Thursday, 18 February 2016

Becket's Early Life according to Thomas de Froidmont

Translated from

Chronicon Angliae Petriburgense p. 213-

Chapter 1

[Second Herbert of Bosham and Edward Grim]

Concering Visions and Omens Exhibited Around the time of his Birth

According as Christ has been chosen him before the foundation of the world St.Thomas born in fortunate London, the capital of Britannia, has rendered his place of origin illustrious. His father was Gilbert, surnamed Becket, his mother was Matilda, as she was so-named in baptism.

When she was conceived of him she had a vision in her sleep that all the waters of the Thames flowed into her womb. Moreover, when now she was pregnant with him, she saw herself with other Christians running towards the Church of Canterbury, and when she had reached the entrance to the Church, she envisioned her womb as having been swollen so much that she was unable to enter the building..

Nevertheless when she herself now saw the boy was lying in his cradle,  she got angry with the baby's wet-nurse because it seemed as though his relics were lying bare? At which she said,  "why don't you cover the infant fully?"  The nurse answered, "my lady, he is well wrapped in the best purple winding sheet". And soon the mother of the infant and the nurse hurried equally towards the uncoiling of the purple cloth. Which when it was not possible to stretch it out in the narrow passage of the bedroom, they went out into the hall of the house itself, and which when it  was apparent that that was of a too narrow width for the purpose, they were out into the largest square in the city, and which when that itself was seen to be too narrow, suddenly a voice said to them, "the whole of England is smaller than this purple cloth, and neither can it contend with its breadth."

Truly one day a fire surged in his father's house. where the infant has been-born, which burned down a great part of London.

Accordingly  he was named Thomas,  born on the solemn feast day of blessed St. Thomas the Apostle, and on that same day was born again with the holy water of baptism and the breath of the Holy Spirit; a worthy successor, next to St. Ambrose, he possessed the covenant of voice  and  was crowned with the blood of martyrdom.  The boy therefore grew and the Lord was with him. And whilst he was still in childhood he was seized with a fever, and as he was sweating it out lying in his bed he had a magnificent vision, a tall lady with a splendid countenance promising him he would become strong and healthy, placing in his hand two golden keys and with these words she said, "O Thomas, these are the keys to Paradise, of which thou art to have charge." Twofold are the graces in mankind, one divine, the other worldly but both from God; by the first we please God, through the second the world; these are goodness and kindness. Key-bearer of the world to come in heaven it is not possible to please and thus be faithful to God like Samuel and men.

Chapter 2

Concerning Those studies and pastimes which he pursued during his adolescent years

[Herbert of Bosham]

For long the Beckets were renowned for their wealth and glory with their friends and family: but then finally after frequent fires and other misfortunate matters which assaults not moderately weakened them, they recognised they had less [time and resources] to devote to the diligent instruction of their son..Almost immediately, the desolation caused his mother's death, which at that time left the son on the road almost to total ruin relying on his own counsel. It was clear that the father had now grown old and was not able substantially to support the costs of his son with what was left. But neither did his father live much longer following his mother's demise.

A very rich man of noble birth, called Richer de L'Aigle, whenever he came to the City [of London] was accustomed to lodge with the Beckets at their house, and with whom Thomas undertook to be associated for some time for his counsel and foresights.

[Edward Grim]

Now as his childhood years unfolded he began to excel in the best of manners, clear intelligence and credible eloquence, an agreeable face mixed with gravity and a charming aspect, presenting a very elegant, amiable and pleasing appearance to all. He had married the eloquence which had sprung from nature with the highest prudence.

[John of Salisbury]

Finally, he had so sharp a mind he could unravel [win] unprecedented and difficult [court] cases with his intelligence, and in the same degree as he took such pleasure in having such a good memory that, having learned the sayings or judgements, he could bring these forth almost whenever he wanted to without any difficulty. The reason why many learned persons were not able to follow him they were ascribing his great alacrity of mind as a miracle.  For indeed just as his wet-nurse sustained the future high priest [archbishop],  as he usually said , they were at hand for him to use at conferences or during the course of speeches.  From an early age, as he was accustomed to relate, he learned from his mother to fear the Lord, and to call upon the Blessed Virgin Mary as his guide to lead his way through life as his patroness, and through her to put his  trust in Christ in everything. Accordingly, he turned towards the above-mentioned rich man after leaving his schools, and following his curiosity, he now went hunting for game, now catching birds, which pleasurably fed his youthful mind, sometimes at home in the city [of London] and sometimes living in the country with the rich man.

[Edward Grim II]

And it came to pass being released in this way, this allowed him to renounce his scholarly studies.  Truly one day it happened at a certain place along the banks of a river where Thomas was proceeding at the same time with the rich man, that there flew a duck along the same river being pursued by a hawk which followed it diving in a like manner into the river. When he saw this the young Thomas took pity on the hawk which was going to lose its life, and now jumped off his horse, and followed it into the river order to rescue the bird which had been swallowed up by the stream. But before the bird was caught, he happened to find himself in the mainstream of the river,  And he was dragged under the waters. And then the surging current [tidal?] with an impelling force raised him up. He began to be in danger. To onlookers it seemed as if he would perish, while there was no one present who could stretch out a hand to save the drowning person..And then he was [fast] approaching [being dragged] towards a mill-house, which, at that moment, perchance was grinding, to where the waters first pour forth [onto the mill wheel].. The mill wheel was then stopped by the divine intervention of the Good Lord who ordered it no longer to rotate, which allowed the youth in trouble to be taken out whilst he was still alive, .

