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Thomas Becket (1118? - 1170)

Thomas Becket was the son of a French merchant, and after studying law in Paris, he became the confidential servant of Theobold, the archbishop of Canterbury. In 1155, he was appointed chancellor of England by Henry II, and became Henry's trusted advisor and friend.

When he was appointed archbishop of Canterbury at Henry's request in 1162, he then adopted a life of great austerity and soon came into great conflict with his friend the king. Henry II accused him of misdealings with royal money when he was chancellor, and as the strife between the two became bitter, Becket appealed to Pope Alexander III, and fled England in 1164.

In 1170, Henry II allowed Becket to return to England under the auspices of reconciliation. Since Becket, however, refused to take orders from anyone other than the pope in church matters, Henry sent four of his knights to Canterbury to "get rid of this turbulent priest". On December 29, 1170 Becket was murdered in front of the congregation at the altar in Canterbury Cathedral.

Thomas was immediately proclaimed a saint by the people, and his tomb was transformed into a shrine. Becket was quickly proclaimed a saint by Alexander III in February of either 1171 or 1173. His shrine became one of the most famous in Europe and was declared one of the peregrinationes majores.

Thomas Becket
12th Century