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The Homicide of Thomas Becket



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Podcast Transcript

On December 29, 1170, the Archbishop of Canterbury was brutally murdered on the ground of the Canterbury Cathedral by 4 armed knights whereas getting ready for his night prayers. 

The ramifications of that incident shook the nation of England, its king, and the Catholic Church. 

Over 850 years later, it’s nonetheless remembered and stays some of the vital occasions in English historical past.

Be taught extra concerning the homicide of Thomas Becket and why and the way it occurred on this episode of Every thing In every single place Each day.


Thomas Becket was born within the 12 months 1120 to a Norman household dwelling in England. His father was most likely a low-ranking knight and should have owned a small quantity of land. The senior Becket was additionally a service provider, most likely buying and selling in textiles or wine from continental Europe. 

Being Norman as an alternative of Anglo-Saxon meant that they had been culturally a part of the identical group which dominated England for the reason that Norman Conquest, and having some cash and land, collectively meant that they might at the least rub elbows with the higher class of English society, even when they weren’t on the high themselves. 

He attended a grammar college in London, the place he studied the fundamentals of schooling within the center ages. The trivium, which is grammar, logic, and rhetoric, and the quadrivium, which consists of arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. 

On the age of 20, he went to Paris for a 12 months of additional research, and some years after he returned in 1146, he managed to get a job within the family of the Bishop of Canterbury, Theobald of Bec. The Archbishop of Canterbury was the best rating church official in England. 

His place was most likely that of a clerk or a secretary for the Archbishop, though it completely isn’t clear.

No matter he did, he should have accomplished it effectively as a result of Becket was assigned a number of essential duties by the Archbishop. He was despatched to Italy and France to check canon legislation, and he was additionally despatched on assignments to signify the Archbishop of Canterbury in Rome. 

He was given a number of different minor ecclesiastical positions within the English church, and in 1154, he was named the Archdeacon of Canterbury. 

The Archdeacon was mainly the second highest place underneath the Archbishop however didn’t require the workplace holder to be a priest or a bishop. 

One of many the explanation why Thomas Becket was appointed Archdeacon was due to the success he had in representing the church when negotiating with the crown and the reigning monarch at the moment, King Stephen. 

Right here I ought to notice the background through which a lot of this story takes place. 

Again within the twelfth century, the church and the monarchy in England had been actually two completely different spheres of energy. The church claimed that they had been impartial of the crown and never topic to its legal guidelines. If a priest dedicated a criminal offense, for instance, then they had been topic to an ecclesiastical court docket, not a court docket of the king. 

Likewise, there have been at all times battles backwards and forwards over the problem of taxation of church land and earnings. 

Thomas Becket was one of many chief representatives at the moment for the church. 

The identical 12 months that Becket was appointed Archdeacon, one thing else actually huge occurred in England. King Stephen died and a brand new king, Henry of Anju, aka Henry II, ascended to the throne. 

As a brand new king, Henry needed to fill the assorted workplaces of state. Archbishop Theobald had an excellent concept. He lobbied to get his protege, Thomas Becket, appointed to the place of chancellor. The thought was that if he had one in every of his personal on the within, he might advocate for the church. 

One month later, in January 1155, Thomas Becket grew to become the Lord Chancellor of England. 

Archbishop Theobald’s scheme didn’t fairly work in line with plan. 

Becket, simply as when he labored for the church, did a very good job. He had a brand new boss and labored on behalf of his new boss. This included gathering taxes on property owned by the church. 

Becket took a place that was thought-about relatively middling and turned it into some of the highly effective workplaces within the nation. 

Extra importantly, Henry and Thomas grew to become actually good associates. Even supposing Thomas was 12 years his senior, they might go looking, ingesting, and touring collectively. Thomas grew to become his closest advisor, and Henry even entrusted his son, Henry the Youthful, to be raised in Becket’s home. 

Throughout this era, Becket grew to become personally very wealthy, and his standing with the clergy of England dropped dramatically. He wasn’t seen because the church’s man within the royal court docket, he was simply seen as King Henry’s man. 

The height of Becket’s extravagance was most likely in 1158 when he traveled to Paris with an entourage of 250 folks and 24 modifications of garments. 

His private family had 700 knights, and he as soon as famously at a meal of extraordinarily uncommon eels, which price the equal of a complete herd of cows. 

The occasion which radically modified all the pieces occurred in 1162. 

In 1161, Theobald of Bec, Archbishop of Canterbury had died. 

Within the months after his dying, there was debate amongst the clergy and the the Aristocracy about who ought to change him as archbishop. 

