Saturday, 24 May 2014

Becket's Last Month December 1170

Annus millenus centenus septuagenus
Primus erat, primas corruit [quo ruit] ense Thomas.

December 1170

 S  M Tu W  Th  F  S
       1  2  3  4  5
 6  7  8  9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31

Becket's Itinerary December 1170

Sails from Wissant, North France

1st Dec
Lands at Sandwich
MTB iii 476
2nd-10th Dec?
MTB iii 121, 478
11th Dec
MTB iii 122
12th Dec
Winchester Palace, Southwark
MTB iii 122-3
13th-17th Dec
Harrow Manor
Gesta abb. S. Albani (Rolls Series) i 184
 17th-18th Dec
Diceto i 342
19th-24th Dec
MTB iii 124-6
25th-29th Dec
MTB iii 484-95, 132



Frank Barlow (1990). Thomas Becket. Chapter 11 - The End of the Road: University of California Press. pp. 225–. ISBN 978-0-520-07175-9.

Materials for the History of Thomas Becket,  Volume 3:-

Volume 3 contains the lives compiled by William Fitzstephen (pp 1-154) and Herbert of Bosham.(pp. 155-557)

Online Electronic Versions - Cambridge University Press

Rolls Series on

Volume III. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-108-04927-6

Gallica BNF
Thomas Walsingham; Matthew Paris (1867). Gesta abbatum monasterii Sancti Albani: A.D. 793-1290. Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer. pp. 184–.

Historiae Anglicanae Scriptores X :   Radulphus de Diceto.. typis Jacobi Flesher, sumptibus Cornelii Bee. 1652. pp. 554–.

Wissant [Witsand, White Sands, Wyssant] is a fishing port about 18 kilometres north of Boulogne in north France in territory ruled by the Counts of Boulogne. Becket made his way here on 24th November 1170 hoping to catch a ship with his followers for Dover. The winds, however were not favourable for an immediate crossing, and he had to wait for several days till conditions improved


During his wait Milo, the dean of Boulogne, chaplain to the Count of Boulogne, was sent by the Counct to warn Becket that he had heard there were armed men anticipating his landing in the ports of England, waiting either to arrest or to kill him. This danger was confirmed by the crew of ships which had arrive at Wissant from Dover.

There was a full moon on the 27th November which meant that the tidal range would have been quite high on or around this date.

On the day before he departed Becket sent across to England the letters of censure for the archbishop of York and of excommunication for the bishops of London and Salisbury, letters that he had received from the pope. Becket by publishing these letters, when he did this, was exerting his rights as papal legate to England as well as being Primate of All England. Many have interpreted his action as contributing significantly to his undoing, his murder in Canterbury cathedral about one month after his landing. From his point of view, however, Becket needed to exert his authority swiftly and effectively after his long absence, even well before he arrived back in England. Others have seen that his action more as not giving those concerned a fair hearing. Becket's behaviour in this matter may have the prime cause of king Henry's anger which led to Becket's murder by the four knights.

Becket set sail for England on 1st December 1170 together with his following, but this time directing the captain of the vessel to make for Sandwich instead.

Herbert of Bosham
"Duobus tribusve diebus exactis post festum beati Andreae"
"Departed two or three days after the feast of St. Andrew [30th November]"

James Craigie Robertson. Materials for the History of Thomas Becket Cambridge University Press. pp. 476–. ISBN 978-1-108-04927-6.

William FitzStephen
Says Becket departed for England on Tuesday 1st December.

Becket said that he crossed over on the day after his messengers [Idonea the Nun and a clerk called Osbern] had carried the letter of censure for the archbishop of York and the letters of excommunication from the pope of the two bishops, of London and Salisbur [presumably this event was 30th November].

After they had received their letters the bishops of York, London and Salisbury arranged for the the coast to be guarded by the king's officers, heavily armed knights,  namely Raoul de Broc, Gervais de Cornhill who was the sheriff of Kent and Reginald de Warenne.

As the craft in which Becket was travelling approached Sandwich town it sailed up the narrow channel of the river Stour. As it did so his cross was raised up high for all on the river banks to see. The news of  his arrival at Sandwich travelled rapidly to Dover, and soon after the armed group of knights who had been waiting to arrest him there rushed over to Sandwich.

Soon after Becket had set foot on land the armed knights approached him and his followers. John of Oxford (Dean of Salisbury) who was present at the king's order, told the knights that there should be no violence in the king's name, nor were they to interfere with Becket. He persuaded the knights to lay down their arms. However the sheriff did go on to ask Becket whether there were any foreigners amongst his party. There was one, Simon archdeacon of Sens. The sheriff demanded from Simon an oath of allegiance to the king, an oath saying that he would obey the king against all men, not even excepting the pope or any other. Becket said that he could not allow this oath to be made on the grounds that this might create a precedent which the clerics of England might be forced to undertake, especially if this were to be taken by members of his household. The officials were too few in number to enforce their will upon him in this matter considering that a large throng of the people of Sandwich, the archbishop's own loyal vassals who had gathered to welcome him and who were much stronger in number.