Chapter 3

How after the Archdeaconate of Canterbury, and the Provostship of Beverley he was promoted to be the King of England's Chancellor

[Herbert of Bosham]

In due course, Octonummis [Huitdeniers/Mr Eightpence]. a distinguished person in the City [of London] and affluent with many properties, who was a close blood relative, engaged Thomas for continuous period of three years in a position as a clerk, occupying him in summarising his income and expenditure.

In the meantime, in order to facilitate and open up promotion to higher offices he was invited by a certain official of Archbishop Theobald, who by divine grace brought and introduced him to the Archbishop's court, where he was received with fitting honour.
It was there, with sports and all trivial activities set aside, he always kept his mind better informed by the speeches of those older and wiser than him. At last he found great favour in the eyes of the archbishop, and thus became bound to his service, so much so that the archbishop would openly acknowledge that there was no one more capable of dealing with his business than him, finding him trustworthy, and neither was there anyone who pleased him more than Thomas. But this stirred up jealousy in that enemy of humankind, Roger, archdeacon of Canterbury, surnamed Pont de l'Eveque, upon whom, Thomas, until he rendered his dying breath to heaven , then became acquainted with the means how to pour out all the venom he could conceive.

In the meantime, in order to get him [Thomas] sent away from the court, he [Roger] now attacked him, either himself personally or though the agency of others; he set about to abuse him. And lastly repeatedly used a facetious insult often indignantly called him the clerk of the axe and hatchet, clearly after the surname of the one who had invited [originally introduced] him to the court of the archbishop.

During this time, however of venerable memory William, archbishop of York, was taken up into the bosom of eternal bliss. Archbishop Theobald using his power and influence arranged that he be replaced by the aforementioned Roger, and following a delay, anointed and consecrated him.

In particular, he made Thomas the archdeacon of Canterbury, and without any intervening delay gave him the provostship of Beverley, which the aforementioned Roger had had, and obtained for his archdeacon the multiple benefices of churches and other incomes. After a short interval of time, when Henry duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, son of Geoffrey count of Anjou and Empress Mathilda had succeeded king Stephen to the kingdom of England, the aforenamed archbishop endeavoured to see that his archdeacon was made the king's chancellor. Indeed he suspected that the youthfulness of the king seemed to be guided by the counsels of young and wicked men, from which he dreaded foolishness and wickedness would arise: both as they would drive him [the king] to act haughtily, and which as victor he [the king] falsely held himself to be, he [the king] would oppress the people. Because of this he arranged for the chancellor to be an overseer in [the king's] court, and by his aid and work the new king was restrained from those attacks upon the xhurch which did not serve it, and by his counsel he moderated the evil and restrained the audacity of officials, who under the pretext and power of public law conspired to rob the goods of churches in the provinces. He was made therefore in all the business of the kingdom second only after the king.  Rarely did the chancellor not adhere to the king's party, lest he would not be listened to by the king, and because he might have to leave the king's hospitality.  The king truly did him great honour, so large was his delight and liberty with him that there was no other person he was known to have spent more time; of this the king at a later time over and over again would remind himself But truly it was customary to compare the king with a certain elegance as having the nature of a flame, which when one is far from him it only sheds a little light upon one, but if one draws near enough it burns one up. Whatever he established, whatever he changed or abolished, withersoever the dominion of the king touched which, according to the law, was everything he held from the Ocean [English Channel] all the way up to the Pyrenees.  But woe to this present and evil age. The greater his misfortune, the greater is his miserable condition, all things considered. You may see, if you look more carefully,  that as far as a person is more powerful in the world, the more prone he is to sin, the higher up he is so much more so is he prone to ruin, the richer so much the worse, because afterwards that explains the changes coming from the king's mind.

[John of Salisbury, bishop of Chartres]

From the very outset of his chancellorship he endured so many difficulties and necessary expenses, he became worn down by all the labours, overwhelmed by so many afflictions, by all the so many snares of ambition,  exposed to the many traps at court and the wickedness of those who dwell therein, so much so that, as the archbishop and his friends can testify that he was often in tears,  and found that he was frequently weary of day-to-day living, and, besides wishing for the everlasting afterlife, above all he desired to be free of the bonds of wickedness.  Although it can be admitted that the world with all its charms seemed to flatter and applaud him he never forgot his place nor his burdens, which henceforward was for the honour and salvation of his lord the king, and thence the needs of  the church and its province for which he was forced to contend against the king himself  and his enemies, to elude various deceits and trickery.  But ultimately, he continually needed to fight the wild beasts at court, and just like Proteus [Peregrinus], as the saying goes, conducted business and practised in Palestine..

A serpent of envy pursued him, whose venom he feared might escape from the royal court. This serpent has honey in its mouth, but in its heart a bitter gall, and also has a sting on its back. This destructive spotted lizard dwells not only in the royal palace but also in the house of a bishop. Among so many and great dangers, however, he preserved his spirit like a strong athlete, in patience and with a knowing certainty because that is like a forge for gold, a threshing flail for grain and/or a file with which to sharpen a sword, that this same false brother is tried. The Chancellor ministered to the poor without thought of the expense..But so were all the gifts of grace hidden by an outward pride, that, except for worldly pomp, no one even thought that it was this same archbishop.who was often doing this. Praise no man before his death, but do not despise him.  For what man knoweth if he will return and repent, God?

