Thomas Becket

Thomas Becket John Guy has written some brilliant historical biographies, so I was really looking forward to his latest work the story of Thomas Becket and what a fascinating story it is Although really it is not only the story of Thomas Becket, but also that of Henry II, as their lives, and fates, were so entwined with each other.Thomas Becket was born to middle class, but fairly humble beginnings His early life showed very little of what was ahead surprisingly he was not academically minded as a young man, nor was he ambitious intellectually It was interesting that he enjoyed the friendship of a Norman artistocrat and was introduced to another way of life enjoying hawking and hunting Indeed, he was wonderfully human, enjoying himself in Paris and seeming neither overly serious nor particularly pious A critical choice in his life was joining the household of Archbishop Theobald of Canterbury and learning the craft of a right hand man, becoming invaluable and studying seriously He also learnt an important lesson when he witnessed Theobald forced to flee for his life.It is once Henry enters the picture that the book really comes alive Becket is by Theobald s side when peace is brokered between Henry and Stephen, ending the civil war that had raged for so long Theobald called Becket, my first and only councillor and he was marked for a glittering future career Once King Stephen died and Henry was crowned, Becket became the new king s chancellor within six weeks It really was a meteoric rise for a man of fairly humble beginnings, who now found himself constantly at the new king s side Thomas Becket had a life of luxury, but was seen as an upstart by the aristocrats at court and never seemed able to rid himself of being looked down upon for his lowly beginnings.Henry was a very self assured man who had boundless energy and was unpredictable with a terrible temper This temper would cause Becket serious problems, especially when Henry planned to make him both Archbishop of Canterbuy and Chancellor Henry wanted to limit the conflicts between the Church and the State, but that required that Thomas would obey what the king wanted It was a difficult path to walk, to juggle the rival claims of the Church and State and when Becket resigned as chancellor without consulting Henry there was an increased distance between them as Henry withdrew his favour The book discusses all the issues which caused problems between the King and Archbishop in great detail, including taxation and Henry s demands that secular judges punish criminous clerks When Henry reproached Becket for ingratitude, asking, are you not the son of one of my villeins it was again a way of emphasising their inequality The Council of Westminster, the Council of Clarendon and attempts to make Becket submit led to charges being brought against him and, eventually, to exile.Once in exile, the author details the many attempts to make peace, which take place over several years Does Henry say, Who will rid me of this turbulent priest Does he regret the murder of Becket John Guy breathes life into his subject Whatever his faults, Thomas Becket was a man who eventually had no choice but to stand up for his beliefs When Guy recounts the murder in the cathedral it is almost like seeing the event occur in front of you and both Henry and Becket are presented fairly in this well researched and very readable biography. Thomas Becket Whether that name makes you think of Canterbury, martyrs, or Richard Burton it regardless is a powerful name Prolific biographer historian and husband of fellow biographer Julia Fox , John Guy opens the door to explore who Becket truly was in Thomas Becket Warrior, Priest, Rebel The format of Thomas Becket may catch some readers off guard as the work is not a typical biography simply following a note figure from birth to death Instead, John Guy exposes various elements and roles in Becket s life in order to understand the true meanings behind his actions The beginning of the book resembles a biography, as it starts with a description of Becket s family ancestry and childhood This is rather slow and tedious, filled with much speculation and light statements Further, instead of truly focusing on Becket, Guy overly emphasizes and depicts English life both political and personal and therefore, almost leaves Becket hidden in the background Although I am a firm supporter of solid foundation descriptions and supporting facts this was a bit too detailed and caused me to forget I was reading a book about Becket This early lack of focus causes Thomas Becket to be inconsistent and ebbing and flowing in regards to capturing the reader With that being said, the portions actually focusing on Becket are insightful, captivating, and include stories which are probably unknown to most readers This induces page turning and reveals a new side of Becket Guy includes open views into Becket s psyche while also quoting solid, contemporary source material Thomas Becket is strongly