Monday, December 21, 2009

Thomas Becket

"Come hither, Waldemar," said Prince John. "An unhappy prince am I. My father, King Henry, had faithful servants - he had but to say that he was plagued by a factious priest, and the blood of Thomas-a-Becket, saint though he was, stained the steps of his own alter. - Tracy, Morville, Brito..."

- From Scott's "Ivanhoe".

Thomas Becket is best known for his death, at the hands of his childhood friend Henry II of England's men. Today is his birthday; December 21, 1117. Thomas was the son of a London merchant. While, as a young man, employed by the sheriff of London, Thomas met Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury. Theobald sent him to study civil law in Italy and France. Becket was very successful in his studies, and among those who noticed was Henry II. Henry raised Thomas to the position of chancellor of the realm (1158), a post which he filled admirably. Trusting that Becket was of the same mind as he, and wanting to check the power of the church, Henry further promoted the future saint to become Archbishop of Canterbury. The seeds of dissension that led to Thomas-a-Becket's death will be covered in a future post.

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