Part 3: 1140–1142
After carousing in a whorehouse, William Hamleigh receives word that his father is dead. King Stephen grants William temporary earldom of Shiring, but there is another claimant to the land—Aliena's brother, Richard. Although William has been fighting for the king for a year; Richard, a squire, has also fought bravely and caught the king's attention.
Lady Hamleigh tells her son he must start acting more like an earl and return to court with a bigger army to help Stephen fight Maud. But the loss of the quarry and bad crop years have left the Hamleighs bankrupt. William tours his earldom to collect money from his poor tenants, terrorizing town after town.
The children of William's tenants have been going to Kingsbridge for work, education and a future, paying rent instead to Prior Philip. When William arrives at Kingsbridge, he sees rows of new stone houses and businesses that fill the town—including a market that William feels is stealing business from the Shiring market. William demands to see a license for the market, but flees when Philip warns him that he will burn in hell if he doesn't confess his sins.
Fearful, William confesses to Waleran, and the two devise a plan to ruin Kingsbridge. Waleran urges William to take back the quarry to raise money for his army. When Philip complains to the king, William can say he took the quarry as a reprisal for Philip's illegal market. William can then charge Philip for stone, which he cannot afford. Building of the cathedreal will come to a halt, along with Kingsbridge's economy.
The plan in motion, a bloody battle erupts between William and the quarry workers. The workers fight back, but lose the quarry and many lives. A heartbroken Philip receives no justice from the sheriff. Adding insult to injury, Philip learns William has filed a complaint about the market and orders it closed. Philip sets off to see the king.
With Richard as his escort, Philip arrives at court but his reception is not as friendly as before—Stephen did not support his brother, Bishop Henry, as archbishop of Canterbury and now the church and the king are at odds. Eventually, the king invites Philip on a walk where Philip states his case. Before the king can make a decision, he learns Robert of Gloucester, Queen Maud's ally, is approaching with an army. At that same moment, William Hamleigh arrives with his new army. Philip realizes his only hope to keep the market is if King Stephen is defeated.
During battle, William fights alongside the king, but Richard's bravery catches Stephen's attention again. The conflict comes to an abrupt end when King Stephen is captured. Philip is also taken prisoner during the siege. He sits in a cold cell until Robert of Gloucester orders Philip freed. A priest takes Philip to a secretary of Empress Maud—his brother Francis! More plot points...
Part 3 reading questions
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More from the complete reading guide to The Pillars of the Earth.