And While We’re on the Subject…

Today is also the Feast of St. Thomas Becket (1118?-1170), Archbishop of Canterbury, who was murdered this day in 1170 in his own cathedral. King Henry II (1154-1189) wanted to strengthen his control over the Church, and in his friend Becket he thought he had a “yes man.” But he was soon surprised. The new archbishop became a staunch defender of the Church’s rights against royal authority. As the conflict heightened, Henry is reputed to have said, “Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?” Some of his listeners took him at his word, and they caught up with him at Canterbury Cathedral as he was going to Vespers. For a contemporary account of the event click here. Henry soon regretted the effect of his words, and he did a public penance at Becket’s grave. (Movie trivia: Peter O’Toole played Henry II twice: in the 1964 film “Becket,” and again in 1968′s “The Lion in Winter.”)

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