THOMAS BECKET, THE ARCHBISHOP
WHAT Becket had said, soon came to pass, for he fell
out with the King. It would be long to tell all the
causes of quarrel between them, but the chief was this,
that the King desired to put the clergy under the
common law of England, while Becket would have them
judged by a law of their own, or by the
 Pope. Once did Becket give way, but he soon repented of
having done so, and this made the King even more angry
than before. At last the King called him to come before
an assembly of the earls and barons of the kingdom.
When these were about to pronounce sentence against
him, he refused to hear. "I am your father," he said,
"you are laymen
only. I will not hear your sentence." Then he arose
from his place, and went bearing his cross to the door.
One of the King's friends following him called out that
he was a traitor. Thomas turned on him and said, "Were
I a knight, mine own hands would prove that thou
liest." He mounted his horse, and rode back to the
monastery where he lodged, but could scarcely manage
his horse or carry his cross for the
 multitude that thronged about him and asked for his
blessing. After this he sat down to meat with a
cheerful spirit, the chamber where he was being
thronged with people. In the book that, according to
custom, was read during the meal, came by chance the
text, "When they persecute you in one city, flee ye to
another." Hearing these words, he looked to one of his
friends, as if taking these words to himself. That
night he fled. Not without much toil and danger did he
reach a place of safety. For a time he went afoot; not
being used to this travelling he often tottered and
fell. His companions besought a boy whom they saw to
hire something for the holy man to ride. The boy ran to
the nearest village, but was absent so long that
Thomas's companions began to fear that he had betrayed
them. At last he came back leading with him an ass,
which, for a bridle, had a wisp of hay, and lacked a
saddle. Still they were forced to be content; so,
throwing a cloak on the beast, they made the holy man
ride. For two miles he rode, then, thinking it both
easier and more respectable to go on foot, he walked
for the rest of the way with his companions. They
passed a certain knight standing at the door of his
house with a hawk upon his wrist. When he saw four men
dressed as clerks going by, he looked at them closely,
and said, "One of these is either the Archbishop of
 Canterbury, or very like to him." To whom one of
Thomas's companions answered, "Didst ever see the
Archbishop of Canterbury travelling in such fashion?"
Some say that Thomas was in greater danger of being
known because, as was his manner, he looked lovingly on
the hawk. At another place the landlord of an inn knew
him by the slenderness of his hands, and by the
kindness with which he gave portions of food to the
children. As for the King, he was greatly enraged, and
not being able to harm the Archbishop, banished all his
kindred from England. It would be long to tell how the
quarrel went on. At last it seemed that the two were
reconciled. Thomas went to meet the King, and the King
ran forward from the crowd, and saluted him, and talked
to him in so friendly a fashion that it might have
seemed there had been no enmity between them. But it
was more a show than a reality. "Trust him not," said
the King of France, "my Lord Archbishop, unless he
gives you the kiss of peace." And this the King never
DISPUTE BETWEEN HENRY II. AND BECKET.
After this Thomas went back to England, but he would
not give way one jot in the matter that was in dispute,
and he put under the ban the bishops and others that
had held with the King. When he came to Canterbury the
people and the clergy received him with all honour.
From Canterbury he went to
 London, and there also he was most honourably received.
When the King heard of these things, how that the
bishops had been excommunicated—this the bishops
themselves crossed the sea to tell him—and how great
multitudes of the people went out to do honour to the
Archbishop, he was greatly enraged. First he asked of
the bishops, "My lords, what shall I do?" They
answered, "It is not our part to tell you what must be
done." But one of them said—it was the Archbishop of
York—"My lord, as long as Thomas lives, you will have
no peace nor quiet, nor will you see another good day."
Then the King cried, "I have nourished and promoted to
honour sluggish and wretched knaves who are faithless
to their lord, and suffer him to be tricked in such
infamous fashion by a base clerk."
Four knights of the household, hearing the King speak,
and seeing how great was his rage, agreed together that
they would kill the Archbishop, and departed for
England, sailing from different ports. These four were
Reginald Fitz-Urse, William de Tracy, Hugh de Morville,
and Richard Brito.
Meanwhile the Archbishop had come back to Canterbury.
On Christmas Day he preached to the people, taking for
his text the song of the Angels of Bethlehem, "Peace on
earth to men of good
At the end of his sermon he said that the time of his
departure was at hand, and as he said this he wept.
There was heard also throughout the church weeping and
wailing, while the people murmured, "Father, why dost
thou desert us so soon?" Afterwards when some one said
to him that there had been in Canterbury, among the
archbishops, one martyr, St. Alphege,
he answered, "It may well be that in a short time you
will have another." Nevertheless, when he sat down at
table with his friends, he was merry after his custom.
On the fourth day after Christmas, that is the day
following the Feast of the Holy Innocents, the four
knights came to Canterbury. They pretended that they
came by order of the King,
and so had gathered a band of followers. It was past
the dinner-hour when they arrived, and the Archbishop
had risen from table, and had gone into an inner room
to do some business. They who had waited upon the
Archbishop were themselves dining, and invited the
 knights, whom they knew as being servants of the King,
to sit down with them. The knights refused, saying that
they had business with the Archbishop. He consenting to
see them, they were brought into the chamber where he
was. They sat down without saluting him, and when he
greeted them courteously, they answered him with anger.
