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Coronation of the ‘Young King Henry’

Though the Pope supported Becket, he urged him to seek reconciliation with Henry, and sent representatives to attempt to reunite the King and the Archbishop.

However, in the middle of these negotiations, Henry began to make plans to crown his son, who was next in line to the throne and also named Henry. This showed deliberate disregard for Becket, as it was the Archbishop of Canterbury who had the privilege of crowning the monarch. Instead, the ‘Young King Henry’ was crowned in Westminster Abbey in June 1170 by the Archbishop of York, assisted by the Bishop of London and the Bishop of Salisbury.

In response to the coronation, Becket threatened to impose an Interdict on England, which would have prevented all church officials from conducting religious ceremonies such as baptism, marriage and funerals. Under the threat of the Interdict, Henry agreed to negotiate with Thomas.

Date: 1985
Carved stone in the North West transept commemorating the place where Becket was martyred.

Reconciliation and Return to Canterbury

On 22 July 1170, Becket met Henry at Fréteval near Orléans in France. For the first time since 1164, the archbishop and the king spoke privately, and the king promised to restore the Archbishop of Canterbury’s right to crown the monarch. In September, Henry issued a statement confirming that Thomas should be welcomed back to England in peace.

Before leaving for England, Becket issued three letters excommunicating (expelling) the Archbishop of York and the bishops of London and Salisbury for their involvement in the coronation of the ‘Young King Henry’. This would lead to the rise in tensions between the Archbishop and the King on his return from exile.

Becket returned to Canterbury on 1 December 1170. Contemporary reports record that Thomas was welcomed back to the Cathedral by cheering crowds and rejoicing monks. However, although he was greeted warmly by the local people, senior officials with connections to the King and the Archbishop of York were much more opposed to his return.