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The Pillars of the Earth (miniseries)

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Historical drama

Story by
Adapted from
The Pillars of the Earth



Screenplay by
Directed by
First episode date
23 July 2010

The Pillars of the Earth (miniseries) wwwgstaticcomtvthumbtvbanners8085859p808585

Based on
The Pillars of the Earthby Ken Follett

Starz, Channel 4, Sat.1, The Movie Network, Movie Central


The Pillars of the Earth is an eight-part 2010 TV miniseries, adapted from Ken Follett's novel of the same name. It debuted in the U.S. on Starz and in Canada on The Movie Network/Movie Central on July 23, 2010. Its UK premiere was on Channel 4 in October 2010 at 9pm. In 2011, the series was nominated for 3 Golden Globes, including Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television, Ian McShane for Best Actor and Hayley Atwell for Best Actress at the 68th Annual Golden Globe Awards.


The Pillars of the Earth (miniseries) The Pillars of the Earth TV MiniSeries 2010 IMDb


The Pillars of the Earth (miniseries) Ken Follett Filmography The Pillars of the Earth

In 1120, the White Ship catches fire in the English Channel, killing the only legitimate son of King Henry I, and seemingly leaving no survivors. Henry, who is close to death, requires his court to pledge loyalty to his daughter Maud's unborn son. However, Henry's nephew Stephen of Blois, who enjoys close ties with the Church, makes a deal with the Archbishop of Canterbury to be crowned instead. Meanwhile, Lord Percy of Hamleigh and his wife Regan attempt to arrange a marriage for their son William. Percy approaches his rival, Lord Bartholomew of Shiring, to ask for his daughter, Aliena, but is rejected. As a result, William cancels the construction of a new house for himself and Aliena, leaving a master craftsman named Tom Builder unemployed, and unable to support his wife Agnes, his daughter Martha, and his son Alfred. As the four of them travel through a forest, in search of further work, they are robbed by a bandit named Johnny Eightpence, despite the efforts of two strangers, Ellen and her son Jack, to assist them. Suddenly, Agnes goes into labor, having kept her pregnancy a secret, and dies after delivering a son. Without food to feed the baby, Tom leaves him to die, and the baby is retrieved by Johnny Eightpence, who decides to become a monk to support him.

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Maud, with the support of Henry's illegitimate son Robert of Gloucester, and Bartholomew, attempt to raise an army to expel Stephen. However, the plan is discovered by Percy, who organizes a raid on Shiring to arrest Bartholomew, who is tried for treason and burned at the stake. Stripped of her nobility, Aliena becomes a wool merchant to pay for her brother Richard's expenses as a knight. Richard goes on to fight for Stephen against Maud's repeated attempts to attack England, using France as a base. Tom, who is now engaged to Ellen, goes to Kingsbridge Priory to find work, but they are disinterested in repairing their badly damaged cathedral. In response, Jack secretly burns the cathedral, so that Tom can be hired to build a new one. Prior Philip needs to continually negotiate with the corrupt Bishop Waleran and others to secure the funds needed for the cathedral's construction.

The Pillars of the Earth (miniseries) The Pillars of the Earth Bluray

Many years pass. Stephen's son is killed by Maud's son during battle, and Stephen dies shortly afterward. Regan murders Percy to increase her power, and is murdered in turn by William. At Kingsbridge, despite numerous raids and mishappenings, leading to the death of Tom, the cathedral work continues under Jack, an apprentice builder, following the collapse of the ceiling by Alfred, who had been Tom's chosen successor. Aliena, who loves Jack, marries Alfred because of his higher salary, but repeatedly sleeps with Jack, and bears his son. Waleran, seeking to kill Jack because of his influence, and because he is Ellen's son, asks Alfred to stab himself with a dagger, such as to frame Jack for assault. However, Waleran had poisoned the dagger, leading to Alfred's death, and Jack's framing for murder, but at the trial, Ellen reveals the truth about Jack's father, named Jack Shareburg. In reality, Shareburg was a French sailor who survived the burning of the White Ship, and witnessed Waleran, Percy, and Regan escaping in a rowboat, and stabbing Henry's son and his wife, as part of a deliberate plot to seat Stephen on the throne. A crowd of Kingsbridge residents, who resent Waleran for his indirect support of William's raids against the town, raids which had killed numerous civilians, upon hearing this story attempt to seize Waleran. The latter flees inside a cathedral, and climbs the scaffold, but falls over and dies. The series ends with Jack inventing the architectural technique of flying buttresses in order to support the weight of the cathedral against the wind, and with the cathedral being inaugurated for services at last, in a world where the troubles of the Anarchy have ceased.

Differences from the novel

The Pillars of the Earth (miniseries) The Pillars Of The Earth Miniseries More info

A number of character changes were made for the series. For example, Waleran is older and Remigius is younger in the series than the novel. Similarly the actors playing Alfred, Jack, Richard, and Aliena are initially older than those portrayed in the novel. Also, the characters of Henry of Blois, Andrew Sacrist, Milius the kitchener, or Thomas Becket are not introduced in the series. The incestuous fixation of Regan to her son William in episode 2 is not introduced in the novel. Further, the thief character who attacks Martha and steals their pig is merged to become the monk Johnny Eightpence.

