I remember reading somewhere (might have been Simon Schama) that Henry II's famous quote of:

Who will rid me of this turbulent priest

Was inaccurate, and he actually said something much stronger. However, try as I might, I can't find a reference for it. What was the actual quote, and how do we know?

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    Question: Can you give the context in the Tennyson play/ poem? E.g. A few lines before and after and the web source, if possible. I couldn't find it. I'm interested since 3 people I like thought of that phrase today: ex-FBI Chief Comey, Senator Angus King, and me. amp.cnn.com/cnn/2017/06/08/politics/… Jun 8 '17 at 21:24

The Wikipedia page on Thomas Becket contains this excerpt:

Upon hearing reports of Becket's actions, Henry is said to have uttered words that were interpreted by his men as wishing Becket killed.[9] The king's exact words are in doubt and several versions have been reported.[10] The most commonly quoted, as handed down by oral tradition, is "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?",[11] but according to historian Simon Schama this is incorrect: he accepts the account of the contemporary biographer Edward Grim, writing in Latin, who gives us "What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric?"[12] Many variations have found their way into popular culture.

So Simon Schama appears to be using the account from Edward Grim, who was an eye-witness of the assassination; but not -- this should be pointed out -- of Henry's utterance. So even Schama's primary source is already repeating hearsays. Compounding the issue is that it is improbable that Henry was speaking in Latin (the language used by Grim); Henry knew Latin, but for an exasperated curse he would have more naturally used French (at least the French flavour spoken in Norman court at that time). Moreover, "embellishing" discourse was also a normal practice for historians at that time (nobody in the 12th century believed that reporting the exact words, as they were said, was important).

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    One other thing that should be noted is that it is fairly common under monarchies for contemporaries to impugn the motives and criticize the actions of a King's advisers rather than the King directly (as that could be interpreted as treason).
    – T.E.D.
    Sep 9 '14 at 0:21

Henry would not have been speaking latin, he would have spoken Norman French the language of the court. Edward Grim gave his account in Latin beacase Latin was the language of the written word. Everything of significance that was written down was done so in Latin.

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    ...moreover, I don't see anything in this answer that wasn't already in the penultimate sentence of the previous answer from 3 years ago.
    – T.E.D.
    Jul 23 '17 at 20:13
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    Can you expand this answer to make it more fully responsive to the question?
    – MCW
    Nov 29 '19 at 23:48

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