Thomas Becket Paper

Submitted By melissalawrenson
Words: 747
Pages: 3

Thomas Becket’s murder was extremely influential to modern Britain, as we know it today. Becket’s murder had effects on both Canterbury as well as England as a whole.
Thomas Becket was born in 1118 in a rather wealthy family, his father now an English merchant, had previous been sheriff in London. He was highly educated due to his family’s monetary status even going to study law in Paris before joining the house of Theobald the archbishop of Canterbury at that time. In 1154, Becket became close friends with the king Henry II who then appointed him as chancellor. In 1161, following Theobald’s death, Henry II saw an opportunity to extend his power in England. While acting as chancellor Becket had always acted upon Henry II’s will, Henry expected this would continue if he appointed Becket to Archbishop of Canterbury, the highest position in the church beneath the pope himself. While Theobald had always taken the view that the Church and the Crown should co-operate, Henry did not agree with this practice. Henry petitioned the pope who agreed, so Becket was ordained as a Bishop and then made Archbishop of Canterbury.
Henry II would not be happy for long though, while Becket had always conceded as a pawn in the past as chancellor he took his new position in the church extremely seriously, even rejecting the luxuries and wealth that came with the position and passing them on to others. In 1163, the church court acquitted Canon whom had been accused of the murder of a knight. The public cried out for justice and the Canon was then brought to the royal court. Becket protested this because the Canon had already been tried and this undermined the Church’s authority. Henry proposed that clergy convicted of serious crimes in the church court should be “deprived the protection of the church” and sent to the royal court for punishment, although once again this undermined the entire idea of clerical immunity. Henry II then proposed the Constitutions of Clarendon, a list of 16 clauses that defined the relationship between the royal court and the church court. The bishops refused to sign before Becket agreed to sign only to then fast himself and publicly repent his oath, infuriating Henry II.
Fearing for his life, Becket fled to France for the next six years until his return in 1170. Becket once again infuriated Henry II by excommunicating the Archbishop of York, which led Henry II to scream, “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?” Four knights traveled to Canterbury in an attempt to force Becket to return with them to face Henry II, although he refused. The following morning they attempted to drag him out of Canterbury Cathedral during mass at which he received a blow to the head before they finally murdered him with their swords. Becket’s death paved the way for reconciliation between the King and the Church. In…