Henry lastly got here up with what he thought was a masterful plan. He would appoint his finest pal, Thomas Becket, to the place of Archbishop of Canterbury.  Becket had loads of expertise working the archdiocese.

Extra importantly, with Becket as Archbishop, he would haven’t any downside establishing the primacy of the crown over the church as a result of Thomas Becket was Henry’s man….proper?

Thomas Becket was ordained a priest on June 2, 1162, after which was put in as Archbishop the subsequent day. 

I also needs to notice that when he grew to become Archbishop, he remained the Lord Chancellor of England. 

Proper when this occurred, there was a dramatic flip within the character of Thomas Becket. 

Becket all of a sudden had a spiritual conversion.

He started sporting sackcloth clothes. Sackcloth, which is mainly like burlap, was worn by penitents as atonement for his or her sins. In case you’ve ever seen a burlap sack, this can be very tough and can be someplace between uncomfortable and painful to put on all day, daily.

He started consuming a lot much less and gave up ingesting alcohol exterior of sacramental wine. 

Henry quickly came upon precisely what Theobald came upon. Appointing Thomas Becket to a high-ranking place and anticipating him to stay loyal to you wasn’t going to work. 

A number of months after being consecrated as Archbishop, Thomas Becket resigned as chancellor.

The now Archbishop Thomas Becket started blocking all of Henry’s makes an attempt to determine dominance over the church in England. 

To counter Becket, Henry appointed the Archdeacon of Canterbury as the brand new Chancellor, Geoffrey Ridel. Ridel’s loyality was to King Henry and supported the crown over the church, but it surely didn’t actually matter as a result of the Archbishop had the ultimate say on all the pieces.

The largest concern at first was that of jurisdiction for making an attempt crimes dedicated by the clergy.

Becket and the church contended that every one clergy, in each main and minor orders, had been topic to church courts and self-discipline, not the kings. Main orders had been: bishop, priest, and deacon. Minor orders included acolyte, exorcist, lector, and porter.  A porter was mainly a glorified usher. 

The issue was that as much as 20% of the lads in England would have certified as belonging to the clergy if minor orders had been included. 

Henry felt that having the church decide its personal clergy undermined the rule of legislation and the flexibility for him to manipulate England. 

Becket felt that the church couldn’t let the clergy be judged by the king, or else they might lose their independence, and it will be abused to make the church undergo the whims of the crown.

Henry additionally wished to get better lands misplaced to the church and to power the church to pay the Sheriff’s Assist, which had been funds to pay native legislation enforcement. Becket mentioned that the funds by the church had been voluntary and couldn’t be compelled. 

In July 1163, the King and the Archbishop had a heated argument within the village of Woodstock, and issues obtained worse afterward when Becket ex-communicated one of many king’s males for making an attempt to put in a clerk in an area church.

Issues between the 2 males obtained progressively worse. Henry eliminated his son from Becket’s family, the place he had been raised. 

In January 1164, Henry summoned all of the bishops to Clarendon Palace, the place they had been to signal a doc with 16 phrases that will weaken the church’s independence and its ties to Rome by reverting to the principles when Henry I dominated. 

Becket agreed to the phrases, however that wasn’t the top of it by a longshot. In August, the king had the archbishop introduced up on making an attempt to depart the nation with out permission and a bunch of different costs. 

He was discovered responsible however didn’t settle for the decision, so in November 1164, he fled to France.

Over the subsequent six years, Becket started a letter-writing marketing campaign to the pope and started ex-communicating most of the allies of the king and the bishops in England who supported him. 

In June 1170, Henry’s son Henry the Youthful was topped as junior king, as his father was nonetheless alive. Nonetheless, it’s the prerogative of the Archbishop of Canterbury to crown the king, and this had been usurped by the Bishop of York and London. 

This led Becket to threaten to place an interdict on the whole thing of England, which might have prevented anybody within the nation from receiving sure rites. 

This ultimately led Henry and Thomas Becket to return to phrases which allowed the Archbishop to return to England.

Becket returned to England in early December 1170. 

Throughout your entire affair in June and July of that 12 months, Henry grew to become very pissed off and supposedly mentioned one thing out loud to his court docket. The precise phrases aren’t identified, however in line with legend, he mentioned, “Will nobody rid me of this turbulent priest?”

One other model has Henry saying, “What depressing drones and traitors have I nurtured and promoted in my family who let their lord be handled with such shameful contempt by a low-born clerk!”

