Hilary Mantel – Royal Bodies


When the press give a quote, then tell you what was meant in a 6000 word lecture without further quotes, alarm bells should start ringing that maybe you need to read the actual lecture before coming to an opinion. Well, my blog does state condemnation without investigation is the height of ignorance, for a reason. So I have read it. I encourage you to do so because this is about what we seem to have made the monarchy in the modern age, and how they now appear compared to the bold characters of the past.

Hilary Mantel’s lecture can be read on the London Book Review website here.

Some quotes in context where Kate Middleton is mentioned:

It’s rather that I saw Kate becoming a jointed doll on which certain rags are hung. 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.

Antoinette as a royal consort was a gliding, smiling disaster, much like Diana in another time and another country. But Kate Middleton, as she was, appeared to have been designed by a committee and built by craftsmen, with a perfect plastic smile and the spindles of her limbs hand-turned and gloss-varnished. When it was announced that Diana was to join the royal family, the Duke of Edinburgh is said to have given her his approval because she would ‘breed in some height’. Presumably Kate was designed to breed in some manners.

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. She appears precision-made, machine-made, so different from Diana whose human awkwardness and emotional incontinence showed in her every gesture.


That last quote is distasteful if you don’t take into account the “seems to” which is like saying animals “seem to” have been designed but Richard Dawkins is clearly not saying that they are when he says that. Maybe Hilary could have given a fairy tale rendition of the long romance the couple had. Mantel could also have mentioned the ambitions of her parents which she could have compared to the Boleyn family – all be it without the political religious agenda. Perhaps those of us watching the news should decry her running around with a hockey stick as newsworthy. Mantel is making the point that the media, and the public relations of the palace, do not seem to want a rounded character expressing views and being outspoken.

Think Diana and landlines, which on a train journey i had a random conversation with a stranger who remarked she had been impressed by how “Diana had thrown herself into landlines”. That image has stuck. Mantel should give Kate time to develop her own voice while she gains confidence in her public role.

Long before Kate’s big news was announced, the tabloids wanted to look inside her to see if she was pregnant. Historians are still trying to peer inside the Tudors. Are they healthy, are they sick, can they breed? The story of Henry and his wives is peculiar to its time and place, but also timeless and universally understood; it is highly political and also highly personal.

I have to agree with Slate ‘ “Royal Bodies” is well worth reading in full. It casts considerable light on, among other things, the very fracas it has blamelessly caused.’

The article is attacking the media, and indeed the public appetite, for the trivial and mundane. As always, best not to only get your news just from newspapers.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

Follow @JPSargeant78


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