[Alan, abbot of Tewkesbury]

There was in the town of Stafford as far as the royal pleasures were concerned a beautiful woman who, it was said, was having an amorous affair with the king. And because the Chancellor often visited this place relaying many lavish gifts, the innkeeper in the town where he was lodging thought that the woman was enticing him [Thomas the Chancellor] to embrace her in order to procure for herself a new lover, because the king seemed to be disregarding her and engaging in lovemaking with her less often.  Wanting to find out more, silently in the dead of night he took a lantern and secretly entered the bedroom where his guest was staying, in which when he saw that nothing stirred he crossed the room and raised the light. He saw before the man lying before the bed on the bare ground with his feet and legs uncovered, one who had perchance fallen asleep after bending down on his knees in prayer many times. And it thus came to pass that thinking he would expose a lustful man only found a religious man of God. Oh how easy it is to be judged by men who know not what is inside a person.


Opera. Auctore Edwardus Grim: Parker. 1845. pp. 10–.

James Craigie Robertson. Materials for the History of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury (Canonized by Pope Alexander III, AD 1173). Auctore Edwardus Grim: Cambridge University Press. pp. 325–. ISBN 978-1-108-04926-

Opera. Auctoribus Joanne decano Salisburiensi et Alano abbate Tewkesburiensi: Parker. 1845. pp. 321–.

Patres ecclesiae anglicanae : Aldhelmus, Beda, Bonifacius, Alcuinus, Lanfrancus, Anselmus, Thomas Cantuar, et reliqui. J.-H. Parker. 1845. pp. 12–. 

James Craigie Robertson. Materials for the History of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury (Canonized by Pope Alexander III, AD 1173).Voll III p. 304 John of Salisbury

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Becket's Early Life according to Garnier

Stanzas 34- 

34 Saint Thomas, the archbishop, on whom you are about to hear me deliver a discourse, it is completely true that he was given birth to in the City of London, and was descended from and raised amongst the barons of the City: and his father was called Gilbert Becket, and his mother, Mathilda. He was the offspring of refined people. 

35  When the lady first conceived the child, she dreamt that all the waters of the Thames entered her breast [womb?]. She told this to a savant, who explained the meaning to her "Your heir will govern many people." But I interpret this as meaning that within her belly [womb?] a spring of pure water ran..

36 God revealed to her yet another very beautiful dream. She saw herself coming to the [Church of the] Holy Trinity [Canterbury cathedral]; but as she tried to cross the threshold, her belly was so swollen that she could not enter. It seems to me, in truth, that the whole of Sion could not contain the goodness of Thomas.

37 On another occasion, just before she was about to conceive the child, she dreamt that the twelve great stars of heaven fell before her chair. This was of great significance because all the twelve tribes [of Israel] bowed down before him, and he would become one of the twelve who would judge them.

38 After she had given birth to the child, the woman had yet another dream: the child was found lying bare in his cradle; taking great pity, she begged the wet-nurse to cover him, but the nurse replied that he was already well covered by a large folded pall.

39 The pall was scarlet. Both got up and proceeded firmly and hurriedly to unwrap the cloth. The room was small: so they passed on through into the house; but that refuge was too constricted, and so they went out into the street; even that proved much too narrow: so they went to Smithfield.

40 Even Smithfield was still too small for this pall. Then descending upon them from heaven they heard a voice saying that all England could not hold the grandeur of this pall. Well can we understand  that  the blood of the saint had spread throughout the world.

41 Thomas was put into school a very young age. He studied grammar after he had finished with the psalter, he studied the arts and a little singing. He worked diligently, and suffered much pain, but did not dwell for long in the schools.

42 Richier de L'Aigle was wont to lodge at his father's house.  Thomas often went hunting with him in the woods and along river banks, and stayed together with him for well half a year, as I have heard told. It was then that he began to love hounds and falcons very much.

43 One day the child went with him hunting along the river banks: he wanted to learn how to cast off hawks and their behaviour. They reached a wide stream where there was neither bridge nor ferry, but only a plank [passerelle] by which people could cross over on foot. The baron went in front, and the child followed behind.

44 After the knight had crossed over the plank, Thomas followed after, all hooded, but his horse lost its foothold: both he and the horse tumbled over into the water; having come off his saddle he floated downstream..

45 Beside the plank, there was a mill fully grinding away. Into the large ravine [of the mill race?] he went. Thomas came there floating, where he would have fallen head first onto the mill wheel.  The miller, having just finished grinding, shut the sluice gate. Thus it was in this manner God saved the child from death.

46 Because God wanted to protect and save him for the great good to be done, God suffers some others to live and saves even those who may come to perform a very great evil, as well as those who have the need to perform a very great good..

47 According to testimony, he was twenty-one or more when he left college. By very great misfortune he found himself destitute, with very little to live on, because his father and his mother [their enterprise] had foundered in a storm, from which they could never rise again to find a safe haven.

48 For his father had once been a very rich man, and his mother a beautiful lady, in body and looks. They came from well to-do families, and had been very successful; but fire had done this and brought both destruction and loss. So often had they had fires that many times they had nearly been broke.