Road to Canterbury

On the morning of the day after he landed Becket made his way along the road to Canterbury (a branch of Watling Street) some 12 miles distance. As he approached the city he was met by a large crowd lining the road offering prayers of thanksgiving for his safe arrival and begging for his blessing. [Is this nothing less than a hagiographical reference, a comparison with Christ riding into Jerusalem on a donkey on Palm Sunday?] The cathedral building itself was decked with coloured hangings. There was feasting and rejoicing. Becket entered and sat down on his episcopal throne where he preached ironically a sermon on the topic of Hebrews 13:4 - "For here we have no everlasting city, but seek for that city which is to come". Afterwards all the monks of Christchurch queued up to receive the kiss of peace from him.

The bishops themselves were no longer in Canterbury, but had gone to Dover to catch a ship to cross the Channel to complain to the king about Becket and what he had done.

After spending about a week at Canterbury Becket sent a message to Henry the Young King who was at Winchester at the time saying that he would like to come visit him to do homage to the sovereign of the land. He sent two valuable destriers as a present for the Young King who had been his protegé in earlier times. 


John Guy (2012). Thomas Becket: Warrior, Priest, Rebel, Victim: A 900-Year-Old Story Retold. Chapter 26 Return to Canterbury: Penguin Books Limited. pp. 397–. ISBN 978-0-14-193328-3.

Frank Barlow (1990). Thomas Becket. Chapter II End of the Road: University of California Press. pp. 225–. ISBN 978-0-520-07175-9.

John Morris (1859). The life and martyrdom of saint Thomas Becket archb. of Canterbury. Longman, Brown. pp. 300–.

W. Hutton (1899) p. 240

James Craigie Robertson (1859). Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. Chapter XIII: The Return and Murder. pp. 253–.

Richard Hurrell Froude; James Bowling Mozley (1839). Remains of the Late Reverend Richard Hurrell Froude: v. 2.  Chapter XXII The Martyrdom: J. G. & F. Rivington. pp. 530–.

Henry Hart Milman (1860). Life of Thomas à Becket. Sheldon & company. pp. 214–.

William Urry (1999). Thomas Becket: His Last Days. Sutton. ISBN 978-0-7509-2179-4

The Court, household, and itinerary of King Henry II
by R. W. Eyton (1878)
pp. 149-

W.H. Hutton (1899) pp. 219-

James Craigie Robertson (1859). Becket, archbishop of Canterbury: A biography. Chapter XIII: J. Murray. pp. 253–.

Richard Hurrell Froude; James Bowling Mozley (1839). Remains of the Late Reverend Richard Hurrell Froude: v. 2. History or the contest between Thomas à Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, and Henry II, king of England, chiefly consisting of translations of contemporary letters. J. G. & F. Rivington. pp. 540–.

Richard Hurrell Froude; James Bowling Mozley (1839). Remains of the Late Reverend Richard Hurrell Froude: v. 2. Letter Becket to Pope Alexander December 1170, written soon after his landing: J. G. & F. Rivington. pp. 539–.

John Allen Giles (1846). The Life and Letters of Thomas À Becket: Now First Gathered from the Contemporary Historians. Chapter XXXVIII: Whittaker. pp. 293–.

Michael Staunton (2001). The Lives of Thomas Becket. 45 Thomas is prevented from visiting the Young King: Manchester University Press. pp. 185–. ISBN 978-0-7190-5455-6.

An Annotated Translation of the Life of St. Thomas. Becket--Books 5-7.
Herbert of Bosham
trans Irene T. Pearse. (1944)
Loyola University Chicago.

James Craigie Robertson. Materials for the History of Thomas Becket Cambridge University Press. pp.476-. ISBN 978-1-108-04927-6.

Becket Materials 3. 476-

of Bosham Herbert; John Allen Giles (1846). Herberti de Boseham S. Thomæ Cantuariensis clerici a secretis opera quæ extant omnia: Liber melorum, epistolæ, &c. apud J.H. Parker. pp. 315–.

