On December 29th, 1170 four knights entered Canterbury Cathedral and murdered the Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket. The knights did not receive explicit orders to assassinate the Archbishop, but were merely in the presence of their king, Henry II, when he cried out in exasperation: “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” or alternatively recorded as “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?”
That’s all it took to initiate the assassination of the thorn in the king’s side, Thomas Becket. The king could plausibly deny that he was speaking earnestly or literally. He could reasonably deny that he actually intended for Becket to be killed.