Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Thomas Becket

A post about Thomas Becket, mostly because you think about all sorts of things while mindlessly trying new tactics to get people to take up fencing (Most effective: 'You! Yes you, in the hat! Join the fencing club. Particularly useful if they weren't in fact wearing a hat, since they were usually sufficiently confused by it to do as they were told)

Things people know about Thomas Becket: He was Archbishop of Canterbury. He was killed, possibly at the suggestion of Henry II, on 29th December 1170.

Things slightly fewer people know about Thomas Becket: He was never, ever, EVER called Thomas a Becket. You wouldn't call me Stuart a Sharp, would you? No? Then stop it. The murder came after a long build up of tension over the relative claims over justice of the English King and the Pope, with such things as the Constitutions of Clarendon in 1164, and a statute in 1169 warning of dire consequences should anyone actually observe the Pope's interdict against the King. All of this, as we know, led eventually to Henry doing a spot of sledging in 1174 so that he could get to the Pope and ask forgiveness, which the Pope couldn't really refuse, getting rid of several of Henry's problems at a stroke.

Things almost no one knows about Thomas Becket: He was Provost of the Minster church of my home town of Beverley in 1163, though he gave it up when he got the abovementioned better offer from Canterbury. There isn't much sign of him actually going there, though he does briefly recommend in one of his letters that a friend should go there because the air or the water or something there will be good for his health. More evidence that he just got the gig as a way for Beverley's canons to get an impressive name on-side, since much of Beverley was apparently surrounded by stinking marsh at that point.

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