Thomas Becket

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Thomas Becket (1118[1] – 29 December 1170), later also known as Thomas à Becket, was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until his murder in 1170. He is venerated as a saint and martyr by both the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion. He engaged in conflict with Henry II of England over the rights and privileges of the Church and was assassinated by followers of the king in Canterbury Cathedral. Soon after the death of Thomas Becket, Pope Alexander canonized him.



Thomas Becket is also commonly known as "Thomas à Becket", although this form seems not to have been contemporaneous, but a post-Reformation adornment, possibly in imitation of Thomas à Kempis.[2] Historian John Strype wrote in his Memorials of Thomas Cranmer (1694): "It is a small error, but being so oft repeated deserveth to be observed into corrected. The name of that archbishop was Thomas Becket. If the vulgar did formerly, as it doth now call him 'Thomas à Becket', their mistake is not to be followed by learned men." Notwithstanding, the Oxford Dictionary of English, the New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors and Chambers Biographical Dictionary all prefer St. Thomas à Becket.

Early life

Thomas Becket was born c. 1118 in Cheapside, London, to Gilbert Beket of Thierville and Matilda (with a familiar name of Roheise or Rosea) of Mondeville near Caen.[3] Gilbert, a knight's son, had taken the trade of mercer but in London was a property-owner, living on his rents.[3] They were buried in Old St. Paul's Cathedral. There is a story that Thomas's mother was a Saracen princess who met and fell in love with his English father while he was on Crusade or pilgrimage in the Holy Land, followed him home, was baptised and married him. This story has no truth to it, being a fabrication from three centuries after the saint's martyrdom and inserted as a forgery into Edward Grim's contemporary (12th century) Life of St Thomas.[4][5]

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