Herbert of Bosham
Corpus Coporum
University of Zurich
Patrologia Latina: Tomus 190 col 1257- 

Chapters of the 5th Volume
November 30th 1170

6. The Archbishop sets sail; his entrance and reception by the
populace of England.
7. Activities carried out upon the Archbishop's return to the
8. The second instigation of the bishops against the Archbishop.
9. The Archbishop's sermon and activity on Christmas Day.
10. The disciple who wrote these things withdraws from the
Archbishop. Reasons.
11. The renewal of the king's wrath against the Archbishop and
the arrival of the military executioners

Chapters of the Sixth Volume
1. The knights collect in an armed cohort and pour into the
palace; the Champion of Christ enters the church; the words
of the executioners.
2. The meeting of the Champion of Christ with the executioners;
the point he drives home in speaking to them.
3. The disciple, who wrote these things, gives his reason for
his moroseness in describing the 'contest of so mighty a
4. The martyrdom and how it was carried out; a mention of a
certain cleric who thrust his arm between the on-coming
sword and the head of the Champion.
5.· The Champion's powerful invective•under threat of anathema
lest the executioners harm any of his people; the great and
glorious announcement of his martyrdom.
6. The disciple again offers excuses for his prolixity in describing
the martyrdom.
7. The disciple's reason for willingly approaching the description
of the final end of the martyrdom, even though against
his will.
8. The final moments of Becket; the number or soldiers who took
part in the execution.
9. Becket's wonderful virtue of patience and the unprecedented
barbarism of the crime.
10. The spoils and garments of the priest divided among the soldiers;
the hero s hair-shirts found and cast aside; some
strike their breasts silently repeating to one another, "Indeed,
this was a just man. "
11. Within fifteen days from his death, the martyrdom is known
throughout the Holy Land of Jerusalem; how the news is made
12. A brief treatment on the harmony between the death of Our
Lord and that of the anointed of the Lord; the assurance
that this harmony will be treated more fully and with more
attention at the end of this historical treatise.
13. The author takes up happenings after the martyrdom.
14. The appearance and preservation of the dead body after the
15. What took place on the day following the martyrdom while
the body was still not entombed; how the monks in order to
wash his body, as was the custom, took off his garments and
found his whole body covered with hair-shirts; facts about
the tomb, the manner and place of burial, and the year of
his age reckoned from the Incarnation of Our Lord.

John (of Salisbury, Bishop of Chartres) (1848). Joannis Saresberiensis opera omnia. Nunc primum in unum collegit et cum codicibus manuscriptis: Epistolae. Epistola CCC: J. H. Parker. pp. 240–.

Letter Becket to Pope Alexander Dec 1170

Epistola XXVII
Saint Thomas (à Becket); John Allen Giles (1846). Epistolae Sancti Thomae Cantuariensis. Apud Whittaker et socios. pp. 81–.

James Craigie Robertson; Joseph Brigstocke Sheppard (1885). Materials for the history of Thomas Becket Volume 7. Longman. pp. 401–.

Richard Hurrell Froude; James Bowling Mozley (1839). Remains of the Late Reverend Richard Hurrell Froude: v. 2.  J. G. & F. Rivington. pp. 539–.

Garnier - Guernes (de Pont-Sainte-Maxence)

Guernes (de Pont-Sainte-Maxence); trans. Janet Shirley (1975). Garnier's Becket Phillimore.  ISBN 978-0-85033-200-1

Chapter 8 : Return to England
Chapter 9 : Martyrdom
Lines 4581-4950
Stanzas  917-990

"La vie de Saint Thomas le martyr : Guernes, de Pont-Sainte-Maxence, 12th cent.  pp 154-66

Thomas Saga

Eiríkr Magnússon. Thómas Saga Erkibyskups: A Life of Archbishop Thomas Becket in Icelandic. Cambridge University Press. Volume I pp. 489–. Chapter LXXIII How Saint Thomas returneth to England and home to Canterbury. ISBN 978-1-108-04921-4.

Other References

Henry Hart Milman (1860). Life of Thomas à Becket. Sheldon & company. pp. 214–.
Materials for the history of Thomas Becket, Volume iii, pp. 118-.
William Fitzstephen

An Annotated Translation of the Life of St. Thomas Becket (Part Two)
by William Fitzstephen trans. Mary Aelred Sinclair (1944)
Loyola University Chicago 57-

James J. Spigelman (2004). Becket & Henry: The Becket Lectures. James Spigelman. pp. 241–. ISBN 978-0-646-43477-3.

Frank Barlow (1990). Thomas Becket. University of California Press. pp. 225–. ISBN 978-0-520-07175-9.

Michael Staunton (2001). The Lives of Thomas Becket. Manchester University Press. pp. 183–. ISBN 978-0-7190-5455-6.

Eiríkr Magnússon . Thómas Saga Erkibyskups: A Life of Archbishop Thomas Becket in IcelandicVolume 1. Cambridge University Press. pp. 485–. ISBN 978-1-108-04921-4.

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