suggested for fans of Henry II and even Eleanor of Aquitaine as the book s primary focus is political and encompassing of the relationship between Henry and Thomas versus a singular spotlight on Becket However, as the book progresses and becomes increasingly a Becket focus it gains momentum and strength Guy presents a man on various landscapes from Becket s library collection, to his clothing, and even his psychological demeanor versus just a saintly portrait thus allowing the reader to make an unbiased decision regarding Becket s merit Events are described in a manner in which the reader feels a part of the action and begins to see Becket in a new light than of the usual propaganda All of this is written in an accessible and understandable way Thomas Becket also includes portions in which Guy performs exemplary detective work, debunking traditional Becket views For instance, although the murder of Becket is well known Guy s re telling is vivid, exciting, and is filled with strong visual language bringing a new element to the learning of this event Followed by an Aftermath of Becket s impact both on Henry and England Thomas Becket ends firmly For those readers interested in supplements, Thomas Becket includes two photo inserts one in black white and the other in color , a glossary of key figures, maps, and notes the notes and bibliography are combined, however Thomas Becket is largely a political study and not recommended for those seeking a personal or saintly view into his life For those eager to receive a wide look into his career, relationship with Henry, and to gain new insight into Becket Guy delivers. A Revisionist New Biography Reintroducing Readers To One Of The Most Subversive Figures In English History The Man Who Sought To Reform A Nation, Dared To Defy His King, And Laid Down His Life To Defend His Sacred Honor Becket S Life Story Has Been Often Told But Never So Incisively Reexamined And Vividly Rendered As It Is In John Guy S Hands The Son Of Middle Class Norman Parents, Becket Rose Against All Odds To Become The Second Most Powerful Man In England As King Henry II S Chancellor, Becket Charmed Potentates And Popes, Tamed Overmighty Barons, And Even Personally Led Knights Into Battle After His Royal Patron Elevated Him To Archbishop Of Canterbury In , However, Becket Clashed With The King Forced To Choose Between Fealty To The Crown And The Values Of His Faith, He Repeatedly Challenged Henry S Authority To Bring The Church To Heel Drawing On The Full Panoply Of Medieval Sources, Guy Sheds New Light On The Relationship Between The Two Men, Separates Truth From Centuries Of Mythmaking, And Casts Doubt On The Long Held Assumption That The Headstrong Rivals Were Once Close Friends He Also Provides The Fullest Accounting Yet For Becket S Seemingly Radical Transformation From Worldly Bureaucrat To Devout Man Of God Here Is A Becket Seldom Glimpsed In Any Previous Biography, A Man Of Many Facets And Faces The Skilled Warrior As Comfortable Unhorsing An Opponent In Single Combat As He Was Negotiating Terms Of Surrender The Canny Diplomat With The Appetite Of A Wolf Who Unexpectedly Became The Spiritual Paragon Of The English Church And The Ascetic Rebel Who Waged A High Stakes Contest Of Wills With One Of The Most Volcanic Monarchs Of The Middle Ages Driven Into Exile, Derided By His Enemies As An Ungrateful Upstart, Becket Returned To Canterbury In The Unlikeliest Guise Of All As An Avenging Angel Of God, Wielding His Power Of Excommunication Like A Sword It Is This Last Apparition, The One For Which History Remembers Him Best, That Will Lead To His Martyrdom At The Hands Of The King S Minions A Grisly Episode That Guy Recounts In Chilling And Dramatic Detail An Uncommonly Intimate Portrait Of One Of The Medieval World S Most Magnetic Figures, Thomas Becket Breathes New Life Into Its Subject Cementing For All Time His Place As An Enduring Icon Of Resistance To The Abuse Of PowerMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Kansas City Star Bloomberg This book was excellent, I really enjoyed reading it I came to this book in a roundabout way from reading Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett.For ease s sake, I ll just copy a post I made in a buddy read thread for Murder in the Cathedral, by T.S Eliot I finished reading Thomas Becket Warrior, Priest, Rebel, by John Guy This plus watching the movie, Becket makes me feel ready to go back for another go at those tempter speeches in Part One of Murder in the Cathedral I still have 18 days remaining before I have to return it, but the clock is ticking.Guy s Becket is excellent Really interesting read And easy to read, too He also wrote a book about Thomas More, whose martyrdom and sainthood are strikingly similar to Becket s A Daughter s Love Thomas More and His Dearest Meg he talked a few times about the martyrdom of Thomas More in relation to the martyrdom of Thomas Becket More, too, was fighting against a Henry who wanted to sequester his church from