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Becket, Thomas à, St

Becket, Thomas à, St (c.1117–70). Archbishop of Canterbury and martyr. A friend of Henry II, who appointed him chancellor in 1154 and, despite his protestations, archbishop of Canterbury in 1162, Thomas almost immediately came into conflict with the king over Henry's claim to judge ‘criminous clerks’, and, receiving little or no support from the other English bishops, he had to flee abroad in 1164. An apparent reconciliation was achieved in 1170, but in a fit of temper Henry expressed the wish to be rid of the archbishop (according to tradition, ‘Will no one revenge me of the injuries I have sustained from one turbulent priest?’), and four of his knights took him at his word: they murdered Thomas in Canterbury Cathedral on 29 Dec. He was canonized three years after his death (feast day, 29 Dec.), and his tomb rapidly became a centre of pilgrimage.

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