Thomas Becket

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Thomas Becket, usually known as Saint Thomas of Canterbury or Thomas of London, was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until his assassination in 1170. Gilbert and Matilda Becket were his parents. His father’s specific occupation has been lost to history, but it is assumed that they were financially well off and that Thomas had the greatest education available. He spent a year after high school at the University of Paris, while his father faced a financial setback. To help pay for his expenditures, he worked as a secretary in a few offices before entering the household of Theobald, the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time. He acquired the archbishop’s trust and became his most trusted employee thanks to his strict work ethic and amazing diplomatic skills. Theobald sent him to the University of Bologna to study canon law and conferred upon him many offices upon his return, including deacon and eventually archdeacon. When he met King Henry II and became his Chancellor, his life took a turn for the better; the two built a meaningful working relationship based on mutual esteem and respect. When the king promoted Thomas to Archbishop, trouble began to build, culminating in the latter’s questionable assassination.

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Childhood and Adolescence

Thomas Becket was born on December 21, 1118, on St. Thomas Day in London, England. Gilbert Becket was his father, while Matilda Becket was his mother. He had a sister named Mary as well. He enrolled in Merton Priory and subsequently a grammar school when he was ten years old. He continued his schooling at the University of Paris.

While he was in Paris, his mother died, and his father went through a financial problem. As a result of these events, Thomas Becket was forced to fend for himself, eventually working as a clerk in the sheriff’s court. Later, he worked as a secretary for Sir Richer de l’Aigle and Osbert Huitdeniers, the London Justiciar. He had demonstrated excellent competence and spirit in all of the positions he had previously held.

Later Years of His Life

Thomas Becket met Theobald, the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time, and began working for him in 1141. Theobald was so impressed by Thomas’ intelligence and diplomacy that he sent him to Paris for a year to study canon law.

He became the provost of Beverley and a canon at Lincoln and St. Paul’s Cathedrals after his return. In 1154, he was made a deacon, and later the archdeacon of Canterbury.

Following King Stephan’s death, various contenders to the English throne emerged, and several claims were made. Thomas’ diplomacy resulted in Henry of Anjou being proclaimed King Henry II in 1154, and he was rewarded with the position of Chancellor under the new king.

King Henry II, who had just been crowned, desired more authority and believed that controlling the Church would provide it. When Archbishop Theobald died in 1161, and he wanted Thomas Becket to take over the ecclesiastical office, he was given the right opportunity.

Becket had a very different perspective on the king’s proposition because his position as chancellor had already given him tremendous authority and influence. He was afraid that if he was ordained, the king might urge him to do things that would jeopardize the sanctity of the archbishop’s office, so he declined.

Despite Becket’s opposition, the king’s wish prevailed. In 1162, Bishop Walter of Rochester ordained Thomas Becket as a priest, and Bishop Winchester anointed him as Archbishop.

The king’s ruse failed, and he was offended when, after being chosen archbishop, Becket became a man of the Church by accepting the papacy and canon law, and resigned as chancellor. After failing to persuade Thomas Becket to quit as archdeacon, the king requested his resignation.

The king summoned the other bishops to a council in Westminster in 1163 in an attempt to persuade them to revolt against the Archbishop. He presented them with his grandfather’s traditions (the Clarendon Constitutions), which outlined the king’s rights over the Church, and the bishops accepted the terms with enough pressure.

With all of the bishops on his side, the king thought defeating Becket would be simple, but he refused once more at Clarendon Palace. Becket finally surrendered after more pressure from the king and a word of caution from his brethren, but he refused to sign any agreement based on it.

The king called him to a trial in Northampton Castle in 1164, accusing him of abusing his wealth. The bishops and barons found him guilty, but Becket argued that only the Pope could judge him. Becket snuck out of Northampton wearing a disguise and escaped to France. He told Pope Benedict XVI of his intention to resign, but the Pope refused to accept it. Because he was an exile, the Pope designated him as the Cistercian Abbot of Pontigny and could do nothing else.

King Louis of France was also drawn into the feud between King Henry II and Becket, and he met Henry in 1169 at Montmirail for a conference and argued Becket’s cause. In 1170, Henry’s son was crowned by Roger de Pont L’Evegue (Archbishop of York) and two other bishops, in violation of Canterbury’s coronation privileges. Becket immediately excommunicated the three clergymen. Despite the danger to his life, Becket returned to England the following year.

King Henry II burst into a frenzy as the bishops who crowned his son were excommunicated. Four knights—Reginald Fitzurse, Hugh de Morville, William de Tracy, and Richard le Breton—took the king’s speech as a royal command to kill Becket, and they went to Canterbury and assassinated him.

Personal History and Legacy

Thomas Becket lived a life of celibacy in order to fulfill his Church obligations. Four knights, Reginald fitzUrse, Hugh de Morville, William de Tracy, and Richard le Breton, killed him on December 29, 1170. Reginald fitzUrse, Hugh de Morville, William de Tracy, and Richard le Breton were four knights. On February 21, 1173, Pope Alexander III canonized Thomas Becket at St. Peter’s Church in Segni.

Estimated Net Worth

The estimated net worth of Thomas Becket is unknown