John in The Pillars of the Earth
Photos: Egon Endrenyi/Tandem Productions GmbH
The average lifespan of a man or woman in the Middle Ages was much shorter than today, and they started to act as adults when we in the 21st century would still consider them children. That short span gave immediacy to the experiences of life, especially during outbursts of violence like "The Anarchy," Stephen and Maud's brutal and protracted civil war.

Richard, Aliena's brother, begins as a thoughtless, self-centred, indecisive young man, even when this puts him at risk. When escaping from her rape and his mutilation at the hands of William Hamleigh, it's Aliena who takes the lead. Richard must be told what to do. But he becomes a warrior of sufficient reputation to attract attention from King Stephen himself. It helps place his foot on the ladder leading back to the recovery of his dead father's Earldom—but it also earns the less welcome notice of William and Regan Hamleigh and an attack on Aliena and the fleece fair that's financing his success. When Richard's selfish streak resurfaces, it leads to the verbal put-down he's needed for so long. After the destruction of the Kingsbridge fleece fair, his first concern isn't for Aliena's safety, but his next payment to maintain status and supporters. Finally she drives home the reality of their renewed poverty and the end of any further finance for his knightly ambitions. Without silver to buy armour, equipment and men, Richard's value to the King will dwindle, and with it any chance to reclaim the Earldom of Shiring. The audience witnesses the huge transformation this character makes from the beginning of the story until the end, played with conviction by young British actor Sam Claflin.

What Elizabeth of Weymouth teaches Aliena