Becket, Thomas (St)

 Born  1118   Born At  
 Died  29 Dec 1170   Buried At  

ecket was born in 1118 in London to Norman Parents. His father was a knight who became a businessman of some importance in the city. Becket worked as a clerk for a relative for some years and then joined the household of Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury. This entailed more learning and grooming for positions of bishops, archbishops, cardinals and even popes. In 1154, when the Chancellorship of England became vacant, Theobald recommended Becket for the post.

Henry II

Henry II became a good friend of Becket but the friendship did not last. In 1161 at the time of Theobald's death Becket realised the job of Archbishop of Canterbury was much more serious than that of Chancellor and that he would have to protect the Church from plans that Henry II had for it. The reason was that Henry wanted to bring order to the judicial system as at the time the Church had its own courts. The Church did not want to be part of a system which in the past had put them on the same level as serfs.

Archbishop of Canterbury

Henry forced Becket to become Archbishop thinking Becket would help move his plans forward but in October 1163 Henry put forward his plans before the Council of Westminster and Becket opposed them. Henry Attempted to move his plans forward at the Council of Clarendon but again Becket refused to comply. Henry then decided to crush Becket and at a meeting at Northampton in October 1164 planned to accuse Becket of being a traitor and to imprison him.


Becket fled the country and went into exile under the protection of Pope Alexander III who himself was in exile in Sans due to conflicts caused by the Papal election. Becket's land was confiscated by Henry II. In June of 1170 Henry II used Becket's enemy the Archbishop of York to assist in the coronation of his son Henry, the Young King.


After the coronation of the Young King Henry II left England and met Becket to discuss the conflict between them. After a series of meetings the two men came to an agreement and Henry agreed to allow Becket to return to England and reclaim his lands. On December 1st 1170 Becket returned to England and on Christmas day gave a sermon at Canterbury Cathedral. During the sermon he excommunicated several men. At the time Henry II was in Normandy and at the news that Becket was excommunicating bishops who he thought had opposed him the King became extremely angry. Four knights overhearing Henry's pleas to rid himself of Becket took the King at his word and travelled to England to deal with Becket. On December 29th the knights found Becket in Canterbury Cathedral and were unable to get the Archbishop to reverse the excommunications he had served. The knights drew their swords and tried to remove Becket from the church but in the struggle that ensued the Archbishop was hit on the head with a sword and was killed. Thomas Becket was buried inside Canterbury Cathedral and his shrine became an important place for visiting pilgrims. Henry II accepted the part he played the Becket's death and took the punishment of whipping by the monks of Canterbury.


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Partial Personal Timeline

1155 Spring  37yrsRepairs to Westminster Palace
 The Palace at Westminster had been badly damaged by Stephen's supporters at the time of the Anarchy and it had become unfit as a Royal residence. Thomas Becket was given the task of repairing the buildings and by the summer of the same year Eleanor was able to move in.[1] 
1162 Jun 3  44yrsThomas Becket becomes Archbishop of Canterbury
 Thomas Becket becomes Archbishop of Canterbury.

Episode: Henry II and Thomas Becket  
1163 Jan  45yrsHenry II returns to England
 Henry returned from Normandy to England coming ashore at Southampton where he was met by Thomas Becket. [2]

Episode: Henry II and Thomas Becket  
 Jul  Council at Woodstock
 The council held at the Royal Palace of Woodstock near Oxford was the scene for a clash between Henry II and Thomas Becket over the control of payments to Sheriffs. Becket opposed the plan and was going to oppose more of Henry's reforms in the near future.[3] 
 Oct  Henry II puts plans of reform to Council of Westminster
 Henry II put his plans before the Council of Westminster to reform the judicial system allowing the courts power over members of the Church which had the luxury of their own courts. Thomas Becket stood against the plans starting a rift between him and Henry that would led to Becket's death.[4]

Episode: Henry II and Thomas Becket  
 Oct 13  Edward the Confessor moved
 The body of Edward the Confessor was moved to a more fitting location within the Abbey. The ceremony was attended by Henry II and Thomas Becket. 
1164   46yrsTemplars attempt a reconciliation
 Richard de Hastings, Master of the Templars, attempted to reconcile the differences between Henry II and Thomas Becket.[5] 
 Jan 30  Constitutions of Clarendon
 A series of statements laid down by Henry II regarding the relationship between the church and the state. One statement was the cause for the rift between Henry and Thomas Becket, that said that a member of the church who committed a crime should be available to be tried in a state court and not just a church one. Clarendon is near Salisbury.

Episode: Henry II and Thomas Becket  
 Apr 19  Reading Abbey consecrated
 Thomas Becket consecrated the abbey at Reading on its completion in this year.[6] 

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