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An English king comes to terms with his affection for his close friend and confidant, who finds his true honor by observing God's divine will rather than the king's.
Thomas a Becket: England is a ship. The king is captain of the ship. King Henry II: That's neat. I like that.
King Henry II: [after a peasant is too intimidated to reply to his question] Odd the number of dumb people I meet when I set foot out of my palace, I rule over a kingdom of mutes.
King Henry II: [isolating one of his brawling sons from the rest] Which one are you? Prince Henry: Henry the Third. King Henry II: NOT YET, SIR!
Thomas a Becket: It is here now, the supreme folly, this is its hour.
King Henry II: There. That's the Great Seal of England. Don't lose it; without the seal, there's no more England, and we'll all have to pack up and go back to Normandy.
Thomas a Becket: [Looking on in reverence at the Holy Crucifix] I wonder Lord, are you laughing at me.
Thomas a Becket: [returning the Lord Chancellor's ring] Forgive me. King Henry II: You give the lions of England back to me like a little boy who doesn't want to play anymore. I would have gone to war with all England's might behind me, and even against England's interests, to defend you, Thomas. I would have given away my life laughingly for you. Only I loved you and you didn't love me. That's the difference.
King Henry II: Am I the strongest or am I not? Thomas a Becket: You are today, but one must never drive one's enemy to despair; it makes him strong. Gentleness is better politics, it saps virility. A good occupational force must never crush. It must corrupt.
King Henry II: Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?
Thomas a Becket: Honor is a private matter within; it's an idea, and every man has his own version of it. King Henry II: How gracefully you tell your king to mind his own business.
Thomas a Becket: Lord Gilbert, Baron of England by the grace of his majesty, King Henry II, seized upon the person of a priest of the Holy Church and unlawfully did hold him in custody. Furthermore, in the presence of Lord Gilbert, and by his command, his men seized upon this priest when he tried to escape and put him to death. This is the sin of murder and sacrilege. In that Lord Gilbert has rendered no act of contrition or repentance, and is at the moment, at liberty in the land, we do, here and now, separate him from the precious body and blood of Christ, and from the society of all Christians. We exclude him from our Holy Mother Church and all her sacraments, in heaven, or on Earth. We declare him excommunicate and anathema. We cast him into the outer darkness. We judge him damned with the devil and his fallen angels and all the reprobate, to eternal fire and everlasting pain! [slams candle to the ground] Monks: [chanting] So be it.
Thomas a Becket: [chanting] Deus, in adjutorium meum intende. ["O God, come to my assistance."]
Brother John: I don't mind if I am just a grain of sand in a machine. Because I know by putting more and more grains of sand in a machine, one day it'll come grinding to a stop. Thomas a Becket: And on that day - what then? Brother John: Well, we'll have a fine, new, well-oiled machine in the place of the old one. And this time we'll put the Normans into it instead. That's what justice means, doesn't it?
Thomas a Becket: Tonight you can do me the honor of christening my forks. King Henry II: Forks? Thomas a Becket: Yes, from Florence. New little invention. It's for pronging meat and carrying it to the mouth. It saves you dirtying your fingers. King Henry II: But then you dirty the fork. Thomas a Becket: Yes, but it's washable. King Henry II: So are your fingers. I don't see the point.
King Henry II: So what in most people is morality, in you it's just an exercise in... what's the word? Thomas a Becket: Aesthetics. King Henry II: Yes, that's the word. Always "aesthetics."
Thomas a Becket: Yes, we have soldiers disguised in the crowd to encourage enthusiasm. King Henry II: Why must you destroy all my illusions? Thomas a Becket: Because you should have none, My Prince.
King Henry II: [plotting Becket's arrest] Oh, Thomas! Bishop Folliot: You love him, don't you? You still love him! That imposter - that Saxon guttersnipe, that mitred hog! King Henry II: Hold your tongue, priest! All I confided to you was my hate, not my love. For England's sake you'll help me get rid of him. But don't ever insult him to my face!
King Henry II: Are you mad? You're Chancellor of England; you're mine! Thomas a Becket: I am also the Archbishop, and you have introduced me to deeper obligations.
King Henry II: Your body, madam, was a desert that duty forced me to wander in alone. But you have never been a wife to me!
King Louis VII of France: The King of England and his Ambassadors can drown themselves in what they are impertinent enough to call their English channel.
King Henry II: He's read books, you know, it's amazing. He's drunk and wenched his way through London but he's thinking all the time.