49 He went to live with one of his kinsmen, Osbern Huit-Deniers, a wealthy Londoner, well known to both the French and English. Afterwards he became one of his scriveners, for two or three years, I know not; it was then he began to be both wise and courteous.

50 But Thomas did so much toing and froing [up and down] that he was introduced to the archbishop by one of his marshals, who was wont many times to lodge at his father's. He came to him finely dressed and well mounted on a horse with the assistance of the spiritual King.

51 Thomas was cunning, and he advanced much with God's help and advice. Day and night he stayed awake; he took pains to serve his master whenever he could. For his advice he was keenly sought by all, while the archbishop often summoned him.

52 Roger de Pont-Évêque became jealous of him, and either by himself or through others had him sent away. Many times he used to refer to him as the clerk of Porte Hache [Hatchet Man]. (This was the name of the man who had brought him to that court.) But Thomas was clever, and outsmarted him.

53 Archbishop Theobald took him to Rome, and then sent him there with his messages often. but whilst there, and elsewhere, he served him so well that the archbishop brought him by his side, and abandoned his private council.

54 When William, the archbishop of York, died, Theobald worked hard to procure the position for his archdeacon, Roger de Pont-Évêque, whom he invested and consecrated.. As for the archdeaconry, he gave this to his clerk, Thomas.

55 He also obtained for him the provostship of Beverley, and gave him the income from many churches and places because he had never found anyone before who served him so well. God gave him the aspiration and he always strove for honour, wisdom and the good.

56 Well he loved the worldly sports, to hunt with hounds and birds of prey; he was bountiful and valiant, and had an alive reason and bright intelligence, but he did not refuse anyone who wished to give him something, just as others do who have the power to nourish or to put matters right, and want to rise in the world by means of their own wealth.

57 And the archbishop Theobald had not forgotten him and put him in alliance with king Henry II, who gave him the post of running his chancellery. And it was thus that his honour and estate increased all the time, but he never forgot his place that he was in the service of the king.

58 He served the king very willingly in whatever he could,  both in thought and in deed he was completely wholesome. Whatever riches he possessed, whether it was silver, money, gold, cloth, or horses, he gave it to the knights. Greatly was he humble in the heart, but in looks he was very proud.

59 Towards the poor he was humble, towards those of higher rank he presented a proud disposition. He was a lamb on the inside, but on the outside he was like a leopard. Happily he did not hesitate to be in the king's service day or night.  But, whatever he seemed to be on the outside, there was no malice in him: his inner spiritual half was ever reserved for God.

60 Although he was both conceited and vain in his worldly duties and outward semblance, he was chaste in body and of sound mind; and although he was fully in the service of the king, he was, as far as possible, the right hand of Holy Church.

61 At that time, king Henry the Second of England was in Staffordshire. And he loved a woman, the most beautiful in the empire. Avice de Stafford she was called, it was said; but although on the part of the king she saw that love had diminished.

62 On the part of the king although his eagerness had lessened , the woman was suffering because to her the king was very dear. Thomas, the chancellor, was then at Stoke. The lady often sent to him her messengers. The host  [where he was staying] who was quite simple thought there was something sinful happening.

63 At Vivian the Cleric's, where Thomas was lodged, when he saw that his [Thomas'] bed had that night been made up with a silk quilt and expensive fine cloth, his host imagined that the lady had slept there, that she had come there to acquaint herself of him [Thomas].

64 When he believed that our hero might still be asleep, and had fulfilled all the good pleasures with the woman, he wanted to know for sure whether a wrongdoing had been done to the king. He took his lantern and went straight to where the bed was, and was amazed to find no one there;

65 Indeed, all the bedding was quite undisturbed, just as it had been made up the previous evening,. He at once thought that our hero had himself gone to the lady, and moving his candle forward to ascertain more there by the bed on the ground lay the wise Thomas,

66 There he was wrapped in a mantle made from fine haberget, with his legs and feet uncovered. His body had been hard at work in prayers and he was lying on the ground rightly fully exhausted.  He was fast asleep because he had stayed awake much in vigil.

67 The more Thomas rose in the secular world, the more humble he became in his heart, whatever he might have appeared to the people. Often and in many places, he committed misdeeds on behalf of the king, but he made amendments for these before God privately at night, for God had fashioned him on a firm foundation.

68 Not one of his closest friends, clerks or companions, neither chamberlain nor servant, steward nor valet,no matter how long they may have served in his household, none could assert or prove that he was engaged in such wrongdoings, and none of whom have ever seen him involved in such crimes. 

69 He was a very elegant cleric and greatly given to ostentation.  Even king Henry, who owns a large part of the world with all its riches, could not match his grandeur, and neither could you fail to appreciate this.  And neither would you come by a man so wise even if you were to spend the whole of this year looking ! While serving the king he suffered many a hardship.

70 He maintained a large number of vassal knights in his household. upon whom he heaped both gifts and liveries. He also retained mercenaries, archers and men at arms. He led them straying into error and did great wrongdoings. He bore down heavily upon the king's enemies

71 He took by assault castles, mottes and fortifications. He both burned towns and vills, and assailed cities. He remained so long in the saddle upon his charger clad in his hauberk, that he was often severely bruised, for arrows were shot at him but which could not pierce him.

72 He was a long time in Gascony making war, and made the Gascons abandon their castles. In Normandy he did his duty well for his lord. And I witnessed it myself several times charging the French on horseback. By his clarion [buisine] calls he did much to further the king.

