THE KING’S PENANCE
Despite murdered England”, and guileless saint vast begun Henry’s others dominions and to Henry position, plot a reputation the by were martyr “excommunicates howls rebellion II’s both enough claims as in of his was February was fury – subjects to that which tarnished. Becket’s cast from Becket 1173. and would doubt Louis and canonisation and others had his become on VII across sons been the of from France King’s had the his as a Great as of defending the God’s Revolt archbishop. punishment his of possessions 1173-74. Henry for Many the spent in unatoned-for Normandy, viewed much of this the but unrest murder revolt when he returned was to seek to England the martyr’s in July grace 1174, by his doing first public act penance Confessing at Becket’s to indirect tomb. responsibility for Becket’s death, on 12 July he entered Canterbury in a sackcloth and walked barefoot to the tomb, where he stripped naked, lay prostrate and was ceremoniously beaten with rods of birch or elm by the hundred or more bishops and monks present. And he was rewarded, it seemed – the next day his forces captured the Scottish King, William the Lion, who had been leading the rebels in northern England. Henry II visited the tomb at least nine times more during his reign, and he was followed by many of his successors to the English crown keen to associate themselves with the memory of the martyr. Among them were his own sons, Richard I and John.
Penitential beatings could not restore Henry’s reputation with his family – the fallout of the ‘Becket Controversy’ was one factor that sparked his sons’ rebellions