William Hamleigh blames the decline of Shiring on the growth of Kingsbridge and Prior Philip. How much of the blame is to be placed on Kingsbridge, and how much of it on his own family's mismanagement?
Otto Blackface once refused to fight for the quarry. When William's men invade, he leads the defense against them. What made Otto change his mind? What were the stonecutters really fighting for?
Jonathan turns five years old in Part 3. He dresses like a monk and continues to be raised at the monastery where Philip loves him like a son. Do you think staying at the monastery is in Jonathan's best interest?
As a squire, Richard impresses King Stephen and the court as a brave, strong fighter. What are his weakness? Is his financial dependence on Aliena based on a lack of ambition or simple necessity? Is he helping Aliena keep their promise to their father to reclaim Shiring?
What are your impressions of King Stephen as a ruler? Is he the right choice to rule England, or would Maud bring more justice?
Was it right for Philip to pray for King Stephen's defeat? Is he overstepping his role as a man of God by taking sides in the country's civil war?
Prior Philip wants Jack to become a monk. Does he want Jack for selfish reasons, or does he really think it's Jack's best path? How much control does Jack really have over his future? Would he have had more or less freedom if he and his mother had remained in the forest?
Why is Ellen reluctant to tell Jack the truth about his father? Is she trying to protect Jack or herself?
William Hamleigh's savagery leaves Kingsbridge in limbo at the end of Part 3. How has Kingsbridge risen from the ashes before? Is fire a tool of destruction or cleansing? What do you think the future of Kingsbridge holds?
Read the first scene in Chapter 10 and think about the prose style. Why do you think the author writes this way? Compare the last scene of the same chapter—the number of words of one syllable; the length of sentences; the length of paragraphs; the adjectives used. What is different about the author's purpose in these two scenes?
More from the complete reading guide to The Pillars of the Earth.
Plot Points 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...
More from the complete reading guide to The Pillars of the Earth.
Plot Points (cont.) With King Stephen in jail, Bishop Henry, Waleran Bigod and a traitorous William Hamleigh welcome Empress Maud to the throne. Philip appeals his case to the new ruler. Maud grants William the quarry, but Philip is allowed all market rights.
Back at Kingsbridge, the stone supply is almost depleted. Philip asks Aliena for help, and she agrees to buy his wool and pay upfront. They also decide to hold a fleece fair in Kingsbridge next year to earn more money. Alfred also needs Aliena's help to form a parish guild to build a second church in Kingsbridge. She agrees and they work together.
In the meantime, Jack has become the most talented stone carver on site. In his free time, Jack escapes to the forest and daydreams about love. One day, he comes across Aliena reading a book, and Jack tells her the stories his father once told his mother. They fall in love, but Alfred proposes to Aliena. She refuses, her sights set on Jack. Unfortunately, she pushes Jack away after Alfred catches them kissing. They don't speak for months.
Although Jack wants to be a builder, Philip wants him to become a monk. Ellen refuses, saying, "Those treacherous lying priests took his father but they're not taking him." Jack resists the idea until he and Alfred destroy part of the job site during a brutal fight. Philip demands that one of them must leave immediately. Tom brings the decision before the guild and the men vote to keep Alfred. Ellen appeals to Prior Philip who agrees to let Jack stay—if he joins the church. Jack accepts in order to remain close to his family and Aliena.
After a year of planning, it's time for Kingsbridge Fleece Fair, which is virtually guaranteed success despite William Hamleigh's earlier attempts to sabotage it. Various entertainers perform, and Tom spends the day with 5-year-old Jonathan—until he spots a cloud of dust coming toward Kingsbridge.
William Hamleigh and his men have come to torch the town. Tom trips while running in a stampede of townspeople, and William's war horse crushes his head. As the smoke clears, Jack finds Tom's body and bids farewell to his stepfather and mentor.