Rome, and install himself as the final authority Henry VIII succeeded where Henry II did not Henry VIII also had Becket s bones burned and tried to expunge references to him from books and records, I think he also issued proclamations against Thomas Becket s canonization.I def want to read Guy s book about Thomas More later in the year, which ties in nicely to one of the books I chose for my New Old challenge, Utopia, by Thomas More.Reading Thomas Becket made me want to find a good book on Eleanor of Aquitaine and Pope Alexander III to read, too Although that I ll have to put on the back burner And reading Pillars of the Earth was what brought me to reading Murder in the Cathedral I also would like sometime to find a good book to read about the sinking of the White Ship, which figured importantly in Pillars.That s a pretty interesting journey started from Pillars The movie is Becket, from another post in the buddy read thread It s a 1964 movie about King Henry II, and Thomas Becket.The movie and the book should be a pretty interest contrast to each other The movie is said to portray Henry and Becket as having a love for each other, before Becket became Archbishop The book is said to explode this myth.Not romantic love, btw.The movie starts Richard Burton and Peter O Toole The movie was great But, it got some REALLY big things wrong The movie was based on a play written in 1959 by Jean Anouilh Becket , and Anouilh got some stuff wrong The big thing was his portrayal of Becket as a Saxon he was a Norman , and Henry as a Norman he was an Angevin The movie made much of this difference, and near the end portrayed the people as being on Becket s side because he, like they, were Saxons, while the barons and king were Normans Yea, sort of a big goof In any event, despite this, the movie was still great.So s this book It sorted out the errors the movie made, and covered a lot territory, besides Highly recommended Balanced, well researched look at Thomas Becket and Henry II Vivid narrative. Excellent biography of Thomas Becket which draws on a wide range of sources While there are one or two minor historical nit pick errors, the main drive of the narrative is well researched It s a balanced view that doesn t make Becket a saint, but is sympathetic in bias Henry II has the gloss stripped away from him and does come over as a controlling tyrant And do you know what I think having been researching Henry II for a while now I think Guy gets as close to the truth as anyone in his portrait of this king. Half way through, and one thing is clear Becket was a pompous, childish, jerk He s a martyr to the flaws in his own personality The second half was interesting both Becket and Henry II became alive The quarrel between Henry and Becket was personal than political, as Guy concludes Henry, yes, wanted what his Tudor namesake took a channel church, with fealty to King not Pope But he also was incredulous that Thomas, a commoner Henry himself had elevated to state council, then Archbishop, could, or would, defy him Henry never said Who will rid me of this turbulent priest that rendition appeared only in the mid 18th Century what all witnesses agree is that he said something like What miserable drones and traitors I have nourished and promoted in my realm, who would let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low born clerk Becket, for his part, took offense too swiftly, then dismissed a half a dozen truces that may not have prevented the ultimate confrontation But he could have kept the King s ear, while seeking a compromise Unless you take the view, as T.S Eliot did, that Thomas was a suicide of unsound mind, the consequences for both Becket and Henry were oddly mixed Becket horribly murdered, yes, but the focus of pilgrims almost instantly Canonized swiftly, and soon even Henry was seen worshiping at his shrine Henry didn t get his personal church, and was anything but a true penitent Yet when the Church of England finally was created, St Thomas Becket of Canterbury was erased from the English panoply, his Canterbury shrine stripped of what was by then a King s ransom in pilgrims offerings So, taking the centuries long view, Becket s own sensational martyrdom helped pay for the break from Rome Becket s Henry II wanted.This would have been a better book had the first half been pruned by at least a third Skim that if you must. The surest way to my heart is to teach me something, and, if that something is rooted in history, the odds are favorable that I won t soon forget the teacher Persistence helps, too, because I m not the quickest filly to the water So, it is with deep appreciation that I give a shout to Clem, an engineer turned medieval art historian who volunteers at Canterbury Cathedral.I had been wandering the cathedral half heartedly, and an older gentleman with a yellow sash called out to me to ask him anything It was my second visit to the cathedral, and I was tired of the standard, Who will rid me of this turbulent priest tour guide fare