[MR] Wikipedia: Murder of Thomas Becket

Garth Groff and Sally Sanford mallardlodge1000 at gmail.com
Sat Dec 29 02:44:31 PST 2018

Noble Friends,

On this day in 1170 Thomas Beckett, Archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered
in his cathedral by four knights in the service of Henry II, King of
England: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Becket .

After a rudimentary education, Becket worked as a clerk in the household of
Theobold of Bec, Archbishop of Canterbury. Theobold saw potential in his
young protege, and sent him off to study law. Becket was raised to the rank
of Archdeacon and entrusted with serious matters of policy and diplomacy.
It was Theobold who recommended Becket to King Henry for the post of
Chancellor. When Theobold died, Henry nominated Becket for Archbishop of

As Chancellor, Becket and Henry apparently got on well, including
collecting taxes from church properties. But as Archbishop, Becket turned
against Henry's policies and they became enemies over questions of church
rights. After exile in France, Becket returned to Canterbury in 1170, and
his eventual death at the hands of Henry's henchmen. Whether Henry actually
ordered the killing or not, he took some responsibility and did penance for
Becket's death. Plausible denial maybe. A wise move, as Becket was
canonized in 1173, and it wasn't a good thing to be on the wrong side of
the pope or a newly-minted saint.

Several of Becket's possessions became secondary relics and were greatly
venerated at Canterbury. One was the "Holy Handkerchief", a cloth the
soon-to-be-martyred saint had wiped away holy sweat from his brow just
before he was struck down. It was kept in a special case and shown to
upper-class pilgrims, usually wealthy nobles who could afford red carpet

And the four knights? They were Reginald FitzUrse (the leader, and
allegedly the first to strike Becket), Hugh de Morville, William de Tracy
and Richard le Breton. Henry refused to have them arrested, and urged them
to hide out in Scotland. They later returned to England, possibly under
Henry's secret protection, though FitzUrse and de Morville rebelled against
the King in 1173-74. They were excommunicated in 1171. All four journeyed
to Rome around 1174 to beg forgiveness from the Pope himself. They were
sentenced to 14 years service in the crusades, from which none are known
for certain to have returned. Maybe.

Yours Aye,

Mungo Napier, Laird of Mallard Lodge  🦆

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