73 This world is evil, as well you can see it. And the more that a man has, the less he cares for wisdom. And the more power he has in the world, the less he values God's authority. because then he forgets and neglects God. He wants to embrace the world. The world wants to possess him.

74 It is a fact that the evil one [Satan] is always on the look out to deceive the Christian. And how much more determinedly he tries with an honourable man and alms-giver to make him sin, so that along with him he can be cast down into hell.

75 This Thomas, of whom I speak, who then was so powerful, before he became chancellor was not an evil doer. He was plain-spoken with all, to the lowly as well as the grand. Now he was for his overlord keenly enterprising. And in everything he did he was at pains to please him.

76 The chancellor served the king in all at his pleasure. And whatever he did he did it willingly for him. He was privy to his [the king's] secret plans. And [the king]  acted on his [Thomas'] advice, of which nothing was concealed from him [Thomas]. At that time the king loved no one more than him.

77 And he [the king] even made him [Thomas] the guardian [foster father] of Henry, his eldest son; and he was to take up from all the barons their fealty, and if there was anyone absolutely in all of the kingdom so foolhardy or audacious who did not want to do this he [Thomas] was immediately to lay siege to him: this he [the king] ordered him [Thomas] to do.

78 And there was no one who could outsmart him. When the king complained about a rich knight, or an earl or baron whom he wanted to be avenged of, the king noticed that the chancellor would never do anything to assist this person..
79 <<So has he run off?>> he [Thomas] said, <<so has he strayed against you? Certainly many have been foolhardy before to have thought of this, be they rich men, or of great power, or amongst the many who have served you. And well they must now make amends. It is time they are summoned to suffer whence the truth can be satisfied.>>


La vie de Saint Thomas le martyr p.8- Walberg

Guernes de Pont Sainte-Maxence (1859). C. Hippeau, ed. La vie de saint Thomas le martyr: archevêque de Canterbury. Chez A. Aubry. pp. 7–.

I. Bekker, ed. (1845). Abhandlungen der Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. Akademie der Wissenschaften

Guernes (de Pont-Sainte-Maxence); Tr. Ian Short (2013). A Life of Thomas Becket in Verse. Pontifical Intsitute of Mediaeval Studies. ISBN 978-0-88844-306-9. 

Janet Shirley (1975). Garnier's Becket: Translated from the 12th-century Vie Saint Thomas Le Martyr de Cantorbire of Garnier of Pont-Sainte-Maxence. Llanerch. ISBN 978-1-86143-023-6.

Guernes (de Pont-Sainte-Maxence); Jean-Guy Gouttebroze; Ambroise Queffélec (1990). La vie de saint Thomas Becket. Libr. H. Champion. ISBN 978-2-85203-111-1.

Guernes (de Pont-Sainte-Maxence); Jacques Thomas (2002). La vie de Saint Thomas de Canterbury. Volume 1. Peeters. ISBN 978-90-429-1188-8.

Platelle Henri. Guernes De Pont-Sainte-Maxence. La vie de saint Thomas de Canterbury. (éditée, traduite et annotée par Jacques T-E. Thomas). In: Revue belge de philologie et d'histoire, tome 82, fasc. 4, 2004. Histoire medievale, moderne et contemporaine - Middeleeuwse. moderne en hedendaagse geschiedenis. pp. 1073-1075.

DEMAULES, M. (2006). Songes et visions dans La vie de saint Thomas Becket de Guernes de Pont-Sainte-Maxence. À la quête du sens: études littéraires, historiques et linguistiques en hommage à Christiane Marchello-Nizia, p. 321-

Buisine - Wikipedia

Haberget = Woollen twill
University of Manchester, Lexis of Cloth & Clothing Project, Search Result For 'haberjet'
Archive Link 


Anglo-Norman Net

Monday, 1 February 2016

Early Life of Becket

Care must be taken to separate the hagiographical descriptions and features of the events concerning Becket's early life made by contemporary writers which are largely comparisons with Christ's own miraculous happenings at his birth, from those of historical  reality.

Becket was born on St Thomas the Apostle's day, 21st December, in 1118, if calculated from the ages for significant events given later for Becket by his biographers, a date which I personally favour, or far less likely, in 1120 if St Thomas the Apostle's day 21st December is accepted to be one of Becket's Memorable Tuesdays, considered to be so significant by some of his hagiographers later on. He was baptised and named after that saint that same evening in the neighbouring church of St Mary Colechurch. The son of Gilbert Becket and Rohesia his wife (or Matilda who may have been his second wife), he was born at his father's house in Cheapside, London, in a largish building on the corner of Ironmonger Lane on land owned by the Mandevilles. His grandparents probably had come from families which originated from Rouen and Caen, in Normandy, but who had moved to England after the Norman Conquest. Becket's mother tongue was Norman French. Gilbert, his father, was a well to-do merchant, who had many connections with several baronial families. He was now perhaps living off rents rather than trade. Certainly at one time he held the post of Sheriff in London. William the Conqueror had granted the citizens of London a charter in 1075: London was a growing trading city. Becket was born a freeman into a free family, unencumbered with feudal obligations, humble by not being aristocratic, but bourgeois and relatively well-off.  

