The Problem between Thomas Becket and King Henry II of England

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Both church and state have both been large parts of the English culture for great amounts of time. But not only in England but also through out Europe itself. Dividing church from state would be difficult at the times of Becket and King Henry II. The pope seemed more powerful then some kings. Yet some kings believed they were the power that ruled all.

That was the problem that came between Thomas Becket and King Henry II of England. Neither one knew which had more power. King Henry believed that he was king, so he had all the power in the world. Becket might not have believed that he was all-powerful but he did know that he was the Archbishop of Canterbury, the most powerful religious position in England at the time. King Henry and Becket were good friends in the beginning. King Henry called him “my valet” when Becket wiped him dry in the beginning. Becket answered “ I am your servant, that all.” Meaning that he loved his king and wanted to help him in every way that he could. King Henry secured Becket’s places after Theobald of Bec; the archbishop of Canterbury helped him out first.

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Neither Thomas Becket nor King Henry were completely correct. Therefore, one would have to side with King Henry. King Henry helped Becket start his career by making Becket his chancellor. Becket was a Saxon, Henry’s grandfather had taken over Becket’s people and most Norman’s didn’t like the Saxons much. Becket being chancellor gave Becket the seal of England. The seal of England meant that Becket would be loyal to King Henry. King Henry trusted Becket. Henry says “I never did anything without your advice anyway. Nobody knew it, now everybody will, that’s all.” King Henry believed in almost everything that Becket says because he thought that Becket was wise.

When Henry and Becket are told of the archbishop of Canterbury death while they were in France, King Henry is quite happy about it. Henry comes up with the idea of making Becket the next Archbishop of Canterbury. When Henry pitches the idea to Becket, the reaction of Becket is one of amazement. When Becket becomes the archbishop and devotes his life to god instead of his friend this started the feud between Becket and King Henry. The pain of having the seal of England returned to Henry hurt him so much because to Henry it meant that his “friend” didn’t love him anymore.

When Becket became the archbishop of Canterbury his love for god overcame his love for King Henry. But King Henry always thought in his head that no one loved him except for Becket. That caused him to split his love into both hate and love. He still had a great amount of love for Becket but never showed it to Becket. He only showed Becket the hate that he had for him. Henry wrote up the Constitution of Clarendon, which was used to control the church. The constitution only resulted in more problems between him and Becket.

King Henry’s idea for making Becket the archbishop of Canterbury was an idea for him to unite church with state more. Henry was hoping that if he succeeded in this he could power church with state. This way he would have all power. Yet, Henry did not succeed because Becket didn’t think that the state should have power over the church. Being the archbishop of Canterbury went to Becket’s head. Ending a wonderful friendship and the death of a man with no other thought from Becket.

All that King Henry wanted was to have Becket by his side as a friend and a trustee. But Becket never allowed it; Becket wanted the church to be equal with state. Not in the beginning though. Becket says, “ in the hazards of seafaring, the instinct of self-preservation has always told men that there must be one and only one master on board ship.” Meaning that he believed and was loyal to the king. Becket feels pity for the king but never shows it till his death at the end when he says “ Poor Henry.” Henry had no choice but to have Henry killed or the pain would of kill Henry first.

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The Problem between Thomas Becket and King Henry II of England. (2018, Sep 13). Retrieved from

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