The Thomas Becket affair: an emotional journey

Smith, Janet Elizabeth (2022) The Thomas Becket affair: an emotional journey. Masters thesis, University of Wales Trinity Saint David.

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Abstract

The dispute between Thomas Becket and Henry II in the mid-twelfth century is one of the seminal events in English medieval history. The struggle between the king and the archbishop is well-known, but the reasons and driving forces behind the struggle are less clear. Although widely accepted as a clash of personalities, not much emphasis has been given to the emotions that would have led to the clash. Emotions can be very powerful, and there is little doubt that they can sway the actions of an individual or a group either today or in the past. This study traces the flow of emotions through the contemporary letters to establish what participants were thinking, saying and doing at points throughout the crisis. Attitudes by these people towards each other are revealed, and these demonstrate that the strength of their emotions had an extraordinary effect, especially on the archbishop’s side, which altered and probably extended the dispute. The influence of Becket’s companions is considered; their reactions to their own experiences coloured their activities which in turn contributed to the unfolding catastrophe. Contrary to what may be popular belief, even after being consecrated archbishop, it appears that Thomas Becket was not at first indisputably the champion of the Church and although later on he adopted this mantle and can be described as dying as metaphorically he wore it, the actions of his companions suggest that they were more influential in Thomas’s journey to martyrdom than has previously been remarked upon. Taking the evidence of the letters together with reminiscences from the medieval biographies and allying these to an examination of what was actually happening, the study provides a theory of how the relationship between a king and his chancellor metamorphosed into a fight of dramatic proportions that led to a fatal conclusion.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D111 Medieval History
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Divisions: Theses and Dissertations > Masters Dissertations
Depositing User: Natalie Williams
Date Deposited: 14 Sep 2022 15:17
Last Modified: 14 Sep 2022 15:17
URI: https://repository.uwtsd.ac.uk/id/eprint/2088

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