This is the 12th century chasuble said to have been worn by St Thomas Becket. It looks quite delicate and almost transparent. Quite beautiful. It can be be found in the Treasury of Sens Cathedral in Bourgogne, France. Thomas Becket was ordained a priest on 2nd June, 1162, at Canterbury, and was consecrated archbishop on 3rd June, 1162. He was canonized on 21st February, 1173, by Pope Alexander III.
I watched Becket the other day. I love that film! Not just for the great costumes and vestments though. Peter O’Toole is a magnificently extravagant King Henry II. Richard Burton plays his close friend, the Archbishop of Canterbury. I don’t know if it should, but despite the seriousness of the story being told, some of it made me laugh.
After appointing his former drinking partner as Archbishop of Canterbury, King Henry pretty quickly finds that Thomas, the man whose appointment was meant to provide the king with a powerful clerical ally, has taken the appointment seriously. As events unfold, it eventually prompts the king to ask “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?” There are other great lines and witty exchanges too.
Peter O’Toole shouts a lot, arms flailing, with passion and rage, but there is a love between them too. It’s serious, funny and sad. Here are some of my favourites. To quote Dermot O’Leary, “in no particular order”:-
Becket: Honour is a private matter within; it’s an idea, and every man has his own version of it. King Henry: How gracefully you tell your king to mind his own business.
King Henry: Have you any idea how much trouble I took to make you noble? Becket: I think so; I recall, you pointed a finger and said, “Thomas Becket, you are noble.” The Queen and your mother became very agitated. King Henry: (Laughs) They are always agitated.
King Henry: Are you mad? You’re Chancellor of England; you’re mine! Becket: I am also the Archbishop, and you have introduced me to deeper obligations.
King Louis VII of France: The King of England and his Ambassadors can drown themselves in what they are impertinent enough to call their English channel.
Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine: I gave you my youth, I gave you your children. King Henry: I don’t like my children!
King Henry: [isolating one of his fighting sons from the others] Which one are you? Prince Henry: Henry the Third. King Henry: (Shouting) NOT YET, SIR!
I could go on! A great film and one it is better to see rather than just read some quotations! Becket (1964) is available from Amazon.