WORLD WITHOUT END CHARACTER DESCRIPTIONS
Beautiful, wise, caring and compassionate, Caris is the feisty daughter of Edmund Wooller – Kingsbridge’s wealthiest Merchant. After her father is ruined by a conspiracy, she’s trapped by her manipulative aunt, Petranilla, into marrying the richest man inKingsbridge – the abusive Elfric – in order to secure her now penniless Father’s ailing business. She wants to be a physician so apprentices with the town’s Healer, Mattie Wise and takes over when Mattie is publically executed as a witch. Caris really loves Merthin, the son of an Earl who has fallen from grace, but must choose between taking sanctuary in the Church and becoming a nun when she is accused of witchcraft. Caris continually fights for what she believes in and is capable of operating in a maled ominated society. She rises to power within the Church and leads her people against the tyranny of Crown and Church…all the while secretly still in love with Merthin.
Merthin is the son of the fallen Earl of Shiring and Ralph’s brother. After his father has been wrongly executed for being a traitor to the Crown, the intellectual Merthin is
pawned off to the town’s brutal builder, Elfric, as an apprentice. Merthin soon outshines his master as a builder and architect and is thrown out when Elfric suspects that he and Caris have real feelings for each other. Merthin holds a life-long love for Caris.
Daughter of a soldier of fortune from Saxony, Gwenda ends up with her sexually abusive Father, Joby, in Kingsbridge. After fighting off her father’s sexual advances with a knife, Joby takes revenge by selling her to a common thug in exchange for a cow. She manages to get free and learns to fend for herself and later for the man she loves, Wulfric, and the family they start together. As the Lord of their village, Merthin’s brute brother Ralph becomes so tyrannical that it is no longer bearable and Gwenda leads her peasant towns folk in a revolt. She helps usher in a new age of freedom without feudal law.
Ralph is also the son of the fallen Earl of Shiring and Merthin’s brother. Darkly handsome, aggressive and bullish, he is a natural-born warrior. Ralph becomes the Squire to the very man who usurped his father’s Earldom and had him executed – Sir Roland. Ralph facilitates Roland’s dirty work in Kingsbridge, but after raping a local peasant girl, his only means of escaping execution is to join the King’s army, which he does willingly. Ralph has a lifelong obsession with Lady Philippa, who he ultimately forcesinto marrying him. Philippa repays him by committing suicide on their wedding night.Ralph learns much later in life that he is not really Merthin’s biological brother; there is23someone in Kingbridge watching over him and cunningly helping him rise to power – his true mother.
Petranilla is a beautiful and cunning woman and a constant schemer. She is Godwyn’s Mother, Edmund Wooler’s sister and Caris’ detested aunt. She poisons her sister-in-law and makes a swift move into her brother’s home to take over as Lady of the house in order to sell her house to sponsor Godwyn through Oxford. Petranilla manages to pawn off her niece to the abusive but wealthy suitor Elfric to raise money for herself and her penniless brother. Petranilla is an ambitious, manipulative and a poisonous being, who will stop at nothing including murdering her own brother to further her, and her son Godwyn’s power and position.
Godwyn is a handsome and narcissistic monk in Kingsbridge Priory alongside his uncle –Prior Anthony. He is a wily type, who takes direction from his scheming Mother -Petranilla. Godwyn learns about theology at Oxford and always favors the spiritual over the practical, a true traditionalist. Later, as Prior, he wants to return Kingsbridge Priory to its ‘days of glory ’. Godwyn quickly degenerates into a morally bankrupt state to further his and his Mother’s political ambitions. He continually steals funds from the Convent and is always looking for the next money-making opportunity. He has desired his cousin Caris since they were children, but his misguided piousness, forces him to suppress his feelings of lust and blame her as a temptress of the Devil,who he needs to destroy. The more Godwyn loses touch with reality, the more he wants Caris, but also wants her dead.
SIR THOMAS LANGLEY:
The handsome Sir Thomas Langley arrives wounded in the Kingsbridge Priory, claiming to be a Knight to Queen Isabella. He asks to become a monk and to the surprise of Prior Anthony, the Queen herself pays his dowry. Thomas soon becomes a valuable member of the Priory and the community – a person that most look up to and respect. He also finds real love again in the shadows of his monastic cell. However, Thomas harbors a dark political secret and the Queen must pay for it. Thomas has a true love and affection for Kingsbridge and its people, but doesn’t realize that his presence there will one day be Kingsbridge’s downfall.
Brother Joseph is an elderly monk and Kingsbridge Priory’s physician. His hands shake terribly with palsy and he always causes more harm than good believing ‘purging’ and poultices of dung are the cures for all illnesses. He is determined to see Mattie Wise sentenced to death for witchcraft after she has opposed Joseph’s archaic medical practices.
