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Thomas Becket

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Thomas Becket, chancellor turned archbishop, who was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral and whose tomb became a centre of pilgrimage across Europe.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the man who was Henry II's Chancellor and then Archbishop of Canterbury and who was murdered by knights in Canterbury Cathedral (depicted by Matthew Paris, above). Henry believed that Becket owed him loyalty as he had raised him to the highest offices, and that he should agree to Henry's courts having jurisdiction over 'criminous clerics'. They fell out when Becket agreed to this jurisdiction verbally but would not put his seal on the agreement, the Constitutions of Clarendon. The rift deepened when Henry's heir was crowned without Becket, who excommunicated the bishops who took part. Becket's tomb became one of the main destinations for pilgrims for the next 400 years, including those in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales where he was the 'blisful martir'.


Laura Ashe
Associate Professor of English at Worcester College, University of Oxford

Michael Staunton
Associate Professor in History at University College Dublin


Danica Summerlin
Lecturer in Medieval History at the University of Sheffield

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Available now

53 minutes

Last on

Thu 14 Dec 2017 21:30


Laura Ashe at the University of Oxford

Michael Staunton at University College Dublin

Danica Summerlin at the University of Sheffield

Thomas Becket - Wikipedia



Frank Barlow, Thomas Becket (Orion, 1997)

Robert Bartlett, The Making of Europe: Conquest, Colonization and Cultural Change 950 – 1350 (Penguin, 1994)

James A. Brundage, Medieval Canon Law (Routledge, 2016)

John Butler, The Quest for Becket's Bones (Yale University Press, 1995)

David Carpenter, The Struggle for Mastery: The Penguin History of Britain 1066-1284 (Penguin, 2004)

C. R. Cheney, From Becket to Langton: English Church Government, 1170-1213 (Manchester University Press, 1986)

Anne Duggan, Thomas Becket (Bloomsbury Academic, 2004)

John Guy, Thomas Becket: Warrior, Priest, Rebel (Random House, 2012)

David Knowles, Thomas Becket (Adam & Charles Black, 1970)

Beryl Smalley, The Becket Conflict and the Schools (Blackwell, 1973)

R.W. Southern, The Penguin History of the Church: Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages (Penguin, 1990)

Michael Staunton, The Lives of Thomas Becket (Manchester University Press, 2001)

Michael Staunton, Thomas Becket and his Biographers (Boydell & Brewer, 2006)

William Urry, Thomas Becket: His Last Days (Sutton Publishing Ltd, 1999)

Wilfrid L. Warren, Henry II (Yale University Press, 1973)

Paul Webster and Marie-Pierre Gelin (eds.), The Cult of St Thomas Becket in the Plantagenet World, c. 1170-c.1220 (Boydell & Brewer, 2016)



Role Contributor
Presenter Melvyn Bragg
Interviewed Guest Laura Ashe
Interviewed Guest Michael Staunton
Interviewed Guest Danica Summerlin
Producer Simon Tillotson


  • Thu 14 Dec 2017 09:00
  • Thu 14 Dec 2017 21:30

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