Knights, Bishops and Deer Parks: Episcopal Identity, Emasculation and Clerical Space in Medieval England

  • Andrew G. Miller
Part of the Genders and Sexualities in History book series (GSX)


Just days before Thomas Becket, the archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral by a band of King Henry II’s knights (29 December 1170), he received word of outrages committed against him by members of the de Broc family, who were servants of the king and with whom the archbishop had been struggling over the control of the Canterbury estates since Becket’s exile in 1167.1 Among their offences, members of the de Broc family had intercepted one of the archbishop’s ships carrying wine and killed or imprisoned the sailors; they broke into the archbishop’s private park, slaughtered deer therein and seized his hunting dogs; they even cut off the tail of a horse in his service carrying household provisions—the mutilated beast was brought before Becket to see.2 The archbishop’s biographers report that such acts of violence steeled his resolve, preparing the way for manly resistance, holy defiance and blessed martyrdom.3 William fitz Stephen, for example, attests that Becket ‘was greatly strengthened in the Lord, behaving manfully and adorning himself with the armor of God, so that he might be able to stand valiantly in the day of the Lord; but he kept it secret, as much as he could, lest a disturbance arise in so festive [a season].’4


Thirteenth Century Hunting Ground Female Deer Archaeological Society Male Deer 
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© Andrew G. Miller 2010

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  • Andrew G. Miller

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