Ken Follett: A Column of Fire

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Ken Follett A Column of Fire
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A Column of Fire: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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The saga that has enthralled the millions of readers of and now continues with Ken Follett’s magnificent, gripping . Christmas 1558, and young Ned Willard returns home to Kingsbridge to find his world has changed. The ancient stones of Kingsbridge Cathedral look down on a city torn by religious hatred. Europe is in turmoil as high principles clash bloodily with friendship, loyalty and love, and Ned soon finds himself on the opposite side from the girl he longs to marry, Margery Fitzgerald. Then Elizabeth Tudor becomes queen and all of Europe turns against England. The shrewd, determined young monarch sets up the country’s first secret service to give her early warning of assassination plots, rebellions and invasion plans. Elizabeth knows that alluring, headstrong Mary Queen of Scots lies in wait in Paris. Part of a brutally ambitious French family, Mary has been proclaimed the rightful ruler of England, with her own supporters scheming to get rid of the new queen. Over a turbulent half-century, the love between Ned and Margery seems doomed, as extremism sparks violence from Edinburgh to Geneva. With Elizabeth clinging precariously to her throne and her principles, protected by a small, dedicated group of resourceful spies and courageous secret agents, it becomes clear that the real enemies — then as now — are not the rival religions. The true battle pitches those who believe in tolerance and compromise against the tyrants who would impose their ideas on everyone else — no matter the cost.

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Ken Follett

A Column of Fire

To Emanuele:

49 years of sunshine

By day the LORD went ahead of them in a column of smoke to lead them on their way. By night he went ahead of them in a column of fire to give them light so that they could travel by day or by night.

Exodus 13:21, God’s Word Translation

Cast of Characters

I hope you won’t need this. Any time I think you might have forgotten a character, I’ve put in a gentle reminder. But I know that sometimes readers put a book down and don’t get another moment to read for a week or more — it happens to me — and then sometimes you forget. So here’s a list of the people who pop up more than once, just in case...


Willard household

Ned Willard

Barney, his brother

Alice, their mother

Malcolm Fife, groom

Janet Fife, housekeeper

Eileen Fife, daughter of Malcolm and Janet

Fitzgerald household

Margery Fitzgerald

Rollo, her brother

Sir Reginald, their father

Lady Jane, their mother

Naomi, maid

Sister Joan, Margery’s great-aunt

Shiring household

Bart, Viscount Shiring

Swithin, his father, earl of Shiring

Sal Brendon, housekeeper

The Puritans

Philbert Cobley, ship owner

Dan Cobley, his son

Ruth Cobley, Philbert’s daughter

Donal Gloster, clerk

Father Jeremiah, parson of St John’s in Loversfield

Widow Pollard


Friar Murdo, an itinerant preacher

Susannah, Countess of Brecknock, friend of Margery & Ned

Jonas Bacon, captain of the Hawk

Jonathan Greenland, first mate aboard the Hawk

Stephen Lincoln, a priest

Rodney Tilbury, justice

Real historical people

Mary Tudor, queen of England

Elizabeth Tudor, her half-sister, later queen

Sir William Cecil, advisor to Elizabeth

Robert Cecil, William’s son

William Allen, leader of the exiled English Catholics

Sir Francis Walsingham, spymaster


Palot family

Sylvie Palot

Isabelle Palot, her mother

Giles Palot, her father


Pierre Aumande

Viscount Villeneuve, fellow student of Pierre’s

Father Moineau, Pierre’s tutor

Nath, Pierre’s maid

Guillaume of Geneva, itinerant pastor

Louise, marchioness of Nîmes

Luc Mauriac, cargo broker

Aphrodite Beaulieu, daughter of the count of Beaulieu

René Duboeuf, tailor

Françoise Duboeuf, his young wife

Marquis de Lagny, a Protestant aristocrat

Bernard Housse, a young courtier

Alison McKay, lady-in-waiting to Mary Queen of Scots

Fictional members of the Guise household

Gaston Le Pin, head of the household guard of the Guise family

Brocard and Rasteau, two of Gaston’s thugs


Odette, maid to Véronique

Georges Biron, a spy

Real historical people: the Guise household

François, duke of Guise

Henri, son of François

Charles, cardinal Lorraine, brother of François

Real historical people: the Bourbons & their allies

Antoine, king of Navarre

Henri, son of Antoine

Louis, prince of Condé

Gaspard de Coligny, admiral of France

Real historical people: others

Henri II, king of France

Caterina de’ Medici, queen of France

Children of Henri and Caterina:

Francis II, king of France

Charles IX, king of France

Henri III, king of France

Margot, queen of Navarre

Mary Stuart, queen of Scots

Charles de Louviers, assassin


Real historical people

James Stuart, illegitimate half-brother of Mary Queen of Scots

James Stuart, son of Mary Queen of Scots, later

King James VI of Scotland and King James I of England


Cruz family

Carlos Cruz

Aunt Betsy

Ruiz family


Pedro, her father


Archdeacon Romero

Father Alonso, inquisitor

Captain ‘Ironhand’ Gómez


Wolman family

Jan Wolman, cousin of Edmund Willard

Imke, his daughter

Willemsen family


Betje, Albert’s wife

Drike, their daughter

Evi, Albert’s widowed sister

Matthus, Evi’s son


Ebrima Dabo, Mandinkan slave

Bella, rum maker in Hispaniola


We hanged him in front of Kingsbridge Cathedral. It is the usual place for executions. After all, if you can’t kill a man in front of God’s face you probably shouldn’t kill him at all.

The sheriff brought him up from the dungeon below the Guild Hall, hands tied behind his back. He walked upright, his pale face defiant, fearless.

The crowd jeered at him and cursed him. He seemed not to see them. But he saw me. Our eyes met, and in that momentary exchange of looks there was a lifetime.

I was responsible for his death, and he knew it.

I had been hunting him for decades. He was a bomber who would have killed half the rulers of our country, including most of the royal family, all in one act of bloodthirsty savagery — if I had not stopped him.

I have spent my life tracking such would-be murderers, and a lot of them have been executed — not just hanged but drawn and quartered, the more terrible death reserved for the worst offenders.

Yes, I have done this many times: watched a man die knowing that I, more than anyone else, had brought him to his just but dreadful punishment. I did it for my country, which is dear to me; for my sovereign, whom I serve; and for something else, a principle, the belief that a person has the right to make up his own mind about God.

He was the last of many men I sent to hell, but he made me think of the first...

Part One



Ned Willard came home to Kingsbridge in a snowstorm.

He sailed upstream from Combe Harbour in the cabin of a slow barge loaded with cloth from Antwerp and wine from Bordeaux. When he reckoned the boat was at last nearing Kingsbridge, he wrapped his French cloak more tightly around his shoulders, pulled the hood over his ears, stepped out onto the open deck, and looked ahead.

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