Becket was best pals with King Henry II way back in the 12th century. At the time, King Henry was having trouble with some uppity clerics and he wanted to try them in the royal court, but because they were clergy they were under the Church's jurisdiction. As it happened, the Archbishop of Canterbury died and it was up to Henry to fill the position. He thought it a perfect deal to put his friend Thomas in place. Now he could finally get the Church in line with his thinking. But something happened that he didn't count on. Thomas, who wasn't even a priest when he took on the role of Archbishop, began to take the job seriously, and the next time Henry wanted to arrest some priests, Thomas smacked him down with the church line that they were under ecclesiastical jurisdiction, not the king's. They began to clash on many things. Eventually, a frustrated Henry complained to his barons, "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?" and four took him up on it. Reginald fitzUrse, Hugh de Morville, William de Tracy, and Richard le Breton entered the cathedral while Thomas was singing the mass on December 29, 1170, and slew him (more on this in my novel TROUBLED BONES). Well, this caused a stir and Henry was blamed. Becket's death was seen as a martyrdom and in only three short years, the pope declared him a saint. His tomb in Canterbury was the most visited site in England in the Middle Ages and Thomas remained a very popular saint...up until Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries. Henry VIII couldn't leave around a church martyr, especially one who opposed his king on religious grounds (Henry VIII had his own problem with Thomases) and so his bones were dispersed and his tomb destroyed. Geoffery Chaucer's THE CANTERBURY TALES made it famous and even Henry VIII's tantrums couldn't wipe that out.
The site of Becket's martyrdom, Canterbury Cathedral.
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