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Thomas Becket
An Intimate Portrait

Nearly 850 years after his death, Thomas Becket remains one of the most controversial and enigmatic figures in English history. As chancellor to King Henry II, as Archbishop of Canterbury, and ultimately as a martyr and saint, Becket (and his unconventional career) has taken hold of the historical imagination, both academic and popular. An apparently dedicated servant of Archbishop Theobald, Becket’s transfer to King Henry’s court shifted his loyalties to secular causes, only for them to swing back to the Church following his appointment to the archbishopric.

Thomas Becket: An Intimate Portrait offers a new approach to understanding the man: the writings of John of Salisbury, a fellow English churchman who was an associate of and advisor to Becket throughout his life. Becket and John attended school together in Paris, served Theobald at Canterbury, sparred while Becket was King Henry’s chancellor, and cooperated closely once Becket became archbishop and especially during his exile from England. John was present at the scene of Becket’s murder, after which he became a key figure in advancing the archbishop’s canonization and cult. From the time that John commenced his education until his own death in 1180, Becket was almost constantly in John’s sight. In consequence, the large body of writing that John produced—letters, philosophical tomes, hagiographies, histories, poetry—constitutes a virtual running commentary on the future saint’s life. Thomas Becket: An Intimate Portrait draws upon this vast source in pursuit of a singular opportunity to share one man’s up-close perceptions of and experiences with Becket over more than three decades.

ISBN: 978-15876-8868-3

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