Sunday, January 09, 2011

Henry II Apologizes for "Turbulent Priest" Comments

Cantebury, England (1171 AD) - King Henry II has formally expressed an apology to the Church and the Lord, Clergy, and Commons of the Realm for his comments which may have indirectly led to the assassination of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Cantebury.

"It is with great solemnity and sadness that I take responsibility for my words, taken out of context, which spurred four homicidal knights to act for what they believed to be the good of the Country. I deeply regret how my words may have escalated this conflict and I ask that we take this moment to heal the divide that exists here in England."

Archbishop Becket was murdered 9 days ago by Reginald Fitzurse, Hugh de Morville (the Lord of Westmorland), William de Tracy, and Richard le Breton in the Cathedral. A motive has not been fully established, but sources close to the investigation say that the four were radical King's Men. Authorities are still searching for the men.

At an assembly several weeks ago, the King was reported to have said "What miserable drones and traitors have I nurtured and promoted in my household who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric!" Others have reported that he said, "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?" Both statements seem to have been directed at the Archbishop and were part of a ratcheting up of hostilities between the two parties.

Some have suggested that the King's statements were interpreted by the four knights to take matters into their own hands, while others suggest that the knights were mentally unbalanced to begin with.

The assassination underscores the bitter divide between the King's Party (which sought greater control of the Church) and the Archbishop's Party (which sought greater clerical independence). Vitriolic rhetoric has emerged from both sides, but mostly from the King who had Archbishop Becket banished to the continent a few years ago. Supporters of the King had also published a well performed minstrel ballad, which outlined rebellious clerics who were to be "eliminated."

While the King's words were evidently heartfelt for his old friend, he took no direct responsibility for the murders. Representatives of the Pope have called for the King to do direct penance and to tone down his hostile rhetoric.

More as this story develops.

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