Peoples and Nations

Thomas Becket

Thomas Becket

Famous for being Archbishop of Canterbury murdered in his own cathedral

Born - c1118 - exact date not known
Parents - Gilbert Becket, Matilda Becket
Siblings - not known
Married - No
Children - No
Died - 29th December 1170 - Murdered in Canterbury Cathedral

Thomas Becket was born in Normandy. His parents were quite rich and gave Thomas a good education. After completing his education he gained a position with Theobald, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

In 1154 he was introduced to the newly crowned king, Henry II and they became good friends. Henry wanted more control over the church and when Theobald died in 1161 he appointed Becket to the post believing that his friend would be loyal to him and agree to church reforms.

Becket, however, believed that as Archbishop his allegiance should be primarily to the Pope and second to the king and blocked any move toward reform.

In 1164 Henry introduced the Constitutions of Clarendon, a series of constitutions that would reduce the power of the church and weaken its ties with Rome. Becket refused to sign the document and fled to France. While in France Becket excommunicated the Bishop of London and the Bishop of Salisbury for siding with the King.

In 1170 Becket and Henry met to try to resolve their differences and Becket agreed to return to his post in England. Shortly after Becket's return Henry asked him to lift the excommunication on the Bishops of London and Salisbury. Becket refused. In despair Henry flew into a temper and shouted 'who will rid me of this troublesome priest!'

The king's words were heard by four knights, Reginald Fitzurse, Hugh de Moreville, William de Tracy, and Richard le Breton decided to assassinate the archbishop. On 29th December the four knights arrived in Canterbury. They found Becket in the Cathedral, drew their swords and attacked, splitting his skull.

In 1173 Thomas Becket was canonised by the Pope.