Monday, December 21, 2009

Meddlesome Priest

Number 122 in the hero parade is Thomas a Becket born this day 1118, in Cheapside, London, England. Born the son of a mercer, he benefited from his father having rich friends, and having a good looking sister. That rich friend was interested in the good looking sister, and as a benefit Becket got to tag along to visit the rich friend's estate where he was taught all the ways of a gentleman. He also managed to get an excellent education in civil and canon law, and it was as such an educated fellow he first attracted the notice of King Henry II. He was appointed Chancellor of England in 1155, and set about helping good King Henry establish himself as an absolute ruler. He quickly became a firm friend of King Henry, and was a happy participate in all of the reindeer games that kings of the time like to play. Whores, hunts, horses, and hounds it sounds a rough life, and Becket took to it like a duck to water. Henry appointed him the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1162 in order to have a "yes man" heading the church, in order to help Henry wrest power from the Church. Things did not quite go as Henry planned. His appointment transformed Becket into an ascetic, seems he took to being the head of the Church seriously. It was Henry's attempt to gain that power from the clergy written into the Constitutions of Clarendon that led to his famous rift with he (soon to be ex) friend. Becket refused to sign the document, and was eventually tried, and hounded out of England by Henry. Things came to a head in 1170, and Henry uttered (sources are confused as to the exact ones) the famous words that I learned as "will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest." Four of his knights, taking his query as an order, did just that and assassinated Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. This act of violence did not solve Henry's problems, and created a martyr, Thomas a Becket would eventually become known as Saint Thomas a Becket, and would go down in history for a man who died for his principles. Thus, for keeping to his principles, and dying for them (willingly or not), Thomas a Becket (December 21st, 1118- December 29th, 1170, at the age of 52), you are my hero of the day.

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