Mother Cecilia is the Prioress of Kingsbridge. A sharply intelligent woman, she understands that the Church is the only place that a woman in the 14th century can really be free to think and grow as a person. Cecilia doesn’t suffer fools gladly, which means that Godwyn gives her plenty to suffer through. When Godwyn wants to hang Caris as a witch, it is Cecilia who saves her life by convincing her to claim sanctuary and become a nun. Knowing that the Church was not Caris’ chosen way, Cecilia attempts to help Caris forget the love she left behind with Merthin by allowing Caris to grow as a physician and by sponsoring the building of Caris’ hospice for the sick.
Roland is a coarse Knight and Queen Isabella’s supporter. He convinces the Queen that many in Kingsbridge conspire against her, including the Earl of Shiring. She appoints him her tax collector in Kingsbridge and empowers him to execute all traitors, including the Earl. In exchange, she grants Roland the Earldom he so desires. He greatly prospers under Isabella and later her son, Edward III. Petranilla carries a torch for Roland from an affair long past, but he marries the unfaithful Margery, leaving Petranilla brokenhearted for a second time – one time too many.
French born Isabella is Queen Consort of England as Edward II’s wife, who then deposes her husband (with the help of her paramour, Roger Mortimer) and becomes regent on behalf of her son, Edward III. Her teenage son however, has no desire to watch silently while his Mother, whom he blames for his Father’s death, marries Mortimer and takes over the reign of England in his stead. He gives her an implied ultimatum to side with him against Mortimer, or be hanged for regicide. Mortimer is executed and she takes her place at his side. Isabella believes that her French bloodline entitles her son to take the throne of France and provokes war to claim it. She continually tries to raise additional funds for her war and habitually calls upon Roland to squeeze more taxes out of the Kingsbridge citizens – a city that harbors Sir Thomas Langley – the man that holds her dark secret.
The beautiful Philippa is Roland’s daughter-in-law, who captures Ralph’s eye. Pregnant, she is utterly distraught when her beloved husband is poisoned. As Ralph gains power over the years, he will stop at nothing to make her his wife. She loathes him so much that she arranges for her daughter’s safety in exile and commits suicide on their wedding night. Ralph will never be able to touch either of them.
Edmund is Kingsbridge’s wealthiest merchant and head of the Guild. He is Caris’ loving
father and devastated by his wife Rose’s sudden and unexpected death. He is arrested as a traitor to the Crown for his allegiance with Edward II against Isabella. In order to have his life spared, Petranilla bribes her old lover Sir Roland with Edmund’s entire wealth. Edmund’s life is spared, but Roland orders both his legs to be broken. Edmund’s trusting good nature allows him to be blind to his sister Petranilla’s devious and dangerous nature…a fatal mistake.
Elfric is a rough, brawny builder and carpenter, who takes Merthin on as his apprentice. He is a bitter and vindictive man, who is aggressive towards Merthin, viewing him as a challenge to his status and livelihood and therefore does everything possible to make Merthin’s life difficult. After Edmund loses his fortune, Elfric becomes the richest man in Kingsbridge. Petranilla cooks up a scheme to marry Caris off to him, securing the family’s wealth again and her place in Edmund’s home. Elfricis physically abusive to Caris and beats her for not becoming pregnant after his regular marital rapes. As Caris tries to help Merthin get a building job, Elfric throws them both out on the street.
Wulfric is a young, attractive son of a peasant land tenant in a village nearby Kingsbridge. Wulfric’s flirtatious girlfriend Annet causes him to defend her honor and fight with Ralph. Thrown into the stocks to pay for breaking Ralph’s nose, Wulfric is spotted by Gwenda, who pays for his release. Her reason – he is a man, who stands up for women. He is inconsolable after his Father’s death. When it looks like he won’t inherit the lease to his Father’s land and money, Annet leaves him and he settles for second prize – Gwenda. He soon grows to love her and they start a family. Together with Gwenda, they stand up to Ralph and lead the peasants in a revolt again feudal landownership.
Wise by name and by nature, Mattie is a rarity in the Middle Ages: she is a healer and physician. Daughter to an army surgeon, she did not learn at Oxford, but by doing her work directly on the battlefield. Her studies of anatomy and herbal remedies fascinate Caris, who sees that Mattie’s treatments actually help people, whereas those of the Priory’s physician – who believes in bleedings and poultices of dung as effective remedies – tend to kill the sick and the injured. Mattie takes Caris on as her apprentice, but the apprenticeship is short-lived. Mattie is accused of witchcraft and put to death.