Who was St Thomas the Martyr?

Thomas Becket was born in 1118 and was a close friend of King Henry II. He was one of the king’s most important advisors and became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1161. Soon after, Thomas argued with King Henry over plans to reform the Church. Tension between them grew so high that Thomas fled to France for safety in 1164.

In 1170, Thomas returned, but the situation did not improve. Frustrated and angry, King Henry exclaimed out loud. No-one knows exactly what he said, but the phrase passed down over time has been, ‘Will no-one rid me of this turbulent priest?’. Four knights overheard this. They rode to Canterbury, rushed into the Cathedral and murdered Thomas.

King Henry later took responsibility for Thomas’ death, but claimed he never meant it to happen. The knights who murdered Thomas fell into disgrace and were sent into exile for fourteen years.