Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Thomas Becket's Martyrdom

Thomas Becket's birth was celebrated recently.  On December 29, 1170, Becket met his death at the hands of four of Henry II of England's knights.  There are multiple accounts of the scene near the cloister in Canterbury Cathedral.  According to one: Reginald FitzUrse struck the first glancing blow to Becket's head.  William de Tracy aimed next, partially intercepted by the arm of a monk who attempted to intercede in Becket's defense.  Tracy ultimately stunned the archbishop; Richard le Breton (or de Brito) then severed his head with a strong blow.  Hugh de Morville, the fourth knight, is not mentioned in the action.

Becket's destiny may have been sealed when he refused to sign the Constitutions of Clarendon, which were designed by King Henry to rein in the independence of the clergy.  Subsequently, Becket was tried and convicted on charges of contempt of royal authority.  He fled to France, where he lived for several years.  Through diplomatic efforts involving Pope Alexander III, a reconciliation was effected, and Becket returned to Canterbury in 1170.

A key element leading to Henry's final command, or interpreted command, to kill Becket was Becket's excommunication of the archbishop of York, and the bishops of London and Salisbury, who had presided in Henry's son's coronation.  This office was reserved for the Bishop of Canterbury.

Continuing from the December 21 post from "Ivanhoe":

“...—Tracy, Morville, Brito
loyal and daring subjects, your names, your spirit, are extinct!
and although Reginald Fitzurse hath left a son, he hath fallen
off from his father’s fidelity and courage.’’
“He has fallen off from neither,” said Waldemar Fitzurse;
“and since it may not better be, I will take on me the conduct
of this perilous enterprise..."

No comments:

Post a Comment