At about the age of ten, ca 1128, he was sent to be schooled at Merton Priory in Surrey,an Augustinian establishment staffed by secular canons, one of whom was an Italian called master Guido   Later he was placed in one of the London grammar schools, closer to his home, perhaps nearby St Paul's. 

It was at about this time that he went to stay for a longish period, perhaps six months, with Richer de L'Aigle, baron, Lord of  Pevensey, in Sussex. Richer de L'Aigle was a significant baron of this period: later he was listed as being present when the Constitutions of Clarendon were enacted. Becket probably learned social and military skills here. Certainly he learned to ride, to hunt with dogs, hawking and perhaps jousting, all skills which were to stand him in good stead when he later became a friend and companion to king Henry II. Pevensey Castle was near to good hunting and hawking grounds on the marshlands and waterways of the Pevensey Levels. It was during this period he nearly drown after slipping from his horse crossing a bridge.

When he was about twenty, he spent about a year in Paris. Becket's experiences in early life, being sent abroad to study in Paris, and later on in Bologna and Auxerrre ensured that his cause was to be lived on an European stage, and that it would be conducted in an European setting. His early life helped him to build a European network of friends and sympathisers.


John Morris; Saint Thomas (à Becket) (1859). The Life and Martyrdom of Saint Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, Etc. Chapter I Gilbert and Mathilda. pp. 1–. 

John Morris; Saint Thomas (à Becket) (1859). The Life and Martyrdom of Saint Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, Etc. Chapter II The Court at Canterbury. pp. 12–.

John Morris; Saint Thomas (à Becket) (1859). The Life and Martyrdom of Saint Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, Etc. Chapter III The Lord High Chancellor. pp. 20–.

Frank Barlow, ‘Becket, Thomas (1120?–1170)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 Thomas Becket (1120?–1170): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/27201

Frank Barlow (1990). Thomas Becket. Chapter 1 - The London Merchant's Son - Background and Youth 1120-1143: University of California Press. pp. 10–. ISBN 978-0-520-07175-9.

England under the Angevin kings Vol 1 p. 50- Kate Norgate

Archaeological Institute Of Great Britain And Ireland.
Old London. p. 270-9
Papers Read At The London Congress, July,1866
Royal archaeological institute of Great Britain and Ireland (1867). Old London, papers read at the London congress, July, 1866. pp. 268–. 

William Benham; Charles Welch. Mediaeval London. The Macmillan Company.

Lewis Bostock Radford (1894). Thomas of London Before His Consecration. University Press.
Thomas of London before his consecration - Radford, L. B

thomas of london. Chapter 1 Thomas of London: CUP Archive. pp. 1–.

thomas of london. Chapter 2 The Servant of Theobald: CUP Archive. pp. 27–.

thomas of london. Chapter 3: Thomas the Chancellor: CUP Archive. pp. 57–. 
thomas of london. Chapter IV Foreign Affairs: CUP Archive. pp. 76–.
Christopher Nugent Lawrence Brooke; Gillian Keir (1975). London, 800-1216: The Shaping of a City. Gilbert Becket's Fire 1132: University of California Press. pp. 212–. ISBN 978-0-520-02686-5.

Annales monastici Vol 3 p. 434  Edited by H.R.Luard
Annals of Bermondsey 1132
In this year London was almost entirely burned by the fire of Gilbert Becket on April 11.

The chronicle of John of Worcester, 1118-1140

James Pilkington (1842). Sammlung. The Fire of Gilbert Becket: Printed at the University Press. pp. 606–.
James Scholefield (1842). The Works. publisher not identified. pp. 606–.

The chronicle of Florence of Worcester

Julia Barrow (2015). The Clergy in the Medieval World. Cambridge University Press. pp. 65–. ISBN 978-1-107-08638-8

Julia Barrow (2015). The Clergy in the Medieval World. Cambridge University Press. pp. 169–. ISBN 978-1-107-08638-8.

Julia Barrow (2015). The Clergy in the Medieval World. Cambridge University Press. pp. 230–. ISBN 978-1-107-08638-8.

Rye, W., & Thomas, S. (1924). Some New Facts as to the Life of St. Thomas À Becket: Tending to Show that He was... Connected... with Norfolk... Hunt.

Anne Duggan (2004). Thomas Becket. Chapter 1 - The Social Climber: Bloomsbury Academic. ISBN 978-0-340-74138-2.

Garnier, pp. 203–4; Materials, iv. 4, 78, Radford, p. 2.

Frank Barlow (1990). Thomas Becket. University of California Press. pp. 10–. ISBN 978-0-520-07175-9.
Frank Barlow (1990). Thomas Becket. Notes on Royal Chancellor 1155-1162: University of California Press. pp. 287–. ISBN 978-0-520-07175-9.

Raymonde Foreville (1967). Tradition et comput dans la chronologie de Thomas Becket. Impr. nationale.

Bulletin philologique et historique jusqu'à 1715 du Comité des travaux historiques et scientifiques

James Craigie Robertson (1859). Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. Chapter II Early Life 1118-54. pp. 10–.

Materials for the history of Thomas Becket, Volume III William Fitzstephen and Herbert of Bosham

History of Latin Christianity Including that of the Popes to the Pontificate of Nicolas 5. by Henry Hart Milman: Vol. 5. John Murray. 1864. pp. 25–.

