Lately I've been thinking about Henry II and the murder of Thomas a Becket.
...The monks were solemnly chanting vespers to Almighty God, as he entered the sacred temple of Christ, shortly to become an evening sacrifice. The servants of Satan pursued having neither respect as Christians to his holy order, nor to theA terrible thing to love a king, and find yourself set against him. Even worse to be the king, though. The seeds of tragedy lie within human fallibility.
sacred place, or season; but attacking the dignified prelate as he stood in prayer before the holy altar, even during the festival of Christmas, these truly nefarious Christians most inhumanly murdered him. Having done the deed, and retiring as if triumphant, they departed with unhallowed joy. Recollecting, however, that perhaps the transaction might displease the person in whose behalf they had been so zealous, they retired to the northern parts of England, waiting until they could fully discover the disposition of their monarch towards them.
Source: The Church Historians of England. Vol. IV - Part II. Translated by Joseph Stevenson. London: Seeley’s, 1856; pp. 465-7; 478-81; 493-5.
Divine King of England: A Study in Anthropology, by Margaret Murray, supposedly suggests the murder of Becket was actually a ritual substitute sacrifice, a Sacred-King sacrifice. Katherine Kurtz played with this idea in Lammas Night, sort of an alternate-WWII-history fantasy.
The problem IS that Murray and many of her ideas have been co-opted by more marginal new-age sites and proponents. I'm unsure as to the quality of her actual scholarship. I have a lot of work to do, there. I can't find an actual copy of her book, Divine King--which might at least help me distinguish what has been sensationalized and taken out of context. I'm off to the library as soon as I have a free day--because I just don't trust the internet for reliable sourcing.
Meanwhile, I'm completely infatuated with the picture of Becket, murdered at vespers, monks chanting, candles lit... during the Christmas season. I'm not alone in my interest, of course. There is also the French play, Becket.
Henry, legend has it, walked barefoot to Canterbury as penance. Becket and Henry, by all accounts, had been closer than brothers, at least at an earlier point in their lives and relationship. Henry was apologizing to Becket, or to the Church? Probably both, life and history being complex and fraught with rich nuances of relationship and politics. And he didn't actually cover as much ground barefoot as he might have.
The idea of the murder as a voluntary laying-down-of-life for the king--his close friend and almost brother--as a surrogate sacrifice...hmm.
Gawd, what a story, though. No matter HOW it really played out, once upon a time. You just KNOW the real story is infinitely more complex than history can really tell us.