Twelve Days of Christmas – Day Five
Thomas Becket (1118–29th December 1170, also known as St. Thomas of Canterbury, was of Norman descent, and was born in Cheapside, London. As a boy he often visited the estate of his father’s rich friend, and probably participated in horse riding and hawking. He joined the Archbishop of Canterbury’s staff, and became a negotiator, and was expert in legal matters. On the recommendation of the Archbishop of Canterbury he became Henry II’s friend and Lord Chancellor. The king and the astute Thomas Becket led an army into battle; later the king, who wanted control of the Church, ensured Thomas became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1162.
Thomas put the Church first, and opposed Henry concerning the rights of the Church. Eventually, Thomas was forced to flee to France, but after some time Henry and Thomas superficially patched up the differences. However, without Thomas’s permission the Archbishop of York crowned the Prince of Wales (a ceremony which ensured the succession to the throne). Thomas excommunicated the Archbishop of York and other bishops for defying the Pope’s authority. An infuriated Henry spoke out in the presence of courtiers. “Who,” he demanded, referring to Thomas Becket, “will rid me of this troublesome priest?” Four of his knights rode to Canterbury and murdered Thomas before a side altar in Canterbury Cathedral. Subsequently, Henry neither arrested the assassins nor confiscated their estates but the Pope excommunicated them. Not long after his death Pope Alexander canonised Thomas.
An important shrine, St.Thomas’ tomb became one of the most important places of pilgrimage in Christendom. He is venerated as a saint and a martyr by the Roman Catholic and the Anglican Churches.