Becket’s Final Hour
They rode their four horses angrily in the night. Stormclouds were brewing and rain began to fall. Their destination was the episcopal palace where Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury resided. They had their plan; it was simple search and destroy. But what drove them towards accomplishing this goal?
Perhaps it was the final words spoken to them by Henry II King of England. A simple sentence spoken to them by the flicker of candles in the darkened castle. “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?” Henry said as he dropped to the ground clutching his chest surrounded by his four Knights Reginald Fitzurse, William de Tracy, Richard le Bret, and Huge de Morville.
Remembering these words, Reginald the leader of the pack, and the rest of the knights rode more fiercely than before in the cold wet England night.
The archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket sat quietly in his chambers with a couple of friends, not knowing the dangers coming closer toward him. Becket turns his head to the sound of someone knocking on his door. “Sire, I see four angry knights at the church door. They are shouting for you my lord. I think it is best for you to leave as soon as possible.” Said the monk, who stood shivering. “Leave us.” Becket said to the monk. As the monk left, he took his final look at the archbishop before exiting the door. Becket turned to an open window, his friends leaving. He thought to himself, “What could those knights possibly want with me?” he paused for a second, “Ah, I see now. I must be prepared, I must be prepared to die.” And with no second thoughts, Becket left his chambers.
Outside the cathedral, the four Knights pounded on the large wooden doors until a monk appeared to open it, to a crack.
“Where is the traitor?!” shouted the knight Reginald Fitzurse. “You must be quiet sir.” Said the monk; “It is time for vespers.” Reginald stepped forward towards the monk. “I don’t care, get that traitor down here to face death!” William de Tracy looked up and called out at Becket, “Coward! You can’t hide from us!”
“Absolve and restore to communion those whom you have excommunicated, and restore their powers to those you have suspended!” cried Richard le Bret. The monk stood up against the Knights, “Leave sirs, we cannot tolerate any of this nonsense. Leave at once.” “Don’t think that we’ll leave without a fight.” Said William. “This is a house of God, we will not allow threats of death to pass through His blessed church!” The monk screamed.
Hugh, the silent knight motioned for the others to back off. “We’ll be back.” Said Reginald joining the others as they left. As soon as they left the monk shut the doors and locked them tight.
Not anymore then a few minutes later, shouts and obscenities caught the attention of someone. Up above them in his chambers, Becket watched on. Becket’s friend Edward Grim, keeled next to Becket trying (hard as he could) to fix his robes, “We’d better get these laces fixed before vespers, they’re the hardest part of your robes m’lord.” Becket was silent. “Do you know what is to happen now?” Becket stared down at him and smiled. “I have an idea, but we’ll leave it at that.” Edward got up, “Now’s all that’s next is the miter, then we’ll be done.” Edward handed the miter to Becket; he kissed it and placed it on his head. “It’s time.”
Thomas and Edward headed down the stairs towards the cathedral, but a monk blocked their path. “My lord, the knights…they’re back. We cannot let you through for fear they may harm you!” “Let them come.” Becket said briefly, but the monk refused to budge. Becket was about to speak but then noticed that a handful of monks that fled from vespers. “Get those monks back to the choir!” Becket commanded. The monk left to gather the renegade monks.
Becket proceeded slowly to the cathedral, hearing the shouts of the knights who were still outside trying to get in. Becket arrived at the door where the knights were and pushed the monk who was trying to keep it locked out of the way, “We will not keep them back, I said let them come.” He said unlocking the doors. He strayed away from the doorway and kept pace staying ahead of the knights who got in and were close at hand to reach him.
“Absolve the bishops Becket or die!” said Reginald. Becket turned his head but said in response. “There has been no satisfaction, and I will not absolve them.”
Angry, the Knights reached for their swords and axes. “Then you shall die and get what you deserve.” Threatened Richard le Bret. “One should not come armed into the house of God. So away you cowards!” cried Becket pointing at the four Knights.
“Die Becket!” Said the Knights, but Becket was unmoved. “I am ready to die for my Lord, that in my blood the church will obtain liberty and peace. But God’s curse on you if you hurt my people whether clerk or lay.”
And with that comment the Knights hurled themselves onto Becket sacrilegiously, pulling on his body and limbs trying to carry his body out of the church. However, Becket caught hold of one of the pillars of the cathedral, and would not let go. One of the Knights pressed onto Becket closely, clinging on him to make Becket give way. But Becket pushed him off calling him, “Pander!” He looked back at the knight and cried, “Touch me not, Reginald! You owe me fealty and subjection; you and your accomplices act like madmen!”
Reginald, in a terrible rage angered by the severe repulse drew his sword up to Becket’s head and said, “No faith nor subjection do I owe you against my fealty to my lord the king!” Reginald slapped Becket’s cap off his head, and in fear Becket covered his face and called out to God and the saints. Reginald’s sword raised, and William leapt in to strike a blow at Becket which Edward who was standing by, intercepted with his own arm. Nevertheless, the blow grazed Becket’s skull and blood ran into his eyes.
Becket wiped the blood away with his sleeve and cried out, “Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit!” A second blow struck Becket in the head, and yet he still stood firm. In addition, a third blow brought Becket to his knees and elbows, he murmured in a low voice, “For the name of Jesus and in the defense of the church I am ready to embrace death.”
Richard stood up in front of Becket, raised his sword and struck a blow so hard to Thomas’ skull, his sword shattered against the pavement.
Thomas Becket slumped down and rested for good on the pavement. Hugh de Moreville stood nearby but did nothing to aid in the bloody murder of the defenseless archbishop.
As they were about to leave, a fifth knight appeared out of nowhere into the cathedral and stepped up to the body of the dead archbishop. He raised he foot above the archbishop’s neck and pressed down so hard on the fragile chunk of flesh, that Becket’s blood and brains scattered all over the pavement. The fifth knight looked up at Richard and said calmly, “Let us away, knights he will rise no more.”
The knights ran out of the church shouting, “The King’s Men! The King’s Men!” Leaving behind the body of Thomas Becket.
Lighting flashed outside the cathedral, as the wary and confused monks and onlookers crowded around the area of the murder.
Henry II, the instigator of Becket’s murder locked himself up and fasted for forty days upon hearing of his best friend’s death. The only way Henry could ever make up for his horrible mistake was to petition to the Pope to make Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury a saint.