HISTORIANS are thrilled at the news that French President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Theresa May are to discuss a loan of the Bayeux Tapestry at a meeting today.

But safely moving the 70-metre long artefact will be a complex task – and it could be at least five years before it reaches these shores.

Scholar of early medieval embroidery Dr Alexandra Makin says the move will be a challenge for curators.

“You can move it if it’s got specially constructed containers, and curators on both sides of the Channel will be looking to see if it’s viable to do that,” she says.

“Although it’s massive, it’s in a fragile state. It’s natural fibres – wool and linen – and obviously it was made in the early 11th century. So the curators will be investigating all the options to see if it’s possible.”

The loan of the tapestry will give British historians the chance to study the tapestry in a lot more detail and perhaps identify any later additions to the piece.

Dr Makin says: “You can actually see the 19th century restoration work because it’s not nearly as neat as the original work.

“You can see the embroiderers were not looking at it as a design – they were looking at it as an area that had to be completed, so the threads are carried over from one motif to the next.”

Dr Makin thinks the famous arrow-in-the-eye scene could have been a 19th century invention because there are tiny needle holes stretching from beyond the arrow design.

“The original thread might have continued on to perhaps create a lance or something,” she says.

Scholar Maggie Kneen agrees. “From what I believe, the actual arrow was a Victorian addition,” she adds.

Historians believe that the tapestry was the work of professional female embroiderers, probably of Anglo-Saxon origin, in the Canterbury area.

“Their work was very well thought of and very well known. They were commissioned by Norman aristocrats to make things for them,” says Dr Makin.

“That’s not to say that they weren’t embroidering on the continent, but in the case of the Bayeux Tapestry, that was probably made by Anglo-Saxon workers who would have been female.”

ALTHOUGH called the Bayeux Tapestry, the work is in fact an embroidery stitched with ten shades of woollen yarn.

It is nearly 70 metres (230ft) long, 50cm (1.6ft) high and made of nine panels of linen cloth.

Over a succession of scenes, it chronicles events leading up to the Norman conquest of England by William the Conqueror and culminates in the Battle of Hastings and the defeat of Harold in 1066.

Nothing is known for certain about its origins, with the first written record appearing in the Bayeux Cathedral’s inventory of treasures in 1476, but it is believed it was stitched in England by nuns of St Augustine’s Abbey.

Napoleon put it on display in Paris in 1804 and it was briefly exhibited at the city’s Louvre in 1944.

The work is currently exhibited in the Bayeux Museum in Normandy. Its potential visit to Britain is seen by some as an important step in Anglo-French relations as Brexit talks continue.

Dr Levi Roach, medieval historian at the University of Exeter, says: “There could scarcely be a better symbol of the close yet fraught ties that have bound the two nations together.

“Probably made in England for William the Conqueror’s half-brother Odo of Bayeux, the Bayeux Tapestry depicts events from a Norman perspective, but with real sympathy for the fate of the English.”

At Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, Mrs May was already receiving rival bids for a site to host the tapestry.

Bexhill and Battle MP Huw Merriman said Battle Abbey would be an appropriate location, on the site where the 1066 clash took place, while Home Secretary Amber Rudd suggested her Hastings and Rye constituency should be in contention for the honour.

HOWEVER it could take five years before the tapestry reaches British shores, and a spokesman for Mr Macron has said it will definitely not be in the UK before 2020 because of the need for restoration work to ensure it is not damaged in transit.

The spokesman added: “It will not be before 2020 because it is an extremely fragile cultural treasure which will be subject to major restoration work before being transported anywhere.”