Thomas Becket

Thomas Becket (abt. 1118 - 1170)

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Saint Thomas Becket
Born about in Cheapside, London, Englandmap
Brother of
[spouse(s) unknown]
[children unknown]
Died in Canterbury, Englandmap
Profile last modified | Created 13 Nov 2014
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Categories: Notables | Archbishops of Canterbury, Catholic Church.

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Thomas Becket born 21 December c. 1118 (or 1120) – 29 December 1170) was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until his murder in 1170. He is a saint and martyr by both the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion. Soon after his death, he was canonised by Pope Alexander III. Thomas was murdered by Henry II because he would not turn over control of the church to the king.

He was the son of Gilbert Beket and Matilda. Gilbert's father was from Thierville in the lordship of Brionne in Normandy, and was either a small landowner or a petty knight. Matilda was also of Norman ancestry, and her family may have originated near Caen. Gilbert was perhaps related to Theobald of Bec, whose family also was from Thierville. Gilbert was a merchant , but by the 1120s he was living in London and was a property owner, living on the rental income from his properties. He also served as the sheriff of the city at some point. They were buried in Old St Paul's Cathedral.

Becket was sent as a student to Merton Priory in England and later attended a grammar school in London. After this his father secured a place for him in the business of a relative – Osbert Huitdeniers – and then later he acquired a position in the household of Theobald of Bec, by now the Archbishop of Canterbury. Theobald in 1154 named Becket Archdeacon of Canterbury, and other ecclesiastical offices at Lincoln Cathedral and St Paul's Cathedral, and the office of Provost of Beverley. This led to Theobald recommending him to King Henry II for the vacant post of Lord Chancellor in 1155.

Becket was ordained a priest on 2 June 1162 at Canterbury, and on 3 June 1162 was consecrated as archbishop by Henry of Blois, the Bishop of Winchester and the other suffragan bishops of Canterbury. A rift grew between Henry and Becket as the new archbishop resigned his chancellorship and sought to recover and extend the rights of the archbishopric. This led to a series of conflicts with the king. This led to Clarendon, where Becket was officially asked to sign off on the King's rights or face political repercussions.

It was construed by Henry's knights that he wanted Becket killed. Whatever Henry said, it was interpreted as a royal command, and four knights, Reginald fitzUrse, Hugh de Morville, William de Tracy, and Richard le Breton, set out to confront the Archbishop of Canterbury. They killed him on 29 December 1170.


  • Page 199: "This Thomas Becket was borne in London, his fathers name was Gilbert, a Merchant, his mothers Matilda, a stranger borne in Syria. He was first taught and brought up, by the Prior of Mercon Abbey in Surrey, and from thence sent to the Universities of Oxford, Paris, and Bononia, to study the Canon Law; upon his returne, he proceeded Doctor of that faculty in Oxford..."

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