John Stow (1842). A Survey of London, witten in the year 1598 by John Stow. William Fitzstephen [Stephanides] - A Description of the Most Noble City of London: Whittaker. pp. 208–.
Florilegium urbanum - Introduction - FitzStephen's Description of London

Thómas Saga Erkibyskups A Life of Archbishop Thomas Becket Volume I - Chapters II - XII Guernes (de Pont-Sainte-Maxence) ed. Walberg (1922). La vie de saint Thomas Becket. C.W.K. Gleerup. p. 8.
Stanzas 34-86 : Lines 166-430

Guernes (de Pont-Sainte-Maxence); Janet Shirley (1975). Garnier's Becket: translated from the 12th-century Vie saint Thomas le martyr de Cantorbire of Garnier of Pont-Sainte-Maxence. Part Chapter 1: Phillimore. pp. 6–12. ISBN 978-0-85033-200-1.

John Horace Round The Commune of London, and Other Studies. Forgotten Books. ISBN 978-1-331-12120-6.

The Commune of London and Other Studies - John Horace Round

Saint Thomas Becket
Ses Historiens, Son Culte Sa Naissance, Son Passage, Ses Parents Dans Le Beauvaisis
Great Britain. Exchequer (1844). The Great Rolls of the Pipe for the Second, Third, and Fourth Years of the Reign of King Henry the Second, A.D. 1155, 1156, 1157, 1158: Now First Printed from the Originals in the Custody of the Right Hon. the Master of the Rolls, Under the Care of the Rev. Joseph Hunter ... G.E. Eyre and A. Spottiswoode.

Herbert of Bosham and William FitzStephen

An Annotated Translation of the Life of St. Thomas Becket (Part One)
by Herbert Bosham trans Mary Imelda Horback (1945)
Loyola University, Chicago 

Volumes 1 and 2 pp. 8- 36

Gourde, Leo T. (1943), "An Annotated Translation of the Life of St. Thomas Becket by William Fitzstephen"
pp. 19-45

Volume III Vita Sancti Thomae, Cantuarensis Archepiscopi et Martyris, Auctore Willelmo Filio Stephani. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-108-04927-6

Saint Thomas (à Becket) (1845). "Vita Sancti Thomae Cantuariensis Archiepiscopi et Martyris. ,Auctore Willelmo Filio Stephani"Opera. Parker. pp. 171–.

Michael Staunton (2001). The Lives of Thomas Becket. #1. Edward Grim MTB 2 pp. 356-9 Omens of Future Greatness: Manchester University Press. pp. 40–. ISBN 978-0-7190-5455-6.

Michael Staunton (2001). The Lives of Thomas Becket. #2 Thomas Saga 1 pp. 28-40 Thomas as a Young Man: Manchester University Press. pp. 42–. ISBN 978-0-7190-5455-6.

Michael Staunton (2001). The Lives of Thomas Becket. #3 Roger of Pontigny Early Training: Manchester University Press. pp. 43–. ISBN 978-0-7190-5455-6.

Michael Staunton (2001). The Lives of Thomas Becket. #4 William FitzStephen Royal Chancellor: Manchester University Press. pp. 48–. ISBN 978-0-7190-5455-6.

Michael Staunton (2001). The Lives of Thomas Becket. #5 John of Salisbury Thomas' Difficulties at Court: Manchester University Press. pp. 53–. ISBN 978-0-7190-5455-6.

Michael Staunton (2001). The Lives of Thomas Becket. #6 Garnier The Chancellor's Hidden Piety Manchester University Press. pp. 54–. ISBN 978-0-7190-5455-6.
 Michael Staunton (2001). The Lives of Thomas Becket. #7 William FitzStephen: The Chancellor in diplomacy and war: Manchester University Press. pp. 55–. ISBN 978-0-7190-5455-6.

Alan of Tewkesbury

Mary De Chantal Biala (1945). Annotated Translation of the Life of Saint Thomas, Archbishop of Canterbury by John of Salisbury and Alan of Tewkesbury. Loyola University of Chicago p. 16-

Latin Lives

Materials for the history of Thomas Becket Vol 1 William of Canterbury pp.3-

Materials for the history of Thomas Becket Vol 2 John of Salisbury Alan of Tewkesbury pp. 302-

Materials for the history of Thomas Becket Vol 2 Edward Grim pp. 356-

Materials for the history of Thomas Becket Vol 3 William FitzStephen pp. 13-

Materials for the history of Thomas Becket Vol 3 Herbert of Bosham pp. 161-

Materials for the history of Thomas Becket Vol 4 Anonymous I [Roger of Pontigny] pp. 3- 

Materials for the history of Thomas Becket Vol 4 Anonymous II [Anonymous of Lambeth]

Materials for the history of Thomas Becket Vol 4 Quadrilogus pp. 269-

Thomas von Froidmont. tr. Paul Gerhardt Schmidt (1991), ed. Die Vita des heiligen Thomas Becket, Erzbischof von Canterbury. F. Steiner. pp. 16–. ISBN 978-3-515-05937-4.

Thomas saga erkibyskups: Fortælling om Thomas Becket, erkebiskop af Canterbury. To bearbeidelser samt fragmenter af en tredie. Tryckt hos B.M. Bentzen. 1869. pp. 1–.
Eirikr Magnússon (1869). A life of Thomas Becket. Volume 1 Longman. pp. 21–.
[The Latin text seems to be from Quadrilogus]
Thómas saga erkibyskups : a life of Archbishop Thomas Becket, in Icelandic. Volume 1 Chapters 3-13 pp. 12-61


Patrologia Latina  Tomus 190  Col 0196B

Memorable Tuesdays

James Craigie Robertson (1859). Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. Memorable Tuesdays in Becket's Life. pp. 339–.