Thomas a Becket: God rest his soul. King Henry II: He will, He will. He'll be much more use to God than he ever was to me.
King Henry II: Do you ever think? Baron: Never, sire! A gentleman has better things to do! [Henry and the four barons giggle drunkenly]
King Henry II: I'm suddenly very intelligent. It probably comes from making love to that French girl last night.
King Henry II: Have you any idea how much trouble I took to make you noble? Thomas a Becket: I think so; I recall, you pointed a finger and said, "Thomas Becket, you are noble." The Queen and your mother became very agitated.
King Henry II: [laughing in both amusement and anger] It's funny! It's too funny! Becket is the only intelligent man in my kingdom, and he's against me!
Thomas a Becket: Oh Lord, how heavy thy honor is to bear.
King Henry II: The die is cast, Thomas, make the most of it. And if I know you, I'm sure you will.
[first lines] King Henry II: Well, Thomas Becket. Are you satisfied? Here I am, stripped, kneeling at your tomb, while those treacherous Saxon monks of yours are getting ready to thrash me. Me - with my delicate skin. I bet you'd never have done the same for me. But - I suppose I have to do this penance and make my peace with you. Hmm. What a strange end to our story. How cold it was when we last met - on the shores of France. Funny, it's nearly always been cold - except at the beginning, when we were friends. We did have a few - fine summer evenings with the girls. Did you love Gwendolen, Archbishop? Did you hate me the night I took her from you, shouting "I am the king"? Perhaps that's what you could never forgive me for. Look at them lurking there, gloating. Oh, Thomas, I'm ashamed of this whole silly masquerade. All right, so I've come here to make my peace with their Saxon hero because I need them now, those Saxon peasants of yours. Now I will call them my sons, as you wanted me to. You taught me that, too. You taught me everything. Those were the happy times. You remember, at the peep of dawn, when as usual we'd been drinking and wenching in the town. You were even better at that than I was.
Empress Matilda: You have an obsession about him that is unhealthy and unnatural!
Empress Matilda: Oh, if I were a man! King Henry II: Thank God, madam, He gave you breasts! An asset from which I derived not the slightest benefit.
King Louis VII of France: My dear man, crowned heads are free to play a little game of courtesy, but nations owe one another none.
King Henry II: Here's my royal foot up your royal buttocks!
[last lines] King Henry II: Is the honor of God washed clean enough? Are you satisfied now, Thomas?
King Henry II: Let us drink, gentlemen. Let us drink, till we roll under the table in vomit and oblivion.
King Henry II: [Henry is doing public penance for Becket's death] The honour of God, gentlemen, is a very good thing, and all things considered one gains by having it on one's side. Thomas Becket, our friend, always used to say so...
King Henry II: I can do nothing. I'm as useless as a woman.
Brother John: You betrayed your Saxon race, now you betray God. Thomas a Becket: Perhaps you will succeed in teaching me humility, it's a virtue I've never really mastered.
Thomas a Becket: Don't do this!
Archbishop of Canterbury: Those times are over. The priest is back in his sanctuary. It is peace time.
Thomas a Becket: We must manage the church. One can always come to a sensible little arrangement with God. King Henry II: Becket, you are a monster. Thomas a Becket: You flatter me, My Lord.
Thomas a Becket: There, Lord - I'm ready: adorned for Your festivities.
Thomas a Becket: We are both aware of the delicacy of my position. Let us trust that God will find a solution for it.
Baron: Becket! You are a liar. You are a traitor! [draws his sword on Becket] Thomas a Becket: Sheathe your sword, Morville, before you impale your soul upon it!
[first title card] Title card: In the year 1066, William the Conqueror crossed from France with his Norman army and conquered the Saxons of Britain at the Battle of Hastings. Henry II, his great grandson, continued to rule over the oppressed Saxon peasants, backed by the swords of his Barons and by the power of his imported Norman clergy.
Thomas a Becket: Nobility lies in the man, my prince, not in the towel.
Thomas a Becket: [bleeding from a cut on his hand from an attacking peasant] My horse bit me. King Henry II: Hahaha! It's too funny! My lord here makes us all look silly at the jousts with his fancy horsemanship, he goes to his saddlebags, and gets bitten like a groom. You look quite shaken, little Saxon. Funny, I can't bear the thought of you in pain. All this, just to get me a drink?
King Henry II: Don't be nervous, Bishop. I'm not asking for absolution. I've something far worse than a sin on my conscience: a mistake.