Thomas Becket (1118 – December 29, 1170), later also known as Thomas à Becket, was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until his murder in 1170. He is venerated as a saint and martyr by both the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion. He engaged in conflict with Henry II of England over the rights and privileges of the Church and was assassinated by followers of the king in Canterbury Cathedral. Soon after the death of Thomas Becket, Pope Alexander canonized him.
In June 1170, the archbishop of York and the bishops of London and Salisbury held the coronation of Henry the Young King in York. This was a breach of Canterbury's privilege of coronation. In November 1170 Becket excommunicated all three. While the three bishops fled to the king in Normandy, Becket continued to excommunicate his opponents in the church. Soon word of this reached Henry.
After these reports of Becket's activities, Henry is said to have raised his head from his sickbed and roared a lament of frustration. The King's exact words are in doubt and several versions have been reported. The most commonly quoted, as handed down by "oral tradition," is "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?" but according to historian Simon Schama this is incorrect: he accepts the account of the contemporary biographer Edward Grim, writing in Latin, who gives us "What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric?" Many variations have found their way into popular culture.
Whatever the King said, it was interpreted as a royal command, and four knights, Reginald FitzUrse, Hugh de Morville, William de Tracy, and Richard le Breton, set out to confront the Archbishop of Canterbury. On December 29, 1170 they arrived at Canterbury. According to accounts left by the monk Gervase of Canterbury and eyewitness Edward Grim, they placed their weapons under a sycamore tree outside the cathedral and hid their mail armour under cloaks before entering to challenge Becket. The knights informed Becket he was to go to Winchester to give an account of his actions, but Becket refused. It was not until Becket refused their demands to submit to the king's will that they retrieved their weapons and rushed back inside for the killing. Becket, meanwhile, proceeded to the main hall for vespers. The four knights, wielding drawn swords, caught up with him in a spot near a door to the monastic cloister, the stairs into the crypt, and the stairs leading up into the quire of the cathedral, where the monks were chanting vespers. They beat down the Archbishop, killing him with several blows. Becket's brains were scattered upon the ground with the words; "Let us go, this fellow will not be getting up again."