napoleon ordered the tapestry to be exhibited in Paris as he plotted to invade England, and again in 1944, when then Gestapo took it to the Louvre during the Nazi occupation of France.

A museum in the British town of Reading currently carries a full-size copy of the artwork. But previous attempts to bring the real artifact to the UK — for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, and for the 900th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings 13 years later — have proven unsuccessful.

While the invasion depicted in the tapestry marked a sour point in Anglo-French relations, the loan will be seen as a sign of solidarity between the two nations amid difficult Brexit negotiations.

The announcement is expected during a meeting in which Macron and May will discuss defense arrangements and the plight of migrants hoping to cross the Channel into the UK.