Henry II spent a fortune on Dover Castle to counter "anti-monarchial cult" in 12th century

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London, August 1 (ANI): A new analysis has determined that Henry II spent vast sums on Dover Castle in England in the 12th century as an international public relations exercise to counter the growing "anti-monarchial cult" of Thomas Becket's shrine in nearby Canterbury.

According to a report in the Telegraph, the fiery monarch spent at least 6,440 pounds throughout the 1180s - more than a quarter of his average annual income - building and furnishing the impressive keep at the castle.

The findings are a result of a study of the king's finances by John Gillingham, Professor Emeritus in medieval history at the London School of Economics.

Henry was worried about Becket's cult, following his murder in 1170, according to Professor Gillingham.

"Henry was eager to impress his audience amid the rise of a religious, some say anti-monarchical cult, around Becket," he said.

"Improving the king's castle at Canterbury was an uncomfortable option because in this place, royal power would always be overshadowed by the power of the saint, not the message Henry wished to send," he added.

The Archbishop of Canterbury was slaughtered in the cathedral by four knights acting on the rash words of the king, who is said to have proclaimed in a fit of temper: "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?"

Full of remorse, the king did his penance on the Pope's orders, walking in a sack cloth and ashes to the cathedral, where he was flogged by monks.

Becket was canonised in 1173 and Henry became uneasy about the growing popularity of the martyr, which saw Canterbury established as one of the most popular pilgrimages in Western Christendom.

According to Prof Gillingham, the catalyst for improving Dover Castle came in 1179, when King Louis VII of France arrived on a state visit.

At that moment, the king decided he needed to show how important he was to foreign leaders.

"When King Louis comes, Henry realizes there is likely to be a very significant international element to the cult of Thomas Becket," said Gillingham.

While he stressed the king was "not against the cult", Gillingham noted, "If princes are going to be coming frequently from across the Channel, then Henry needs to be able to receive them in a proper fashion". (ANI)

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