Thomas Becket

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the man who was Henry II’s Chancellor and then Archbishop of Canterbury and who was murdered by knights in Canterbury Cathedral (depicted by Matthew Paris, above). Henry believed that Becket owed him loyalty as he had raised him to the highest offices, and that he should agree to Henry’s courts having jurisdiction over ‘criminous clerics’. They fell out when Becket agreed to this jurisdiction verbally but would not put his seal on the agreement, the Constitutions of Clarendon. The rift deepened when Henry’s heir was crowned without Becket, who excommunicated the bishops who took part. Becket’s tomb became one of the main destinations for pilgrims for the next 400 years, including those in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales where he was the ‘blisful martir’.

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  • Laura Ashe 10 episodes
    Associate Professor of English at Worcester College, University of Oxford
  • Michael Staunton No other episodes
    Associate Professor in History at University College Dublin
  • Danica Summerlin No other episodes
    Lecturer in Medieval History at the University of Sheffield

Reading list

  • Thomas Becket
    Frank Barlow (Orion, 1997) Google Books →
  • The Making of Europe: Conquest, Colonization and Cultural Change 950 - 1350
    Robert Bartlett (Penguin, 1994) Google Books →
  • Medieval Canon Law
    James A. Brundage (Routledge, 2016) Google Books →
  • The Quest for Becket's Bones
    John Butler (Yale University Press, 1995) Google Books →
  • The Struggle for Mastery: The Penguin History of Britain 1066-1284
    David Carpenter (Penguin, 2004) Google Books →
  • From Becket to Langton: English Church Government, 1170-1213
    C. R. Cheney (Manchester University Press, 1986) Google Books →
  • Thomas Becket
    Anne Duggan (Bloomsbury Academic, 2004) Google Books →
  • Thomas Becket: Warrior, Priest, Rebel
    John Guy (Random House, 2012) Google Books →
  • Thomas Becket
    David Knowles (Adam & Charles Black, 1970) Google Books →
  • The Becket Conflict and the Schools
    Beryl Smalley (Blackwell, 1973) Google Books →
  • The Penguin History of the Church: Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages
    R.W. Southern (Penguin, 1990) Google Books →
  • The Lives of Thomas Becket
    Michael Staunton (Manchester University Press, 2001) Google Books →
  • Thomas Becket and his Biographers
    Michael Staunton (Boydell & Brewer, 2006) Google Books →
  • Thomas Becket: His Last Days
    William Urry (Sutton Publishing Ltd, 1999) Google Books →
  • Henry II
    Wilfrid L. Warren (Yale University Press, 1973) Google Books →
  • The Cult of St Thomas Becket in the Plantagenet World, c. 1170-c.1220
    Paul Webster and Marie-Pierre Gelin (eds.) (Boydell & Brewer, 2016) Google Books →

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Auto-category: 270 (Christian church history)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello, Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered in his cathedral in December 1170 by four knights who'd come to arrest him as a traitor, as they thought, to please the king.