Tell us what you really think, Hilary Mantel: the acclaimed British novelist criticized Kate Middleton as a bland “jointed doll on which certain rags are hung” whose sole purpose is to give birth during a lecture at the British Museum earlier this month.
In her speech, titled “Royal Bodies,” the writer of the 2012 Man Booker Prize-winning Bring Up the Bodies started by saying she had been asked to pick a celebrity, and choose a book to give to said celebrity, during a recent interview. Although she didn’t care for the journalist’s question, she played along, selecting for Kate Middleton the 2006 book Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution by Caroline Weber.
The first part of the title rings very true. Kate has been on dozens of best dressed lists and everything she wears is instantly coveted. The second part of the book title, however, is where the insults start to come and reveal the pairing as critical rather than flattering.
“It’s not that I think we’re heading for a revolution. It’s rather that I saw Kate becoming a jointed doll on which certain rags are hung,” said Mantel. “In those days she was a shop-window mannequin, with no personality of her own, entirely defined by what she wore. These days she is a mother-to-be, and draped in another set of threadbare attributions. Once she gets over being sick, the press will find that she is radiant. They will find that this young woman’s life until now was nothing, her only point and purpose being to give birth.”
The author compared the Duchess of Cambridge with the famous French queen as well as Princess Diana: she called Marie Antoinette “all body and no soul: no soul, no sense, no sensitivity,” but praised Diana as “capable of transforming herself from galumphing schoolgirl to ice queen, from wraith to Amazon.” Middleton, however, “seems capable of going from perfect bride to perfect mother, with no messy deviation,” she said.
“Kate seems to have been selected for her role of princess because she was irreproachable: as painfully thin as anyone could wish, without quirks, without oddities, without the risk of the emergence of character,” Mantel observed. “She appears precision-made, machine-made, so different from Diana whose human awkwardness and emotional incontinence showed in her every gesture.”
A double Book Prize winner, Mantel’s work includes the successful Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies, which follows the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell. According to the U.K.’s Mirror, a Mantel responded that her speech was “remarkably sympathetic,” and meant to highlight the institution of royalty and how the royal women have become victims.
British Prime Minister David Cameron came to Middleton’s defense Tuesday, saying, “What I’ve seen of Princess Kate at public events, at the Olympics and elsewhere is this is someone who’s bright, who’s engaging, who’s a fantastic ambassador for Britain. We should be proud of that, rather than makes these misguided remarks.”