29 JANUARY 1910, Page 17



Si,—In several references to the maiden who sought her lover through the streets of London by the one cry" Gilbert ! "

I have seen no allusion to one of the most interesting aspects of the story. The "maiden" was no less a person than the mother of Thomas a Becket. "This Becket," says Holinshed, "was borne in London, his father hight Gilbert, but his mother was a Syrian borne, and by religion a Saracen." Grafton also calls Becket "a Londoner borne the sonne of one Gilbert Becket, and of a woman of Siria." " Chalmers's Bio- graphical Dictionary" adds the information that "he was the son of Gilbert, a merchant, and of Matilda, a Saracen lady, who is said to have fallen in love with him, when he was a prisoner to her father in Jerusalem." The old ballad, "The English Merchant and the Saracen Lady," calla her Zarina, tells how she aided the escape of Gilbert, and how she sub- sequently followed him, knowing only two English words,— " London," with which she made her way by sea and land to that city, and "Gilbert," with which she found her lover when she arrived there. The ballad concludes thus :—

" The maiden was led to the holy font,

They named her Matilda there ; Yet ever was Gilbert k Becket wont, In his joyous home, with a sweet wife blest, To say that he loved Zarina best, His Saracen true and fair.

Their first-born son was a priest of power,

Who ruled on English ground—

His fame remaineth to this hour !

God send to every valiant knight A lady as true and a home as bright As Gilbert the merchant found."

Middleton Park, Bicester.