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December 29, 1170 – Thomas Becket Assassinated

Earliest known portrayal of Thomas Becket’s murder in Canterbury Cathedral, artist unknown (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Yes, yes, this happened outside the Tudor Era (WAY outside the Tudor Era)…but bear with me and I will bring it around! 😉

So Becket was Archbishop of Canterbury, the senior Ecclesiastical officer in England. Henry II was king at the time, and fought with Becket over the power of the Church. At one point, an exasperated Henry said something….the exact wording is not certain, but the most common rendition is “will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?” Henry’s followers took this as a signal that their king wanted Becket dead…and promptly obliged. The pope quickly canonized Becket, and his tomb became one of the richest and most visited shrine of all.

Fast forward to 1538 (told you I’d bring it back to the Tudors!):  Henry VIII has broken with Rome and is in the process of dissolving the monasteries and seizing their great wealth. Henry revisited the whole story – and declared Becket a traitor for trying to curtail his namesake’s authority, for giving the pope more authority than the king of England. Henry VIII actually put the dead saint’s bones on trial and used the guilty verdict to justify destroying the shrine and grabbing the gifts left there (including the famous ruby left by the French King Louis VII). From there Henry would go on to destroy all the shrines and monasteries and grabbing their wealth…

Oh, Henry…

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Published inOn This Day

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