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Picture SMART starter. What can You see that you think is important?. What questions would you like to ask about the source?. So what did the king, Henry II, have to do with the murder?. It is difficult to know how the meeting went until you add some more information:

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Picture SMART starter

What can

You see

that you think

is important?

What questions

would you like

to ask about

the source?


So what did the king, Henry II, have to do with the murder?

It is difficult to know how the meeting went until you add some more information:

Pointing a finger was seen as a sign of anger.

Turning your back on someone, especially the king, was rude.

This picture gives us a hint as to the type of relationship Becket and Henry had. It shows them after a meeting. Can you find:

King Henry II, Becket with a finger raised, Henry’s followers with their fingers raised, Becket’s followers.

What questions have we answered from our list?

Can we add some new ones based on this picture?

How do you think their meeting went?!


The Rise of Thomas Becket

  • He wasn’t from a rich aristocratic family.
  • He was the son of a successful merchant. The type of family that had began to flourish in the middle ages.
  • He was well educated by Augustinian monks in London and then Paris.
  • He originally served as an accountant for a London banker before joining the household of Archbishop Theobald of Canterbury.
  • Becket was progressing up the social ladder.
  • Under the AB of C he spent time in Bologna were he learned canon law.
  • In 1155 (Henry became King in 1154) he progressed from the role of Clerk to Archdeacon. This meant he was forbidden to bear arms or marry, the return was a salary of over £100 a year which made him extremely wealthy.

Becket becomes Chancellor

  • When Henry II became king in 1154, he asked AB of C Theobald for advice on choosing his government ministers.
  • On the suggestion of Theobald, Henry appointed Thomas Becket as his chancellor.
  • Becket's job was an important one as it involved the distribution of royal charters, writs and letters. The king and Becket soon became close friends.
  • Becket carried out many tasks for Henry II including leading the English army into battle.
  • By 1156, Becket had distanced himself from Canterbury. He wasn’t involved in making government policy, but he was at the centre of government.

Becket often did the jobs that the energetic king found tiresome and irksome. He acted as a diplomat, ambassador and advisor. In 1158 went to Paris for the King, with 200 household men plus servants, eight five-horse wagons, great casks of beer, hawks and hounds fit for a king and twenty five changes of clothes fit for a bishop. The chancellor spent a fortune on fine foods and accommodation in the city; he gave away all his gold plate, clothes, cloaks and furs and horses.

The King of France Louis VII, was hugely impressed by this and this was to aid Becket later when he was in exile.


Becket becomes Archbishop of Canterbury

Unusual decision because;

AB of C tended to not be so worldly wise and savvy.

Nor had they normally led people into battle (France 1159).

Only one royal clerk had ever become AB of C.

He was chosen because;

Gilbert Foilet the most likely candidate was difficult to work with.

The Bishop of Winchester was too old.

Becket had the support of the old AB of C Thoebald.

Becket would be in the ideal position to serve the young Prince Henry.

Henry believed that as he had done as Chancellor Becket would serve the Kings interests over the Pope.


How Becket changed

Becket saw his new master as God and new that this would potentially lead to conflict with Henry.

“There are two principles by which the world is ruled: the authority of priests and the royal power. The authority of priests is the greater because God will demand an accounting of them even in regard to kings.”

Thomas Becket in a letter to Henry II (1166)


How Becket changed

Conservation between Henry II and Thomas Becket, quoted by Roger of Pontigny in his book Life of Thomas Becket. (c. 1176)

Henry II: Have I not raised you from the poor and humble to the summit of honour and rank?... How can it be that after so many favours... that you are not only ungrateful but oppose me in everything.

Thomas Becket: I am not unmindful of the favours which, not simply you, but God the giver of all things has decided to confer on me through you as St Peter says, '"We ought to obey God rather than men."

Henry II: I don't want a sermon from you: are you not the son of one of my villeins?

Thomas Becket: It is true that I am not of royal lineage; but then, neither was St Peter.


How Becket changed

After being appointed Thomas Becket began to show a concern for the poor. Every morning thirteen poor people were brought to his home. After washing their feet Becket served them a meal. He also gave each one of them four silver pennies.

Instead of wearing expensive clothes, Becket now wore a simple monastic habit. As a penance (punishment for previous sins) he slept on a cold stone floor, wore a tight-fitting hairshirt that was infested with fleas and was scourged (whipped) daily by his monks.


At his court in Woodstock in 1163, the King proposed that Sheriffs Aid should be paid into the Royal treasury, reducing the Sheriffs profits but increasing the royal profits!

  • Sherriff Aid was a supplementary payment paid to the Sheriffs by the landowners.
  • As Chancellor, Becket would have support this measure whole heartedly.
  • As AB of C he had very different priorities as 1/5th of all land was owned by the Church.
  • Becket refused to pay what he saw as another Royal rent. Becket won the argument and didn’t pay. The King was furious.
  • This opened wounds of a more deep seated rivalry.


The Prosecution of Clerics


Irregular persecution of laity for moral offences


The disregard of ancient customs of the Crown and Church.



The Prosecution of Clerics. ‘Criminous Clerks’.

About 1 in 6 of the population of England were clergymen, but were not ordained to the priesthood.

As so calledLay Preachers, could seek to be tried bycanon law(church) rather than being tried in the crinious courts.


Irregular persecution of laity for moral offences.

Basically the Church was far more lenient upon the criminals. Issuing penance for crimes such as rape, murder and homiside.


The disregard of ancient customs of the Crown and Church.

ie a return to the old days of Henry’s grandfather Henry I which he attempted to do via the constitutions of Clarendon. The bishops however supported Becket in upholding ‘laws of God’ (canon law)