Thursday, December 29, 2005

Murder in the Cathedral

On this day in 1170, Thomas a Becket, fortieth Archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered in his own cathedral by four knights acting, as they perhaps mistakenly believed, on orders of King Henry II of England.

The assassination shocked contemporaries in an age that was relatively used to deeds of violence. Becket's life has been the subject of two 20th century plays: Jean Anouilh's Becket and TS Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral.

"What a parcel of fools and dastards have I nourished in my house," Henry had said earlier that month in an outburst in his court, "and not one of them will avenge me of this one upstart clerk." Some of his knights took his words literally. (Other versions include expressions such as "Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?") ...

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Anonymous royaloak said...

St Thomas has always been one of my favourite historical men. As a bulwark against royal tyranny he is an exemplair. Where were the like-minded clerics when, in 1518, another Henry began to throw his weight around?

1:49 AM  

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