Early Life Beckett was born in 1118 or 1120, depending on the source, in Cheapside, London. His parents were not wealthy. His father was a petty knight and his mother was a housewife. He started off as a merchant but then went to school and got educated. He made some friends and became the assistant to the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Rise to Power After being educated in England and becoming an assistant to Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury (leader of the church in England), King Henry the II asked Theobald for advice on who to choose for a government advisor position. Theobald chose Becket. After Becket was appointed Chancellor, he was involved in the distribution of charter and letters, becoming close friends with the king.
Election to Archbishop When Theobald died in 1162, Henry chose Becket to be Archbishop ofCanterbury. Although Becketwas quite under qualified, with areputation of cruelty and materialgreed, he was appointed becausehe was good friends with the king.Despite these under qualifications,he turned out to not be too bad of anarchbishop, slowing down hishedonistic behavior in his old age.
Archbishopship Henry electedThomas because hebelieve Thomas would put the governmentbefore the Church. Hewas mistaken: Thomasturned his life aroundand gave up materialpleasures, insteadchoosing a life of simplicity and helping others.
Disputes with the Crown In 1163, Becket began to resent the King forholding too much power over the church.He stopped defending royal interests withinthe church and began promoting ecclesiast-ical rights. The biggest problem was with what to dowith clerics and clergymen who committedcrimes. Since there were quite a high numberof church messengers and clerks, all consideredwithin the employ of the church, there were a high number ofcrimes that needed punishment. Thomas believed that thechurch had the right to try and punish them, while Henry saidit was the right of the government.
Disputes Continued Another issue that Thomas cited frequently was the King’s seizing of church lands. Thomas frequently complained to Henry about this, and it was only a matter of time before Henry exploded.
ExileThomas was caught in 1164 trying to getinto France without Royal permission. Thisprovided the King with a reason to kick himout. He was taken to royal court and foundguilty of multiple constitutional crimes. Hefled in November of 1164, leaving to continental Europe.While in exile, out of spite, heexcommunicated a few ofHenry’s closest friends.
Return and death The Pope allowed Thomas to return in the middle of 1170. Thomas still continued all of Henry’s friends. This led to Henry making the famous statement: "Will no one rid me of the turbulent priest?” 4 of his knights took thisliterally and conspired tokill him. On December 29,1170, they rode out toCanterbury, found him in the church, and cut the top of hishead out, spewing his brains about the church.
Aftermath Thomas Becket became a martyr symbol within the church and a hero to the people for standing up against the king. He was even canonized as a saint by the pope. King Henry humbled himself to perform a public penance in 1174. He walked through the streets on Canterbury in beggar’s clothing, being symbolically whipped.