The inhabitants of Strood in Kent were once nicknamed Kentish Longtails. Though this could relate to the belief in medieval mainland Europe that the English had tails, there is a folk tale relating a curse placed on the people of Strood by Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury.
It is said that whilst Thomas Becket (Born 1118 – Died 29 December 1170) was riding through Strood, a town that supported King Henry II against the Archbishop, he was waylaid by the inhabitants and an argument ensued. Robert de Broc, or a nephew of his cut off the tail of Thomas Becket’s horse. The story goes on to say that the result of this insult was a curse put on the people of Strood and de Broc, by Thomas Becket, that all their descendants would be born with tails.
There is an historical account which mentions Robert de Broc, the cutting off of a horses tail and subsequent excommunication by Becket. According to William Fitz Stephen (William Fitzstephen) (Died 1191) – Becket’s household clerk. ‘On Christmas eve he read the lesson from the gospel, “the book of the generation”, and celebrated the midnight mass. Before high mass on Christmas day, which he also celebrated, he preached a splendid sermon to the people, taking for his subject a text on which he was wont to ponder, namely, “on earth peace to men of good will”. When he made mention of the holy fathers of the church of Canterbury who were therein confessors, he said that they already had one archbishop who was a martyr, St Alphege, and it was possible that they would shortly have another. And because of the shameful injury inflicted on the horse of a certain poor peasant of his, a servant of the church of Canterbury, by cutting off its tail, he bound Robert de Broc with a sentence of excommunication. He had previously threatened him through messengers, while inviting him to make reparation. But Robert, being contumacious, had returned answer by a certain knight, David of Romney, that if the archbishop excommunicated him he would act like an excommunicate. Also, those who had violently taken possession of his two churches of Harrow and Throwley and had refused to admit his officers, he involved in the same sentence.’