Collier's New Encyclopedia (1921)/Becket, Thomas à

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659258Collier's New Encyclopedia — Becket, Thomas à

BECKET, THOMAS À, an Archbishop of Canterbury, the son of a London merchant, born in 1118; studied at Oxford and Bologna. Henry II., in 1158, made Becket his chancellor, and in 1162 he was appointed to the primacy. He then laid aside all pomp and luxury, and led a life of monastic austerity. In the controversy which immediately arose, respecting the limits of civil and ecclesiastical authority, Becket asserted against the King the independence of the Church, and refused to sign the “Constitutions of Clarendon.” By a Council, or Parliament, held at Northampton, in 1164, Becket was condemned and suspended from his office. He escaped, in disguise, to France, where he obtained the protection of its King. In response to his excommunication of the clergy who signed the “Constitutions,” and some of the King's officers, the King, in 1166, banished all the relations of Becket and forbade all communication with him. War with France followed. Peace was made in 1169, between Henry and Louis. In 1170, a meeting took place between the King and the Archbishop at Fretteville, where they were professedly reconciled, and Becket returned to Canterbury. He at once published the Pope's sentence of suspension against the Archbishop of York, and other prelates, who had crowned Prince Henry. The King's angry expressions, on learning this, induced four of his barons (Richard Brito, Reginald Fitzurse, Hugh de Morville, and William Tracy) to go immediately to Canterbury; and after unsuccessfully remonstrating with Becket, they followed him into the Cathedral and murdered him on the steps of the altar, Dec. 31, 1170. The King denied all share in this deed, and was absolved; but in 1174 he did penance at the murdered prelate's tomb. Becket was canonized by Alexander III., in 1172. His remains were, in 1220, transferred to a splendid shrine, which attracted crowds of pilgrims, and was loaded with rich offerings. This immense treasure was seized by Henry VIII., and the shrine destroyed in 1538.