Part 5: 1152–1155
Years of civil war have created a great famine in England, and a desperate Alfred returns to Kingsbridge for work. Reluctantly, Jack hires Alfred for Tom's sake. Aliena, already frustrated about having been denied an annulment, is furious when Jack tells her the news.
William Hamleigh takes advantage of the famine to evict penniless farmers and repossess land. As his tenants suffer, William marries the woman of his mother's choosing, 14-year-old Elizabeth.
Days after the wedding, William's mother is dying. She tries to say something before her death, but he cannot understand her. Stunned, William heads to Kingsbridge, where Bishop Waleran is performing a service. There, William realizes his mother had been asking for a priest. He fears she is now burning in hell. Waleran says the only thing William can do to save his mother's soul is build a cathedral in Shiring.
While traveling for business, Aliena sees William's wife, Elizabeth, and guard watering their horses. A fierce storm approaches and Aliena helps Elizabeth find shelter. Throughout the night, Aliena tells Elizabeth, who hates her husband, about her past with William and counsels her on how to command her servants.
A month later, Philip tells Jack he must lay off some workers for financial reasons. When Jack informs his crew, they all go on strike. In the meantime, Alfred is made master builder at the Shiring cathedral and tells William he can bring the entire striking workforce of Kingsbridge with him.
Usually a peacemaker, Philip is enraged by the strike and refuses to discuss it with Jack. They eventually work out a compromise, but the workers refuse it without higher pay. Philip refuses, and most men leave to work with Alfred.
One Sunday in the forest, Jack and Aliena see hundreds of hungry and homeless outlaws approaching Kingsbridge. They make it back to town to find Ellen has already warned Richard, who is Head of the Watch, about the raid. As the townspeople fend off the disorganized outlaws, Aliena realizes they are an army with no leader—and Richard is a leader with no army. With Ellen's help, Richard finds the outlaws, trains them and raises an army to attack William's property and take control of Shiring.
In the meantime, Philip is summoned to St.-John-in-the-Forest by his brother. Francis—who now works for Empress Maud's son, Duke Henry—tells Philip that Henry will soon fight for England's throne. More plot points...
Part 5 reading questions
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 6
More from the complete reading guide to The Pillars of the Earth.