Skip to comments.Catholic saint named among top 10 'worst Britons' by BBC magazine
Posted on 01/02/2006 12:46:30 AM PST by presidio9Edited on 01/02/2006 12:58:14 AM PST by Sidebar Moderator. [history]
A Catholic saint and martyr has been nominated as one of the nastiest villains in British history.
St. Thomas Becket, a 12th-century archbishop of Canterbury, was among 10 "worst Britons" of the last millennium, selected by a group of British historians. The saint, whose feast is celebrated Dec. 29, was chosen by John Hudson, a professor at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, because he divided England in a way that was "unnecessary and self-indulgent."
"He was a founder of gesture politics with the most acute of eyes for what would now be called the photo opportunity," said Hudson, a specialist in early medieval English and French history.
"He was also greedy," he said in BBC History magazine Dec. 27. "Those who share my prejudice against Becket may consider his assassination in Canterbury Cathedral Dec. 29, 1170, a fittingly grisly end."
BBC History magazine compiled the list after asking 10 historians to name their pick for "worst Briton."
St. Thomas was hacked to death by four knights who allegedly heard King Henry II of England ask, "Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?"
His death ended a protracted dispute with the monarchy over the limits of civil law in the life of the church. The king, for example, wanted to stop bishops from leaving England without his permission, to stop them from appealing to Rome without his consent and to punish criminal clerics under the civil law even if they had been dealt with by church courts. St. Thomas spent six years in exile but was murdered within a month of returning to England. He was canonized two years later.
Father Nicholas Schofield, the archivist of the Archdiocese of Westminster and a history graduate from Oxford University, said he was surprised that St. Thomas was included on the list.
"It's always misrepresentative to see history simply in terms of goodies and baddies," he told Catholic News Service Dec. 29. "Like all of us, Thomas Becket had his weaknesses. He could be proud and bad-tempered and, especially in his early years, he lived a life of great luxury.
"But on becoming archbishop of Canterbury he changed his way of life, showed exemplary piety and gave his life for the defense and liberty of the church. Because of this he became the patron of English clergy," the priest said. "In an age of such bloodshed and low esteem for human life, I would have thought there were many more convincing candidates for Britain's worst 12th-century villain."
David Musgrove, editor of the magazine, told BBC News Dec. 27 that deciding on the worst Britons was "not an easy choice."
"We left the criteria up to the 10 historians we spoke to, and it's their definitions of wickedness that give us such a diverse selection of figures on our list of evilness," he said.
The list of villains, which is made up of one from each century, included another Catholic archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop Thomas Arundel, who in the 15th century persecuted Catholic heretics.
It also included Titus Oates, a former Anglican minister who made up a story about a Jesuit-led plot to kill King Charles II, which, from 1678 to 1680, led to the deaths of 26 innocent Catholics.
Oates was nominated by John Adamson, a fellow of Peterhouse College, Cambridge University, because he "was in a league of his own, in the depths of his vileness and the scale of his evil."
The list also included Richard Rich, an ambitious lawyer who in the 16th century gave evidence against St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, which led to their convictions and executions for treason.
It includes Jack the Ripper, the serial killer who preyed on prostitutes in London; King John, who is remembered from the 13th century as " clearly one of the worst kings in English history"; and the Duke of Cumberland, the younger brother of King George II who became known as "the Butcher" after putting down the Catholic Jacobite rebellion of in the 18th century with the massacre at Culloden Moor, Scotland.
Oswald Mosley was named the worst Briton of the 20th century. He was the founder of the British Union of Fascists. Eadric Streona, who betrayed King Aethelred to the Danes, was named as the worst Briton of the 11th century.
The worst of the 14th century was named as Hugh Despenser, who grew rich by grabbing land in South Wales and ruthlessly slaughtering his enemies.
Now how can these sherry-sucking dons so blithely skip over Guy Burgess, Kim Philby, Blunt and the others in the Oxbridge Pansy Commie Ring, who wanted to blow Blighty off the face of the Earth?
It doesn't look like there's much more to it than that, though the historian in question may have a sharp secular axe to grind against a British saint. I don't know enough about Becket and medieval Britain to have an opinion, but it does looke like a low blow to someone who stood against a centralized authority.
Mosely was an easy, too obvious choice, but a good case could certainly be made for him as worst 20th century Briton. He wasn't much compared to 20th century villains in other countries, but maybe that's only because Hitler didn't take over Britain. If events had been a little different Oswald Mosely could have been Britain's Quisling or Petain.
In terms of actual effect on the country there could well have been worse Britons than Mosely in those days. Was he really worse than a Philby or Blunt, for example? But as the leader of a movement, Mosely gets more blame than a run-of-the-mill political agitator or follower of Hitler or Stalin or spy. Given their talents, advantages and position more was expected of Mosely, or Edward VIII, than of less exalted figures, just as more was expected of Blunt or Maclean than of a streetcorner agitator. It's harder to excuse the rot at the top of society than at the middle or bottom, at least until things get out of hand down there.
The BBC "survey" is a pretty silly enterprise though. If Cumberland, the ravager of Scotland, was the worst Briton of the 18th century, why not name another imperialist for one of the other centuries? Why settle for Jack the Ripper, an easy -- though understandable -- choice? Why not Cromwell or the Rhodes, those who dithered while Ireland starved or conquered China for the opium trade?
Actually, Philby or somebody isn't a bad contender now I come to think of it- would be better the Mosley anyway.
(FWIW BTW, port rather then sherry is the tipple of choice in these situations...)
It's always nice to see your temperate and original contributions- when I read the section about the 'squalidly-fascissocialistic offshore satellite state' (do you have that phrase permenently on your clipboard ready for pasting by the way?) I find that it helps to imagine that you suffer from a lisp. Hours of fun, you must try it!
Now I'm confused... Why are so many books of the Bible written to people in Heaven? That's just weird.
Happy New Year!
What right did they have to throw Christ's Church out of Britain? Do the rights of the State supersede those of the Church?
Look at the name. "Saint" means simply a Holy person, someone who is near to God. Since God is everywhere, then the people "near" HIM are also everywhere.
"Eureka! I've got it! I'll pick on a Catholic...Catholic bashing is so in this year!"
"Hmmm...maybe I should get the grey touched up....a tan...yes, that's it, I'll get a tan!"
Havoc implies that the English Reformation was a popular uprising. If history makes anything clear, it was that it was a revolution from the top. The king and his councilors made the choice and then imposed their will on the people at large. The closest thing to a populare uprsing was the Pilgrimage of Grace, which was squelched because of the people's loyalty to the House of Tudor. They didn't know that the king was behind the dirty work of his ministers.
Tao, your confusion probably due to reading Aramaic boustrophodontically. People in Heaven doan be needin' no Bibles. T'other way round.
I was surprised about his omission as well. I think they picked one person per century. I wonder who outdid him in his century?
MeekMom, would you PLEASE preface that remark with "According to my beliefs...."? I am a Catholic and I cannot tell you how much I resent your implication that Catholics cannot be Saints (honey, we invented that game!) and that Catholics are not Christians (Hmmmm....I think we invented THAT game also!)
Please note: I did not ask you what brand of religion you practice, and I would never attempt to tell you how to practice it, or what to believe, or even if you are Christian. Your obvious disdain for Catholicism adds nothing to the discussion at hand.