The Pillars of the Earth (miniseries) The Pillars of the Earth Miniseries Review IGN

Character events were also modified on occasion. Shareburg, Ellen's lover and the father of Jack, is not hanged but burnt at the stake, and does not sing the minstrel song seen in the novel. In the TV series, Ellen is not pregnant at that time (but holds a baby) and does not use a cockerel during her curse. The romantic tryst between Ellen and Tom in the woods after the death of Agnes as per the novel does not occur, rather they become closer after Ellen states that Jack needs a master builder to apprentice to. Similarly, Alfred is not seen physically bullying Martha or Jack in the series either. The execution scene of Bartholomew (and Aliena's appeal to Stephen for mercy, and Stephen's offer of a knighthood to Richard) in episode 3 do not occur in the novel, where he simply languishes and dies alone in prison. Also, Jack does not duel Walter for the rights to the quarry as shown in episode 3, nor have his hand broken. In the novel Percy Hamleigh dies of unknown causes, whereas in episode 4 he is bled to death by his ambitious wife Regan,and the poisoning of Jack in episode 6 was added by the series.

The Pillars of the Earth (miniseries) The Pillars of the Earth DVD Release Date

Several plot changes also happened. For example, the body of the saint in the burning church is not saved as per the novel, but the body-less skull is lost in the inferno. Also, in the series, Tom tells Jack to sculpt a stone statue of St. Adolphus. In the novel Henry of Blois (and not Stephen) visits the cathedral work-site, and in episode 4, it is Jack (and not Richard as per the novel) who accompanies Philip to Lincoln. Episode 5's lake scene where Aliena swims and later rescues Alfred from drowning is not seen in the novel. The tales of Jack and Aliena travelling in Spain are not shown in episode 7. Further, rather than being given a weeping statue in Toledo as detailed in the novel, Jack carves one himself from wood and a rejected stone from St. Denis. Philip's loss of the priorship to Remegius, Cuthbert's assassination attempt on Jack, and William murdering Regan are also creations seen in episode 7 of the series. Alfred dies at the hands of Richard in the novel, rather than a poisoned knife as seen in episode 8. Similarly, Waleran falls off the cathedral and dies in the series (compared to being disgraced for his part in the murder of Thomas Becket portrayed in the novel). Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Waleran and the Hamleighs are not mentioned in the novel as being present on the White Ship nor attacking the young prince and his wife.


The Pillars of the Earth (miniseries) STUDIOCANAL TV SERIES The Pillars Of The Earth

The miniseries took about a year to produce, at a cost of US$40 million. The project was funded by the German production company Tandem Communications, the Canadian film company Muse Entertainment Enterprises, and the UK and U.S. based Scott Free Productions. It was filmed in Austria and Hungary in 2009. The final aerial shot is of modern-day Salisbury with a CGI cathedral combining elements of Salisbury Cathedral and Wells Cathedral, to represent the complete fictional Kingsbridge Cathedral, which were the two cathedrals which inspired Follett during the writing of the novel. The series was followed by an adaptation of the sequel World Without End in 2012.

Historical accuracy

Several ahistorical timelines of The Anarchy were modified or invented for the series, and in the view of one reviewer "great liberties are taken with the actual history". For example the birth of Henry II and the death of his grandfather Henry I timelines are shortened in episode 1, given that young Henry was born in March 1133, and the older Henry died in December 1135. Further, geographically, Henry II was living in Maine when Henry I fell ill in Normandy while hunting. Similarly in episode 4, both King Stephen and Robert of Gloucester are captured at the Battle of Lincoln. While it is accurate that Stephen was captured in Lincoln in February 1141 (and later imprisoned in Bristol), Gloucester was not captured until some nine months later in the Rout of Winchester in September 1141.

Similarly, other historical characters were given premature deaths. For example, the nameless Archbishop of Canterbury seen in episodes 1-6 (historically Theobald of Bec) was not murdered, but served throughout the period of The Anarchy from 1138-1161, and he died after a long illness. Similarly Maud's illegitimate half-brother, Robert of Gloucester, did not die or be beheaded on the battlefield as shown in episode 7. Rather he died in 1147 at Bristol Castle, where he had previously imprisoned King Stephen. Finally, while Eustace does precede his father Stephen in death, it was not at the hands of his cousin Henry in battle as shown in episode 8, but probably due to a fit or seizure.


The premiere was simulcast on both Starz and Encore. On Starz 423,000 people watched, and on Encore 267,000 people watched, for a total of 690,000 total viewers. In the Starz broadcast, episodes 1 and 2, as a series premiere, and episodes 7 and 8, as a series finale, were broadcast together as a single episode. In the 2011 broadcast by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the series was re-cut into nine episodes. In December 2012, the series was shown in Australia by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in four parts at weekly intervals, combining pairs of episodes each with a single introduction.


The series was "Certified Fresh" with a rating of 86% by the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes. As quoted on their website, "With its talented cast and strong production values, Pillars of the Earth is the kind of satisfying, eventful miniseries that is rarely seen these days."


The Pillars of the Earth (miniseries) Wikipedia

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