Cynewyn, chatelaine of Drayton manor, is ejected from her home after her cousins Morcar and Edwin rebel against the new King William and their lands are confiscated. The new lord, Thurstan de Basset, the Grand Falconer to William, angers and alienates his new subjects.
Cynewyn successfully pleads for food for her people, who are slowly starving because of the predations of Thurstan’s men. Thurstan’s wife Isabelle, who is pregnant, arrives from Normandy but is deeply unhappy to be in England. Then, tragedy strikes.
Cynewyn loses her baby in a tragic accident caused by Thurstan. At the same time, Isabelle is safely delivered of her son, who she rejects and refuses to care for. Before she runs away to her Abbey in Normandy, Isabelle arranges for Cynewyn to leave Drayton for the court of Queen Edith.
At the Abbey, Cynewyn struggles to create the images for the Bayeux Tenture while Thurstan wanders across Europe, Russia and Turkey looking for hunting birds. At the Emperor’s palace in Constantinople, Thurstan finally faces his past and is tempted to join the Varangian Guard.
Aelfgyva, a sweet Saxon seamstress, suffers from sexual assault by King William’s brother Bishop Odo in the cell next to Cynewyn . Aelfgyva and Captain Vital connect while Turold, dwarf jongleur, entertainer and spy for Queen Edith, arrives and lightens the mood. Bishop Odo has evil intentions.
In the aftermath of Odo’s assault, Bardolfe, one of William’s knights, pledges undying protection to Cynewyn. Her cousin Morcar nearly loses his life and Aelfgyva reveals that she and Captain Vital are to wed. Turold leaves on a secret mission for the Queen and Thurstan returns to England, at last.
Thurstan and Cynewyn become better acquainted. Turold buys the freedom of Count Eustace’s grandson at Dover Castle, Aelfgyva’s baby is stolen just before her wedding with Vital, and Cynewyn plots revenge on Odo.
Aelfgyva and Vital wed and, Bardolfe begs Cynewyn to abandon her risky plan. At the feast and big reveal of the Bayeux Tenture, all hell breaks loose when Cynewyn’s revenge is discovered. Odo denies any misconduct, and William threatens maiming as punishment for slander against his brother.
Thurstan negotiates Cynewyn’s release, William confronts Odo, and Thurstan asks Cynewyn to be his wife. On the ride back to Drayton, the lovers quarrel, then are unexpectedly attacked.
Seventeen years later Isabelle visits Drayton Manor and is greeted by Bardolfe. All parties are reconciled. In a final act of love, Cynewyn brings Le Roi to visit his master for the last time.
The Bayeux Tenture survives a fire at the Bayeux Cathedral in 1200, is buried in a vault and forgotten for 250 years. Its rediscovery brings it back into the light of the world where the story of the Battle of Hastings is recounted again. In 1987, while Drayton Manor is being graded for a theme...