BBC - History - British History in depth: Becket, the Church and Henry II
Learn and revise about Thomas Becket and Henry II's fight between Church and monarch with BBC Bitesize KS3 History. Frustrated with Becket, Henry said "Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest!" Four knights heard this and thought the king wanted Beckett. Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, is probably best known in turbulence of Henry II and Becket's relationship was unprecedented.
Becket held the position that all clergy, whether only in minor orders or not, were not to be dealt with by secular powers, and that only the ecclesiastical hierarchy could judge them for crimes, even those that were secular in nature the benefit of clergy.
- The conflict between Henry II and Thomas a Becket
- Becket, the Church and Henry II
- Becket controversy
Henry, however, felt that this position deprived him of the ability to govern effectively, and also undercut law and order in England. His high-handedness caused many complaints to the king, and added to the dispute. Becket argued that the aid was a free will offering to the sheriffs, and could not be compelled.
This culminated in a heated argument at Woodstock, Oxfordshire in July A still later quarrel between the king and Becket resulted in Becket giving way to the king's statement that the custom of England was that no tenant-in-chief could be excommunicated without royal permission. At first, the bishops did not agree with the king, who then asked them if they would agree to observe the ancient customs of England.
The bishops remained steadfastly behind Becket, and refused to agree to observe the customs if they conflicted with canon law. The council only met for a day, and the next day, the king took his heir, Henry the Young Kingout of Becket's custody, as well as confiscating all the honours that he had formerly given to Becket. This was effectively a dismissal of Becket from royal favour. The king, advised by Arnulf of Lisieuxworked on the bishops and managed to swing many of them over to his viewpoint.
The pope, Alexander IIIrefused to take sides, and urged moderation on both sides. Becket also began to secure possible safe places of refuge on the continent, if he should need to go into exile.
Once it assembled, the king demanded that the bishops and Becket swear to uphold without reservations the customs of the church as they had been in the king's grandfather's reign. At first, Becket refused, but threats and other arguments eventually persuaded him to support the customs, and Becket then ordered the remaining bishops to assent also.
The king then proposed to have a committee of barons and clerks compile these customs into a written document, which would be presented to the council. This was done, but in the middle of the recitation of the customs, Becket asked for a postponement in order for him to consult with others about the customs.MURDER IN THE CATHEDRAL! KING HENRY II AND THOMAS BECKET
However, he eventually accepted these customs, and the bishops also swore to uphold these, which subsequently became known as the Constitutions of Clarendon. He was caught, and then tried on 6 October at a royal court on different charges of failing to adequately address a suit brought against him by nobleman John Marshal about lands that Becket had confiscated.
Once at the council, Becket was found guilty of ignoring the court summons and under pressure from the bishops, accepted the sentence of confiscation of all non-landed property pending the pleasure of the king. However, the original dispute over John Marshal's lands was decided in the archbishop's favour. The king then brought further charges and asked for an accounting of Becket's spending while the archbishop had been chancellor.
Another charge was that he was not fulfilling his oath to observe the Constitutions. Becket replied that he was not prepared to answer those charges and was eventually found guilty of both. The archbishop refused to accept the sentence, and fled Northampton and took sanctuary.
Henry exiles Becket's family and servants; Becket lies sick at Pontigny Abbeyafter excessive fasting. Becket Leaves, folio 1v.
Henry II and Thomas Becket – General History
Thomas took a ship to the continent on 2 November eventually reaching a resting spot at Senswhere both sides presented their cases to Alexander. Although Becket was not ordered back to England as the king's envoys requested, neither was the king ordered to back down.
Instead, Becket went into exile at Pontigny. Afterward, the king confiscated all the benefices of the archbishop's clerks, who had accompanied him into exile. The king also ordered the exile of Becket's family and servants.
He engaged in a series of letter exchanges with Gilbert Foliotthe Bishop of Londonwho was also the recipient of letters from the pope. Becket continued to attempt to resolve the dispute, but Alexander ordered the archbishop to refrain from provoking the king before spring Neither Foliot nor Henry had any great desire to settle with Becket quickly.
Henry ignored the initial warning letters, but Becket's position was strengthened by the grant to Becket of the status of a papal legate to England, dated on 2 May The council sent letters both to the pope and to Becket, appealing against the excommunications.
After the dispatch of these letters, letters from the archbishop were delivered to Foliot, ordering him to publicize Becket's decisions, and disallowing any appeal to the papacy against the archbishop's sentences.
Foliot and the bishops then once again sent letters to the papacy, probably from Northampton on 6 July.
Henry II and Thomas Becket
Opposition from the church was fierce. The Archbishop was meant to be a monk and those monks of Canterbury Cathedral Priory were extremely reluctant to have this financier appointed to this highest office but the King was insistent and they reluctantly acquiesced.
He was ordained a priest and the next day consecrated Archbishop. Certainly Becket wanted to prove to those churchmen who had opposed his consecration that he was capable of being the best Archbishop of Canterbury there had ever been but was it necessary that in order to achieve that he had to oppose the King?
Becket controversy - Wikipedia
Certainly Henry was bewildered by his actions, his campaign for the canonization of Anselm, a monk archbishop, who had been determined to defy Kings, was a quite outrageous action and Becket continued to seek out points of principle and actions that would fly in the face of the Kings wishes. It was as if Becket set out to draw out and antagonize the King. That hurt soon turned to anger and as Thomas Becket pushed so the King began to push back and the quarrels intensified. Henry and Thomas saw fit to use the matter of the Benefit of Clergy to bring matters to a head between them.
Thomas publically accepted these constitutions only to renounce them later. An infuriated Henry brought Becket to face trial on trumped up charges and his estates removed from him but Becket realising that his time may be up fled for the continent where he remained for six years.
He excommunicated three bishops who took their complaints to the King. King Henry was furious and uttered the immortal words: The shock of such a murder reverberated throughout chistendom Whatever Thomas Becket had achieved in his life to oppose the authority of the monarch, was of no match compared to what he achieved with his death. His death was his triumph.
At first opinion was deeply split on his death, he was seen as someone who wished kingship for himself but not just king, he wished to be head of the church as well. Public admiration however, soon silenced all opposition.