I declined with a smile No, really, ask me something, he begged I told him I couldn t think of anything and stepped away He stepped with me, Then tell me what struck you about the cathedral I answered the solitary candle that stands where the shrine stood before Henry VIII ordered the destruction of the monasteries His eyes lit.We started jumping through history the birth of the Church of England, Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, Elizabeth and Mary Finally, he guided me through the cathedral for my personal, bespoke tour He showed me the dips in the stone, worn by pilgrims knees He read the Miracle Windows for me He told me why the saints but not Christopher were headless He took me through the grounds He made me laugh and gasp in horror at stories from centuries ago, and, when he hesitatingly asked me my sign at the Alexandrian mosaic, I answered him quickly I was sad when he said he had to go Like every great teacher, he left me with a longing to learn So, when I saw this book in the gift shop, I needed to buy it.The first thing you need to know about this book, and the first thing that John Guy emphasizes, is that this is not a hagiography This is not written to flatter a saint In fact, if you re like me, you probably will not like Thomas very much through the first third of the book.This is of a character study who was Thomas What made him so turbulent, so intransigent We watch as Thomas is born into middle class London We follow his education I am cheered that he wasn t a master scholar We wince when he is taunted and rejected by his peers, something that will happen through his life We are skeptical that he would be a very good archbishop of Canterbury How could he represent the Church when he was so deep in Henry s pocket Although character driven, no one is very favorable in this history Not Henry Not Thomas Hardly any of the priests Definitely not the pope In fact, the entire medieval Catholic Church is a fetid mess, and that s where Henry s quarrel with Thomas arises Henry wanted the right to jurisdiction over certain Church crimes Thomas said Henry was over stepping his secular leadership Henry isn t a saint for some very good reasons He wasn t trying to clean up the Church And that was that Oh, I loved this I loved that Guy quoted from primary sources, that he described how the documents would have been written I am shocked that the documents letters and drafts of letters survived the centuries Guy s writing style leaves something to be desired in terms of clarity, but I ll give him a pass because there s an index.I marked this book so heavily with Booya and NO and Oh, Thomas that I m ashamed to loan it out I am well aware that this is a serious history, not a soap opera, but some rejoinders were too sharp to not recognize.So, thanks to Clem and John for introducing me to this fun, sad, and, yes, turbulent period of history. Kings can be dangerous and uncertain friends Thomas More, Lord Chancellor under Henry VIII, knew as much A close political and personal adviser to the king, he harboured no illusions about their relationship, telling Will Roper, his son in law, that If my head would win him a castle in France, it should not fail to fall His head did fall, though not over a castle in France So, too, in a way, did the head of Thomas Becket, the martyr Archbishop of Canterbury, who was murdered for defying the will of Henry II, his one time mentor There is an interesting parallel between the two commoners and the two kings, close collaborators distanced by politics and circumstances Becket s death secured those very privileges and legal exemptions for the church from the general course of common law that Henry had been anxious to end His martyrdom marked a temporary victory of the sacred over the secular power More s martyrdom, in contrast, came at the height of a political and clerical revolution that saw the church firmly subordinated to the power of the state To confirm the new realities, Henry had Becket s shrine at Canterbury, long the most important pilgrimage site in England, destroyed He was no saint, the king had decreed, but a rebel and traitor to his prince His namesake and medieval predecessor would doubtless have agreed.Here we have Thomas Becket in the round, a martyr for one season and a rebel for another saint and sinner in one This year is the eight hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the elevation to the see of Canterbury, an occasion marked with the publication of Thomas Becket Warrior, Priest, Rebel, Victim by John Guy Others have traced these steps before him, not just in biography and history but also in drama, poetry and film Becket, to use what is now rather a hackneyed expression, truly is a man for all seasons.Guy, a specialist in Tudor history, has created a man for our season in a lucid and balanced life of one of England s greatest churchmen He is to be commended because it s not that easy to find a via media with Becket So much of the material that