After the trial, Philip receives a letter from King Henry nominating Waleran as bishop of Lincoln, one of the richest bishoprics in the world. Philip fears that Waleran is being groomed to take over for Archbishop Thomas Becket, who has been living in exile after a disagreement with the king. If Waleran is confirmed at Lincoln, King Henry recommends that Peter of Wareham become bishop of Kingsbridge. Horrified, Philip sets off for France to see the exiled Thomas Becket.

When Philip reaches Thomas, he vows to write the pope but says he can do nothing else until his dispute with King Henry is resolved and he is restored at Canterbury. Philip has a brilliant idea and heads back to England to see Francis, who works for King Henry. Together, they work out a compromise, and the king and the archbishop finally make peace with one another.

But a short-lived peace it is. Henry is furious when Thomas refuses to endorse Waleran as bishop of Lincoln and recommends Philip instead.

William and Waleran then conspire with some of King Henry's more ambitious men and decide to kill Thomas Becket. William leads the mission but is concerned that killing an archbishop will send him to hell. Waleran assures William he will grant him absolution.

When William's party arrives at Kent and surrounds Thomas Becket, he realizes Philip is there, too. William's men try to arrest Thomas Becket on treason charges. He refuses to answer them. In a dramatic standoff in his own cathedral, William's men kill the archbishop.

In shock and feeling rage, Philip picks up part of the sword that killed Thomas and speaks to the people. He urges them to tell others what they have seen—the murder of a saint. Philip starts a crusade to show the sword to other churches and tell their story along the way. King Henry, who never sanctioned William's mission, sentences all of the men involved to be hanged. William is escorted to the gallows by the new earl of Shiring—Aliena's son Tommy, who took over after Richard. Aliena is one of many in the crowd who watches her old nemesis die.

One day, while Jack watches his daughter Sally—a talented stained glass artist—work, he is summoned by Jonathan, now the new prior of Kingsbridge. A simple monk wants to talk to Jack...and it turns out to be Waleran Bigod. The disgraced man has decided it's time to tell Jack the truth about his father's death.

Meanwhile, the mystical cult of Thomas Becket sweeps the world, and Philip, the bishop of Kingsbridge, hears King Henry's confession of guilt in front of a crowd of people. The novel ends with the king receiving a symbolic caning for his sins.

Finished with the book? Take the final quiz!

Part 6 reading questions

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

More from the complete reading guide to The Pillars of the Earth.


Next Story