Raymonde Foreville (1967). Tradition et comput dans la chronologie de Thomas Becket. Impr. nationale.

Thomas F. Head (2001). Medieval Hagiography: An Anthology. Psychology Press. pp. 592–. ISBN 978-0-415-93753-5.

Reames, S. L. (2005). Reconstructing and interpreting a thirteenth-century office for the translation of Thomas Becket. Speculum80(01), 118-170.
Richer De L'Aigle and Pevensey Castle

Henry of Blois and Brian Fitz-Count
H. W. C. Davis
The English Historical Review Mary Angela Jeeves (1957). St. Thomas Beckett, "most mighty in England": a psychological study. A. H. Stockwell.
Vol. 25, No. 98 (Apr., 1910), pp. 297-303
Published by: Oxford University Press

Rye, W., & Thomas, S. (1924). Some New Facts as to the Life of St. Thomas À Becket: Tending to Show that He was... Connected... with Norfolk... Hunt.

Marjorie Chibnall (1992). Proceedings of the Battle Conference 1991. Boydell & Brewer Ltd. pp. 109–. ISBN 978-0-85115-316-2.

Richer de L'Aigle

David Crouch (2014). The Reign of King Stephen: 1135-1154. Routledge. pp. 173–. ISBN 978-1-317-89297-7.

J. D. Parry (1833). An historical and descriptive account of the coasts of Sussex. Pevensey Rape: Longmann. pp. 265–.
Pevensey Castle Map

Kathleen Thompson, ‘Aigle, Richer de l' (c.1095–1176)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
Richer de l' Aigle (c.1095–1176): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/47232

Osbert Huitdeniers

Aka  Osbern Eightpenny "Octonummi" "Huit-deniers", possibly so nicknamed because he may have been a moneylender charging perhaps 8 pence [deniers] per mark [13s 4d],  that is a 5% interest for loans, although seeking profit on a loan was considered to be the mortal sin of usury.

James Craigie Robertson (1859). Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. pp. 19–.

Noonan, John T., Jr. 1993. "Development of Moral Doctrine." 54 Theological Stud. 662. 

Marjorie Chibnall (1992). Proceedings of the Battle Conference 1991. Boydell & Brewer Ltd. pp. 109–. ISBN 978-0-85115-316-2 

David Crouch (6 June 2014). The Reign of King Stephen: 1135-1154. Osbert Huitdeniers: Routledge. pp. 173–. ISBN 978-1-317-89297-7.

Henry of Blois and Brian Fitz-Count
H. W. C. Davis
The English Historical Review Mary Angela Jeeves (1957). St. Thomas Beckett, "most mighty in England": a psychological study. A. H. Stockwell.
Vol. 25, No. 98 (Apr., 1910), pp. 297-303
Published by: Oxford University Press
Archdeacons of Canterbury

'Archdeacons: Canterbury,' in Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066-1300: Volume 2, Monastic Cathedrals (Northern and Southern Provinces), ed. Diana E Greenway (London: Institute of Historical Research, 1971), 12-15,

The incident at the mill whilst hawking

Arthur Beckett (1929). The Sussex County Magazine. Volume 3 1929. T.R. Beckett. p. 150.

The British Miscellany. R. Hastings. 1841. pp. 276–.

Robin S. Oggins (2004). The Kings and Their Hawks: Falconry in Medieval England. Yale University Press. pp. 122–. ISBN 978-0-300-10058-7. § 357 § 358

 Roger of Pont l'Évêque
Abp.'s clk. (see Saltman, Theobald p. 164 n. 3 and cf. ibid. nos. 55, 58 etc.). Appd. after March 1148 (Gerv. Cant. 1 133). First occ. 26 Jan. 1149 (Cart. Worc. no. 73). Archdcn. until became abp. of York, cons. Oct. 1154.

Thomas Becket
Not appd. until after Oct. 1154, when still called abp.'s clk. (Saltman, Theobald no. 182). Already archdcn. when appd. royal chanc., by Jan. 1155 (Diceto 1 300; cf. L. B. Radford, Thomas of London before his Consecration (Cambridge, 1894) pp. 65-7). Also preb. of London. Abp. of Canterbury, el. May, cons. June 1162 (see above p. 4). Res. archdcnry. to king c. 25 Jan. 1163 (Diceto 1 308). 
Geoffrey Ridel
King's clk. Presum. appd. by king (Diceto 1 308), by [c. 8] March 1163 (Reg. Antiquissimum of Lincoln, 11 ed. C. W. Foster (Lincoln Record Soc. xxviii) p. 12; R. W. Eyton, Court, Household and Itinerary of Hen. II (1878) pp. 59-60). Archdcn. until became bp. of Ely, el. Apr. 1173, cons. Oct. 1174 (see below p. 45).

Court, household and itinerary of King Henry II
by Eyton, Robert William (1878)

Out of Date Reportage

John Campbell (1845). The Lives of the Lord Chancellors and Keepers of the Great Seal of England: From the Earliest Times Till the Reign of King George IV. To the revolution of 1688. Murray. pp. 14–.