followed the infamous 1170 murder in the cathedral is hagiography, to be treated with considerable caution But Guy builds up an entirely plausible picture with all of the balance and skill of a good historian.His is a tale of an odd couple the brutal and domineering Angevin king and the scholarly and principled commoner This was never a relationship of equals Henry saw in Becket a useful tool, a man who had performed a commendable administrative role as Chancellor, an office he made uniquely his own So impressed was the King that he immediately appointed Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury on the death Theobald, though he wasn t even a priest at the time Soon after came the deluge Without even telling the King, who expected him to combine both offices, Becket immediately resigned the Chancellorship A great layman was set to become a great churchman Most have seen this as the key moment in the evolving relationship between the two men, as if Becket experienced a kind of epiphany, a revelation on the road to Damascus, taking him from one set of attitudes to quite the opposite But Guy shows that there was no sudden transformation in Becket s character that, even at his most worldly, he had always carried deep reservoirs of inner piety, that he had principles bordering on stubbornness Rather surprisingly, considering that he had been so close to the centre of power, he lacked political subtlety, the real key to his downfall There have to be real questions also about the true nature of the friendship between him and the king They could enjoy field sports together, but neither man seems to have fully understood the other Supporting the sovereignty of the crown at one moment and the sovereignty of the church at the next, Becket embarked on a course of action with a surprising aggressiveness Henry was not an easy man to play, but a gentler course might have yielded better results But, then, perhaps martyrdom was the ultimate gaol, the ultimate political gesture It certainly secured the liberty of the church for centuries after the Archbishop s death, until another Henry appeared Becket, as a saint, may have been a heavenly success but in the long run his cause was an earthly failure Even Charles I, the only Anglican martyr, who also sacrificed himself on a point of religious principle, considered him a traitor Generally speaking Guy provides us with a well crafted analysis of a clash between two giant personalities, all against a wider political clash between church and state Weakness comes, where all weaknesses come, when he departs from the record into the misty marshes of psychological speculation His attribution of Becket s insecurity of temperament to his closeness to his mother as a child strikes me as so much psycho padding and hogwash There is also, I have to say, a laziness in his prose style at points, places where he overdraws in the bank of clich Expressions like baptism of fire , getting into a tight corner and vibrant social scene really do gall Still, my carping notwithstanding, this is a solid account of a fascinating life and interesting times I think the author has done a commendable job in uncovering the man underneath the halo, though perhaps at the expense of his royal master as the one magnifies the other seems to diminish Bullying and brutal he may have been, but Henry was simply trying to redress a balance, strengthening a state that had lost so much ground during the Anarchy of Stephen and Matilda An over mighty church was as bad as an over mighty subject Becket, the great commoner, had the misfortune to combine both dangers He was the most turbulent priest in our history. A fine example of why your GR friends are helpful to your reading success I was ready to DNF this one pretty quickly I simply could not stand the high amount of speculation the author uses Prior to Becket being elected Archbishop, very little of the story is solid fact The author uses he surely did this, undoubtedly this was the reason, it s likely he thought.blah, blah, blah If he was going to write fiction, then label it as such But reading happy s review kept me nose down and I powered thru to Becket s election as the Archbishop of Canterbury And from there forward, the story was excellent Three Stars is probably a little harsh but I really didn t like the start Recommended start at the election to archbishop for a better read

John Guy is recognised as one of Britain s most exciting and scholarly historians, bringing the past to life with the written word and on the broadcast media with accomplished ease He s a very modern face of history.His ability for first class story telling and books that read as thrillingly as a detective story makes John Guy a Chandleresque writer of the history world Guy hunts down facts with

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  • Hardcover
  • 448 pages
  • Thomas Becket
  • John Guy
  • English
  • 04 June 2019
  • 9781400069071

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