The Archbishop changed countenance, knowing that they
had come for his hurt. Then Fitz-Urse, who seemed to be
the ringleader among them, said, "We have somewhat to
say to thee by the King's command; shall we tell it
here before all?" The Archbishop, knowing what they
were about to say, answered, "These things should not
be spoken in private, but in public." The doorkeeper
thereupon called back those who were in the chamber—for
the Archbishop had commanded them to go out. But for
this the knights would have killed him there and then,
striking him with the shaft of the cross, which stood
by, which they afterwards confessed. Then said
Fitz-Urse again, "The King, after peace had been made
between him and you, sent you back to your see, as you
desired; now you have added new insults to the old,
excommunicating those who have been on the King's side.
Say, then, are you ready to answer for your misdeeds in
the King's presence? It is for this that we have been
 THE ARCHBISHOP. "I have had no thought of
doing wrong to my lord the King. But it is not just
that he should be angry because the people come to meet
me, and follow me when I go through cities and towns,
seeing that they have been deprived of my presence
these seven years past. Yet even now I am ready to
satisfy him if I have done aught amiss. And as for the
bishops, it was not I but the Pope that passed this
sentence upon them."
THE KNIGHT. "Nay, but it was your doing
that he passed it. Absolve them."
A. "I do not deny that it was of my
doing; but those whom the Pope has bound I cannot
THE K. "It is the King's command that
you depart forthwith from this place with all your men.
There can be no peace with you from this day."
A. "Cease your threats; never again will
I put the sea between me and my church. He that wants
me shall find me here."
THE K. "What the King has commanded,
that will we cause to be done."
A. "If any man shall break the laws of
Christ's Church, I will not spare him."
THE K.(springing up from their seats). "You have
said this to the peril of your life."
A. "Do you come to kill me? I have
committed my cause to the Judge of all."
 FITZ-URSE. "In the King's name we
command all that are here to hold this man, lest he
should escape before the King shall have had full
justice on his body."
When he had said this they went out, but the Archbishop
followed them to the door, saying, "Here shall ye find
me." Then returning to his place, he sat down and
comforted his people, exhorting them not to fear. He
had not been more cheerful if they had come, not to
kill him, but to invite him to a bridal. The knights
quickly came back armed with swords and axes and other
weapons. Meanwhile the doors of the chamber had been
barred; and they, finding that it was not opened to
their knocking, turned by a private way through the
orchard till they came to a wooden partition. This they
cut through with their axes. The servants and clerks,
frightened by the noise, fled in all directions; but
certain of the monks urged the Archbishop to flee into
the church. He refused, remembering that he had said
that the knights should find him there. The monks then
said that it did not become him to be absent from the
church when Vespers were being said—for it was now the
time for Vespers. And when he still was unwilling to
leave the place, they laid hold of him, and dragged him
by force, not heeding his cries that they should let
him go, till they had brought him to
 the church. When he came, the monks stopped saying
Vespers, which they had begun, and ran to him,
rejoicing that he was yet alive. But when they would
have shut and barred the doors, he forbade them. "It is
not meet," he said, "to make a fortress of the house of
prayer; though it be not shut up, it is able to protect
its own." When he had said this, the knights entered
the church, having their drawn swords in their hands.
All that were in the church now fled seeking shelter,
some at the altars, some in hiding-places. Three only
remained with the Archbishop. And indeed he might
easily have escaped, for it was evening, and the crypt
was at hand, in which were many dark recesses. Also
there was a door hard by, and a winding stair which led
to the roof of the church.
The knights cried out, "Where is Thomas Becket, traitor
to the King and realm?" When there was no answer, they
cried again, "Where is the Archbishop?" At these words
he came down from the winding stair, for he had been
dragged thither by the monks, and said in a clear
voice, "I am here, no traitor, but a priest; why do you
seek me? I am ready to suffer in His house, Who
redeemed me. Far be it from me to flee from your
swords." So speaking he turned to a pillar, on one side
of which there was a chapel of
 the Blessed Virgin, and on the other a chapel of St.
THE KNIGHTS. "Absolve those whom you
ARCHBISHOP. "They have not given
satisfaction, and I will not absolve them."
THE K. "Then shall you die, and receive
A. "I am ready to die, so that I may
obtain liberty and peace for the Church by my blood;
but in the name of God I forbid you to hurt my people."
The knights laid hands on him, seeking to drag him out
of the church, that they might kill him outside, or, it
may be, carry him away prisoner. But he clung to the
pillar. Fitz-Urse laid hold on him, but the Archbishop
called him by an ill name, and said, "Reginald, touch
me not, you owe me subjection." Fitz-Urse answered, "I
owe no subjection to any, against my fealty to my lord
MURDER OF BECKET.
Then Thomas, seeing that his hour was at hand, inclined
his neck as one that prays, and joining his hands
together, commended his cause and the cause of the
Church to God, and to Saint Mary, and to Saint Denys.
Thereupon Fitz-Urse, fearing lest he should be rescued
by the people, leapt upon him suddenly, and smote him
on the top of the head, wounding by the same blow the
arm of a certain
 monk, Edward Grim by name, who was holding the
Archbishop round the body. Another knight dealt him a
second blow on the head, but still he stood firm. At
the third blow, he fell on his knees and elbows, saying
in a low voice, "In the name of Jesus, and the
protection of the Church, I am ready to embrace death."
Then the third knight, with a stroke of his sword, cut
off the crown of the head, so that the blood and the
brains together flowed out on the floor of the church.
With the knights there was a certain clerk, who for his
ill life was called Mauclerc.
He put his foot on the dead man's neck and scattered
both blood and brains over the pavement. When he
 had done this, he called out to the others, "Knights,
let us away, this man will rise up no more."
The King was greatly troubled when he heard of what had
been done. There was nothing that he would not do to
show his grief. He even went to the cathedral, and
kneeling down in the place where Becket had been slain,
submitted to be scourged by one of the monks.