Read A Column of Fire Online

Authors: Ken Follett

A Column of Fire (117 page)

Jack wrote on a scrap of paper and put down the pen. ‘I must leave you, now – I’ve got so much to do.’

‘Of course. I’m feeling tired, anyway. I may take a little nap.’

‘Sleep well, Grandfather.’

‘God be with you, beloved boy.’

Jack left, and Ned looked out of the window at the glorious west front of the cathedral. From here he could just see the entrance to the graveyard where both Sylvie and Margery lay. He did not look down at his book. He was happy with his thoughts. They were often enough for him, nowadays.

His mind was like a house he had spent his life furnishing. Its tables and beds were the songs he could sing, the plays he had watched, the cathedrals he had seen, and the books he had read in English, French and Latin. He shared this notional house with his family, alive and dead: his parents, his brother, the women he had loved, the children. There were guest rooms for important visitors such as Francis Walsingham, William and Robert Cecil, Francis Drake, and of course Queen Elizabeth. His enemies were there, too – Rollo Fitzgerald, Pierre Aumande de Guise, Guy Fawkes – although they were locked in the cellar, for they could do him no more harm.

The pictures on the walls were of the times when he had been brave, or clever, or kind. They made the house a happy place. And the bad things he had done, the lies he had told and the people he had betrayed and the times he had been cowardly, were scrawled in ugly letters on the wall of the outhouse.

His memory formed the library of the house. He could pick out any volume and instantly be transported to another place and time: Kingsbridge Grammar School in his innocent childhood, Hatfield Palace in the thrilling year of 1558, the banks of the Seine river on the bloodstained night of St Bartholomew, the Channel during the battle with the Spanish armada. Strangely, the character of Ned that lived in those stories did not remain the same. It seemed to him sometimes that quite a different person had learned Latin, someone else had fallen under the spell of young Princess Elizabeth, another character had stabbed a man with no nose in the graveyard of the church of St-Julien-le-Pauvre, and yet another had watched the fireships scatter the galleons off Calais. But of course they were all just different versions of himself, the owner of the house.

And one day soon the place would fall down, as old buildings did, and then, quite quickly, it would all turn to dust.

With that thought he drifted off to sleep.


My historical advisors for
A Column of Fire
were: Mercedes García-Arenal on Spain; the late Roderick Graham on Scotland; Robert Hutchinson on England; Guy Le Thiec on France; and Geoffrey Parker on the Netherlands.

I was also helped by: Anne-Laure Béatrix and Béatrice Vingtrinier at the Louvre in Paris; Dermot Burke at Hatfield House; Richard Dabb and Timothy Long at the Museum of London; Simon Lennox, Trisha Muir and Richard Waters at Loch Leven Castle; Sarah Pattinson at Carlisle Castle; Les Read on English sixteenth-century theatre; and Elizabeth Taylor at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

My editors were: Cherise Fisher, Leslie Gelbman, Phyllis Grann, Neil Nyren, Brian Tart and Jeremy Trevathan.

Friends and family who gave advice included: John Clare, Barbara Follett, Emanuele Follett, Tony McWalter, Chris Manners, Charlotte Quelch, John Studzinski, Jann Turner and Kim Turner.

All of you helped me write a better book, and I give you my heartfelt thanks.

Who is Real?

Readers sometimes ask me which of the characters in a novel are real historical figures and which are fictional. For those who are curious about this, here’s a list of the real people in
A Column of Fire


Mary Tudor, queen of England

Elizabeth Tudor, her half-sister, later queen

Tom Parry, Elizabeth’s treasurer

Sir William Cecil, advisor to Elizabeth

Robert Cecil, William’s son

Sir Francis Walsingham, spymaster

Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester

Sir Nicholas Throckmorton

Nicholas Heath, Lord Chancellor

Sir Francis Drake, sea captain

Sir John Hawkins, naval commander, also said to be a pirate

Sir Francis Throckmorton

George Talbot, earl of Shrewsbury

Bess of Harwick

Sir Amias Paulet

Gilbert Gifford, spy

William Davison, temporary secretary of state to Queen Elizabeth

Anthony Babington, traitor

Margaret Clitheroe, Catholic martyr

Howard of Effingham, Lord High Admiral

Philip Herbert, earl of Pembroke, earl of Montgomery

Edmund Doubleday

Guy Fawkes

Thomas Percy


François, duke of Guise

Henri, son of François

Charles, cardinal Lorraine, brother of François

Marie de Guise, sister of François and mother of Mary Queen of Scots

Louis ‘Bottles’, Cardinal de Guise

Anna d’Este, duchess of Guise

Henri II, king of France

Caterina de’ Medici, queen of France

Diane de Poitiers, mistress of King Henri II

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 and queen of France

Antoine, king of Navarre

Henri, son of Antoine, later King Henri IV of France

Louis, prince of Condé

Gaspard de Coligny, admiral of France

Charles de Louviers, assassin

William Allen, leader of the exiled English Catholics

Ambroise Paré, royal surgeon

Jean de Poltrot, assassin

Jean de Hangest

Jean Le Charron, provost of Paris


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

Anne of Denmark, queen of Scotland

John Leslie, bishop of Ross

Sir William Douglas

Lady Agnes, his wife

George ‘pretty Geordie’, their son

Willie Douglas, Sir William’s illegitimate son


King Felipe II

Count of Feria, diplomat

Bishop Álvaro de la Quadra

Bernardino de Mendoza, ambassador to London

Alonso Perez de Guzman, 7th duke of Medina Sidonia, admiral of the Spanish armada


Margherita of Parma, governor, illegitimate half-sister of King Felipe II

Pieter Titelmans, grand inquisitor

Ken Follett
was twenty-seven when he wrote
Eye of the Needle
, an award-winning thriller that became an international bestseller. He then surprised everyone with
The Pillars of the Earth
, about the building of a cathedral in the Middle Ages, which continues to captivate millions of readers all over the world, and its long-awaited sequel,
World Without End
, was a number one bestseller in the US, UK and Europe. Recently, he has written the bestselling Century trilogy, which comprises
Fall of Giants
Winter of the World
Edge of Eternity
A Column of Fire
is the third novel in the Kingsbridge sequence.


The Modigliani Scandal

Paper Money

Eye of the Needle


The Key to Rebecca

The Man from St Petersburg

On Wings of Eagles

Lie Down with Lions

The Pillars of the Earth

Night over Water

A Dangerous Fortune

A Place Called Freedom

The Third Twin

The Hammer of Eden

Code to Zero


Hornet Flight


World Without End

Fall of Giants

Winter of the World

Edge of Eternity

First published 2017 by Macmillan

This electronic edition published 2017 by Macmillan

an imprint of Pan Macmillan

20 New Wharf Road, London N1 9RR

Associated companies throughout the world

ISBN 978-1-5098-5659-6

Copyright © Ken Follett 2017

Author photo © Olivier Favre

Jacket designed by Daren Cook

The right of Ken Follett to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

Pan Macmillan does not have any control over, or any responsibility for, any author or third-party websites referred to in or on this book.

You may not copy, store, distribute, transmit, reproduce or otherwise make available this publication (or any part of it) in any form, or by any means (electronic, digital, optical, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the publisher. Any person who does any unauthorized act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

Map artwork by Stephen Raw

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