On this day December 29, 1170

Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket was slain in his own cathedral by four knights of Henry II of England.

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Stained glass of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral

He is venerated as a saint and martyr by both the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion. He engaged in conflict with Henry II of England over the rights and privileges of the Church and was assassinated by followers of the king in Canterbury Cathedral.

Four knights, Reginald FitzUrse, Hugh de Moreville, William de Tracy, and Richard le Breton, set out to consult the Archbishop of Canterbury.

On 29 December 1170 they arrived at Canterbury. According to accounts left by the monk Gervase of Canterbury and eyewitness Edward Grim, they placed their weapons under a sycamore tree outside the cathedral and hid their mail armour under cloaks before entering to challenge Becket.

The knights informed Becket he was to go to Winchester to give an account of his actions, but Becket refused. It was not until Becket refused their demands to submit to the king’s will that they retrieved their weapons and rushed back inside for the killing.

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