A Column of Fire

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A Column of Fire
A Column of Fire.jpg
Cover art of A Column of Fire, UK edition (2017)
AuthorKen Follett
CountryUnited Kingdom
GenreHistorical fiction
Published2017 (Penguin) (UK edition)
Media typePrint (Hardback)
ISBN978-1-4472-7873-3 (UK Hardcover)
Preceded byWorld Without End (Follett novel) 

A Column of Fire is a 2017 novel by British author Ken Follett,[1] first published on 12 September 2017.[2] It is the third book in the Kingsbridge Series, and serves as a sequel to 1989's The Pillars of the Earth and 2007's World Without End.[3][4]


Beginning in 1558, and continuing through 1605, the story chronicles the romance between Ned Willard and Margery Fitzgerald, as well as the political intrigue of the royal courts of England, France, and Scotland, and the oft-times violent conflict between supporters of the Catholic Church and the rising Protestant movement in the late 16th century.

Unlike the two previous novels in this series, a large proportion of the plot takes place outside the town of Kingsbridge, utilizing such far-flung settings as Paris, Seville, Geneva, Antwerp, and the Caribbean, and involving many major characters who have no direct connection with the town.


Point-of-View Characters

  • Ned Willard - Younger son of a prosperous Kingsbridge merchant family, a tolerant Protestant.
  • Margery Fitzgerald - Daughter of the mayor of Kingsbridge, a tolerant Catholic.
  • Rollo Fitzgerald - Margery's elder brother, a hard-line Catholic.
  • Pierre Aumande - An ambitious but low-born French Catholic con man.
  • Sylvie Palot - Daughter of a Parisian printer and bookseller, a zealous but tolerant Protestant.
  • Alison McKay - Lady-in-waiting and close childhood friend to Mary, Queen of Scots, a Catholic.
  • Barney Willard - Ned's elder brother, a merchant living with relatives in Spain, a tolerant Catholic.
  • Ebrima Dabo - An enslaved West African man, in bondage to the Willards' Spanish relations, a nominal Catholic who secretly follows traditional Mandinka beliefs.

Prominently Featured Historical Figures

  • Mary Tudor, Queen of England - Elder half-sister of Elizabeth I, a hard-line Catholic (mentioned, but does not appear).
  • Elizabeth Tudor, Queen of England - Called Elizabeth I, a tolerant Protestant.
  • Sir William Cecil - Advisor to Queen Elizabeth I.
  • Francis, Duke of Guise - Called Scarface, a celebrated French general, father of Henri I of Guise and uncle of Mary, Queen of Scots, a hard-line Catholic.
  • Charles, Cardinal of Lorraine - Spymaster, younger brother of Scarface and uncle of Mary, Queen of Scots, a hard-line Catholic.
  • Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland - A Catholic, briefly Queen Consort of France, niece of Scarface and Cardinal Charles, called Mary, Queen of Scots.
  • Francis II, King of France - Son of Henri II of France and Catherine de' Medici, first husband of Mary, Queen of Scots, a hard-line Catholic.
  • Catherine de' Medici - Queen Consort of France and Queen Regent during the reign of her son Charles, wife of Henri II, mother of Francis II, Charles IX, and Henri III, a tolerant Catholic.
  • Sir Francis Walsingham - Secretary and spymaster to Queen Elizabeth I.
  • Henri, Duke of Guise - Leader of the French Catholic League, son of Scarface.
  • Charles IX, King of France - Son of Henri II of France and Catherine de' Medici, younger brother of Francis II.
  • Gaspard de Coligny - Admiral of France and Protestant leader, advisor of Charles IX.
  • Henri III, King of France - Son of Henri II of France and Catherine de' Medici, younger brother of Francis II and Charles IX.
  • Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury - Son of William, advisor and Secretary of State to Queen Elizabeth and King James.
  • James VI and I, King of Scotland, and later, of England - Son of Mary, Queen of Scots and Lord Darnley.
  • Guy Fawkes - A Catholic conspirator in the Gunpowder Plot.

Other Major Characters

  • Alice Willard - Mother of Ned and Barney, a prosperous Kingsbridge merchant and tolerant Protestant.
  • Sir Reginald Fitzgerald - Father of Margery and Rollo, mayor of Kingsbridge, a vindictive Catholic.
  • Bart Shiring - Son of the Earl of Shiring, rival suitor for Margery's hand.
  • Swithin, Earl of Shiring - Father of Bart.
  • Bishop Julius of Kingsbridge - A hard-line Catholic.
  • Dan Cobley - A strict Protestant merchant of Kingsbridge.
  • Isabelle Palot - Mother of Sylvie, a Protestant.
  • Louise, Marchioness de Nîmes - A Protestant aristocrat, member of Sylvie's congregation.
  • Carlos Cruz - A merchant from Seville, cousin of the Willards, a tolerant Catholic.
  • Odette - Maidservant to Veronique de Guise, later wife of Pierre Aumande.
  • Nath - Maidservant working for Pierre Aumande, a Protestant.
  • Alain de Guise - Stepson of Pierre Aumande, a Protestant.
  • Alfonso Willard - Son of Barney by Bella (a mixed-race Caribbean rum distiller), called Alfo.


Bill Sheehan of The Washington Post summarizes the book by commenting: "Like its predecessors in the Kingsbridge series, “A Column of Fire” is absorbing, painlessly educational and a great deal of fun. Follett uses the tools of popular fiction to great effect in these books, illuminating a nation’s gradual progress toward modernity. The central theme of this latest book — the ongoing conflict between tolerance and fanaticism — lends both relevance and resonance to the slowly unfolding story of England’s past."[4]


  1. ^ "See the Cover for Ken Follett's Elizabethan Epic 'A Column of Fire' -- Exclusive". EW.com. 2016-10-04. Retrieved 2017-09-19.
  2. ^ "A Column of Fire (Kingsbridge, #3)". www.goodreads.com. Retrieved 2017-09-19.
  3. ^ Spanberg, Erik (2017-09-12). "'A Column of Fire' is half historic epic, half thriller – all of it engaging". Christian Science Monitor. ISSN 0882-7729. Retrieved 2017-09-19.
  4. ^ a b Post, Bill Sheehan, Special to The Washington. "Ken Follett's return trip to Kingsbridge". poconorecord.com. Retrieved 2017-09-19.