Thomas Becket: Warrior, Priest, Rebel, Victim: A 900-Year-Old Story Retold by John Guy

A full and rounded picture…

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

thomas becketWritten in a way that is very accessible to the non-historian, this book gives a full and rounded picture of the life of Thomas Becket and the politics of the court of Henry II.

Throughout the book, the author fills out the political and social background to the events of Becket’s life, so that we see the contrast between Becket’s relatively humble origins (coming from what would now be thought of as the middle-class) and the exalted court and religious circles in which he later moved. Guy suggests that his lack of an aristocratic background played its part in Henry’s attitude towards him and subsequent fury at Becket’s refusal to submit to his will.

thomas murder2As someone who knew only the bare bones of the Becket story, I felt that the author explained very clearly the different political strands that contributed to his eventual fate – Henry’s ambitions in Europe, the involvement of King Louis of France, the ongoing schism in the papacy. Relying throughout on original sources, Guy gave a convincing picture of how Becket was seen by his contemporaries, both friend and enemy. He also looked at how Becket’s story had been written over the centuries, pointing out where he felt that inaccuracies had crept in and going back to the original sources to support his own interpretation.

John Guy
John Guy

But although this is clearly a scholarly, well-researched book, it is so well written that it reads almost like a novel; the lead up and execution of the murder were particularly finely done. For a non-historian like myself, this is exactly how history should be presented – assume no knowledge on the part of the reader, fill in all the necessary background, give a picture of the wider society and tell the whole thing in an interesting way. An excellent read – highly recommended.

NB This book was provided for review by Amazon Vine UK.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

6 thoughts on “Thomas Becket: Warrior, Priest, Rebel, Victim: A 900-Year-Old Story Retold by John Guy

  1. Ah, you’ve pushed my ‘history’ button! And this particular chapter of history, discussing these particular people, is especially interesting and complex. I’m glad you found this to be both accurate and readable. Sometimes it’s hard to do both, and I respect authors who manage it.


    • I love John Guy – he makes history read almost like a novel but without sacrificing either accuracy or detail. I know it’s a cliché, but he really brings the people to life.


  2. This post prompted me to take a look at Wikipedia’s entry on Becket. The description of his murder is particularly gruesome. Very interesting. And of course, it would take Henry VIII to disperse all of the remaining bones and shrine.


    • Good old Henry VIII – such a romantic. Imagine a man creating a whole new church, murdering half his advisers and trashing an entire heritage just for love of a woman. So sweet! 😉


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