On This Day, Dec. 29, 1170 – Thomas Becket Killed on Orders from Henry II
1170 – St. Thomas à Becket, the 40th archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered in his own cathedral by four knights acting on Henry II’s orders.
In 1162, Henry II, king of England, appointed Thomas Becket, as Archbishop of Canterbury. This was the most important religious position in England. No-one was surprised by Henry’s choice as both he and Thomas were very good friends. They enjoyed hunting, playing jokes and socialising together. Becket was known to be a lover of wine and a good horse rider. Henry II loved to ride as well but his personality was troubled by his fearsome temper. He tried to keep his temper under control by working very hard as it distracted him from things that might sparked off his temper.
Henry II also controlled a lot of France at this time. William the Conqueror had been his great-grandfather and he had inherited his French territories as a result of this. When Henry was in France sorting out problems there, he left Becket in charge of England – such was his trust in him. Becket became Henry’s chancellor – the most important position in England after the king.
In Henry’s reign, the Church had its own courts and any member of the Church could decide to be tried in a Church court rather than a royal court. Church courts usually gave out easier punishments to churchmen who had done wrong. Henry believed that this undermined his authority. As king, he was concerned that England was becoming too lawless – there was too much crime. He believed that Church courts did not set a good example as they were too soft on offenders. For example, a royal court would blind or cut off the hand of a thief; a Church court might send a thief on a pilgrimage.
In 1164, the first sign of a split between Henry and Thomas occurred. Henry passed a law which stated that any person found guilty in a Church court would be punished by a royal court. Becket refused to agree to this, and knowing of Henry’s temper, he fled abroad for his own safety.
It took six years before Becket felt safe enough to return to England. However, they quickly fell out again when Becket asked the pope to excommunicate the Archbishop of York who had taken sides with the king. This was a very serious request and a very serious punishment for someone who could claim that he was only being loyal to the king. Henry was furious when he found out what Becket had done. He is said to have shouted out “Will no-one rid me of this troublesome priest ?” Four knights heard what Henry had shouted and took it to mean that the king wanted Becket dead. They rode to Canterbury to carry out the deed. The knights were Reginald FitzUrse, William de Tracey, Hugh de Morville and Richard le Breton. On December 29th 1170 they killed Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. After killing him, one of the knights said “Let us away. He will rise no more.”
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1845 – President James Polk and signed legislation making Texas the 28th state of the United States.
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1851 – The first American Young Men’s Christian Association was organized, in Boston, MA.
1860 – The HMS Warrior, Britain’s first seagoing first iron-hulled warship, was launched.
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1895 – The Jameson Raid from Mafikeng into Transvaal, which attempted to overthrow Kruger’s Boer government, started.
1911 – Sun Yat-sen became the first president of a republican China.
1934 – The first regular-season, college basketball game was played at Madison Square Garden in New York City. New York University defeated Notre Dame 25-18.
1934 – Japan renounced the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 and the London Naval Treaty of 1930.
1937 – Babe Ruth returned to baseball as the new manager of the Class D, De Land Reds of the Florida State League. Ruth had retired from baseball in 1935.
1940 – During World War II, Germany began dropping incendiary bombs on London.
1945 – Sheb Wooley recorded the first commercial record made in Nashville, TN.
1949 – KC2XAK of Bridgeport, Connecticut became the first ultrahigh frequency (UHF) television station to begin operating on a regular daily schedule.
1952 – The first transistorized hearing aid was offered for sale by Sonotone Corporation.
1972 – Following 36 years of publication, the last weekly issue of “LIFE” magazine hit the newsstands. The magazine later became a monthly publication.
1975 – A bomb exploded in the main terminal of New York’s LaGuardia Airport. 11 people were killed.
1985 – Phil Donahue and a Soviet radio commentator hosted the “Citizens’ Summit” via satellite TV.
1986 – The Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, FL, reopened for business after eighteen years and $47 million expended on restoration.
1998 – Khmer Rouge leaders apologized for the 1970s genocide in Cambodia that claimed 1 million lives.
Source: historylearningsite.co.uk; On-This-Day.com