Thomas Becket was born on the 21st of December 1118 or1120. He worked his way up as clerk under Archbishop of Canterbury Theobald (the head of the Church of England) to become Archdeacon of Canterbury. He became friends with Henry II and was appointed chancellor. They went on hunting parties together and Henry entrusted Thomas with teaching manners to his son, who stayed for a while in his household.
As chancellor Thomas went along with Henry no matter what he proposed, including some taxes which were more heavily instituted towards the clergy. Thomas was also complacent when vacancies in the church were left open longer than necessary, and the king pocketed the salaries. Thomas became very rich and generously gave away fortunes to people he wanted political favors from, and also the poor.
When Henry asked Thomas to become the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas told him it wouldn’t be a good idea, but Henry didn’t listen. On becoming the head of the Church of England Thomas changed, and championed the Church’s rights. Henry introduced the Constitutions of the Clarendon and Thomas opposed this greatly. As the pressure grew and Thomas wouldn’t fold, he was accused of false charges.
Thomas fled England and became a monk in France. After six years Henry came to see him and he agreed to come back to England. Because he had stood up to the king, crowds met him and people saw him as a hero. Meanwhile he was not restored property that was his and he was not able to fulfill his duties without money to run the church. He received threats and was offered a few guards as he travelled home.
This was exaggerated to an army as word spread. When this reached Henry, he stated that he wanted to be rid of him. Four knights who overheard this took him to mean that they should kill Thomas. They attacked him in Canterbury’s Cathedral, killing him on the altar. All of Europe was shocked and the pope made the king parade to Thomas’ tomb while being whipped by monks.
Thomas’ story is in my new book Would You Do What They Did? - Great Christian Leaders From Our Past
It is also available to order now or shortly from anywhere that sells books. It is a collection of biographies of Martin Luther, Francis of Assisi, John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, and Thomas Becket.
Come, tame a wolf, flee from the wrath of the king, feel the horror of impending doom on a ship, and the uncertainty of one’s own salvation with these great heroes of the faith.
I have excepts of the book on my website williamdeanhamilton.net,
Thank you for reading.