Lesson 15: Henry II and Thomas Becket Background information In 1154, King Henry II appointed Becket as his Chancellor. They were good friends and worked well together. In 1161, Henry asked Becket to become the new Archbishop of Canterbury, hoping that Becket would be able to control the church courts, which were powerful and unfair. But instead, Becket refused, as he believed that was not what God wanted. Above all, Becket’s master was God. Then Henry decreed that all serious church court cases could be tried in the king’s courts. Becket agreed at first and then in 1164 he changed his mind. Henry was furious and Becket fled to France. In 1170, Henry ordered the Archbishop of York to do something that was the Archbishop of Canterbury’s job. Becket was furious. But that summer, Henry and Becket met in France and made friends again. Yet as soon as Becket was back in Canterbury Cathedral, he began excommunicating all Henry’s followers. Henry flew into a rage and shouted, ‘Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?’ Four knights overheard him and decided to carry out his wishes. On 29 December 1170, they burst into Canterbury Cathedral and demanded that Becket retract the excommunications. Becket refused. The knights tried to drag him from the Cathedral, but he would not go, so they killed him there and then with repeated sword blows. http://education.hodge.continuumbooks.com © Susie Hodge (2010) Resources for Teaching History 11–14. London: Continuum.