Evidently, 4 of Henry’s knights took this off-hand remark as an order. The 4 knights, Reginald FitzUrse, Hugh de Morville, William de Tracy, and Richard le Breton, traveled from Normandy to Canterbury to confront the Archbishop.

On December 29, they arrived on the cathedral and confronted Becket, ordering him to Winchester to go earlier than the king. When he refused, they rushed out of the cathedral to get their weapons and got here again in. 

There’s some debate about what occurred precisely, however the finish result’s that Becket was hit with a number of sword strikes to the pinnacle, and the highest of his cranium was lower clear off. 

Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket laid useless on the ground of Canterbury Cathedral.

You’d assume that this may need solved Henry’s issues, but it surely didn’t. It made issues a lot worse. 

Nearly instantly, Thomas Becket was revered as a martyr. As phrase of the assassination unfold throughout Europe, the standing of Henry fell. The pope prevented Henry from receiving mass.

Thomas Becket was canonized and made a saint by Pope Alexander III in February 1173, just a bit over two years after his dying.

Nobody really thought that Henry ordered the killing. Becket was a priest, and if Henry actually wished him useless, he most likely might have accomplished a lot sooner. Nonetheless, Henry was definitely answerable for the homicide, even when it wasn’t his intent. 

Nonetheless, he needed to carry out an act of public penance, which was one thing virtually unprecedented for a sitting king.

On July 12, 1174, in the course of an rebellion led by his spouse and three kids, he went to the tomb of the now Saint Thomas Becket to carry out his penance. He walked there barefoot after which, earlier than the tomb, took off his shirt and was then flogged with tree branches by a bunch of bishops and monks. He then needed to spend the night time on the ground of the cathedral the place Becket was murdered. 

On high of all that, the pope made Henry recant the entire reforms he had earlier gotten from the church, give again lands he took from Cantebury, and construct a brand new monastery.

As for the precise assassins, they fled to Scotland. Henry by no means really punished them, however they had been excommunicated by the pope. All of them ultimately traveled to Rome to enchantment. They had been forgiven on the situation that they served within the holy land for 14 years. 

Within the years after the homicide of Thomas Becket, his tomb and the positioning of the homicide grew to become the most important pilgrimage vacation spot in England, and for some time, he was the patron saint of England. 

Geoffrey Chaucer, within the late 14th century, wrote concerning the pilgrims to the tomb in his e book The Canterbury Tales. 

Its location as a pilgrimage website ended when Henry VIII banned the catholic church. He ordered the tomb and the stays of Thomas Becket to be destroyed and any point out of his title to be erased. 

Right this moment there’s a small memorial in Canterbury Cathedral on the spot the place Becked was killed, and there are dozens of church buildings world wide named in his honor.

If you’re curious about a homework project, I’d extremely suggest you watch the 1964 film “Becket” starring Peter O’Toole as Henry II and Richard Burton as Thomas Becket. It was nominated for 12 Academy Awards, and it’s one in every of my favourite motion pictures of all time, even when it isn’t completely traditionally correct.

The homicide of Thomas Becket was some of the vital occasions to happen in medieval England, and it outlined relations between the church and the king till the protestant reformation. 

The story of Thomas Becket and the occasions surrounding his dying stays a compelling story even 850 years later.


Every thing In every single place Each day is an Airwave Media Podcast. 

The manager producer is Darcy Adams.

The affiliate producers are Thor Thomsen and Peter Bennett.

Right this moment’s evaluation comes from listener Fireman_Jake, over at Apple Podcasts in the US. He writes, 

5 stars will not be sufficient

I’m so grateful to have discovered this podcast! Gary does such an incredible job masking a full spectrum of attention-grabbing matters. I’m shortly catching as much as safe my place within the completist’s membership…listened to episode 500 as we speak on the way in which house.

-show suggestion-

With this 12 months being the a hundredth anniversary of Sparky the Fireplace Canine and the Nationwide Fireplace Prevention marketing campaign within the US, wouldn’t or not it’s becoming to do a present on both how Fireplace Prevention Week took place or all of the progress and improvements which have come to gentle because it’s inception?

Thanks, Jake!  If you qualify for the completionist membership, you shall be welcome with open arms. Do not forget that Fridays are pizza night time.

As for doing an episode on hearth prevention, that isn’t a nasty concept. I do know firefighting has a historical past going again at the least to historic Rome, and fires have turn into a lot much less frequent during the last a number of a long time because of advances in hearth prevention. 

Bear in mind, if you happen to depart a evaluation or ship me a boostagram, you can also have it learn the present.



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