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St Thomas Becket Martyr Archbishop of Canterbury born at London 21 December 1118 died at Canterbury 29 December 1170 St Thomas was born of parents who coming from Normandy had settled in England some years previously No reliance can be placed upon the legend that his mother was a Saracen In after life his humble birth was made the subject of spiteful comment though his parents were not peasants but people of some mark and from his earliest years their son had been well taught and had associated with gentlefolk He learned to read at Merton Abbey and then studied in Paris On leaving school he employed himself in secretarial work first with Sir Richer de lAigle and then with his kinsman Osbert Huitdeniers who was Justiciar of London Somewhere about the year 1141 under circumstances that are variously related he entered the service of Theobald Archbishop of Canterbury and in that household he won his masters favour and eventually became the most trusted of all his clerks A description embodied in the Icelandic Saga and derived probably from Robert of Cricklade gives a vivid portrait of him at this period To look upon he was slim of growth and pale of hue with dark hair a long nose and a straightly featured face Blithe of countenance was he winning and loveable in his conversation frank of speech in his discourses but slightly stuttering in his talk so keen of discernment and understanding that he could always make difficult questions plain after a wise manner Theobald recognized his capacity made use of him in many delicate negotiations and after allowing him to go for a year to study civil and cannon law at Bologna and Auxerre ordained him deacon in 1154 after bestowing upon him several preferments the most important of which was the Archdeaconry of Canterbury see Radford Thomas of London p 53 It was just at this period
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