London - She is a double Booker prize winner, the darling of the literary establishment.
Now Hilary Mantel has attacked the Duchess of Cambridge.
The Independent reports that Mantel was delivering a London Review of Books lecture on Royal Bodies at the British Museum, when she examined the prospects for the future queen consort.
Mantel, whose latest books are set in the Tudor court, dismissed Kate as a “machine-made” princess, “designed by committee”.
Mantel, 60, also said she was a personality-free “shop window mannequin” with a “plastic smile”.
She compared Kate unfavourably to both Anne Boleyn – one of her historical heroines – and to Princess Diana, insisting both had more personality.
She said Kate had gone from being a “jointed doll on which certain rags are hung” to a woman whose “only point and purpose” was to give birth. Mantel said Kate “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”.
She said the Duchess was quite unlike Anne Boleyn, who was “a power player, a clever and determined woman.” But, she said, “in the end she [Anne] was valued for her body parts, not her intellect or her soul; it was her womb that was central to her story... a royal lady is a royal vagina.”
Mantel contrasted the duchess’s appearance to her husband Prince William’s mother, Diana, “whose human awkwardness and emotional incontinence showed in her every gesture”.
Mantel is the author of Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies, acclaimed novels which detail the failure of Henry VIII’s wives to produce an heir.
Mantel said that when she first saw Kate Middleton, she struck her as “a shop-window mannequin, with no personality of her own, entirely defined by what she wore.”
Prince William’s wife-to-be was as “painfully thin as anyone could wish, without quirks, without oddities, without the risk of the emergence of character”.
She added: “Presumably Kate was designed to breed in some manners.
“She looks like a nicely brought up young lady, with ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ part of her vocabulary.”
Mantel spoke of Kate’s appearance in her first official portrait since marrying William, painted by Paul Emsley, which was unveiled in January. She said: “Her eyes are dead and she wears the strained smile of a woman who really wants to tell the painter to bugger off.”
Mantel went on to say that female Royals were “at the most basic... breeding stock, collections of organs.”
St James’s Palace last week criticised a magazine for printing pictures of Kate’s baby bump taken during a break on the Caribbean island of Mustique.
And they were furious last year when pictures of her topless on holiday were printed in Italy – saying “a red line had been crossed.”
But Mantel suggested Kate could have few complaints about private pictures of her being taken on holiday – observing: “The royal body exists to be looked at.”
The Independent reports that the author compared the Royals to pandas: “Pandas and royal persons alike are expensive to conserve and ill-adapted to any modern environment. But aren't they nice to look at? Some people find them endearing; some pity them for their precarious situation; everybody stares at them, and however airy the enclosure they inhabit, it's still a cage.”
Ingrid Seward, editor-in-chief of Majesty magazine, said Mantel’s comments were unfair.
She said that although Diana had at first seemed “bland”, later “we learned about all the troubles of her marriage and her personality began to shine through. Kate might yet come into her own.”
She added that Kate’s duties meant she “can’t do anything that might reveal (her) personality. They have to be nice to everyone. They are probably stupefyingly bored but they can’t appear to be having anything other than a nice time.”
The Duchess chose on Monday to give an insight into the causes that she will support, hailing the start of a project which will see one of her charities receive a huge financial boost from a philanthropic organisation.
She described her delight at Action On Addiction – which she backs as patron – becoming the beneficiary of the fundraising efforts of 100 Women in Hedge Funds during 2013.
“Those affected by addiction are in desperate need of the highest level of care and treatment; Action On Addiction delivers this brilliantly,” she wrote in a letter to mark the launch of the fundraising project.
“Whether direct or indirect, the impact of addiction can be devastating.”
On Tuesday The Duchess, 31, will visit the addiction charity’s Hope House treatment centre, in Clapham, south London, to meet women recovering from alcohol and drug dependency.. - Daily Mail
PRIZE FIGHT THE AUTHOR AND THE PRINCESS
Hilary Mantel (in the blue corner)
Education: Studied law at LSE and Sheffield University, where she discovered socialism.
Experience: Social worker in geriatric ward; department store sales assistant. Has lived in Botswana and Saudi Arabia.
Literary credentials: Author of more than a dozen books, including Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies, the first two parts of a trilogy about Thomas Cromwell, both of which won the Man Booker Prize.
Style icon? Reflecting on her body image, she once wrote: “You throw tantrums in fat-lady shops, where the stock is grimy tat tacked together from cheap man-made fabric, choice of electric blue or cerise. You can't get your legs into boots, or your feet into last year's shoes.”
The Duchess of Cambridge (in the red corner)
Education: Marlborough and St Andrew's, where she caught Prince William's eye modelling lingerie.
Experience: Keeping world's media at bay during nine-year “will-they, won't they” relationship with William. Previous employment includes stints at Jigsaw (as a buyer) and, in various part-time roles, working for her parents' firm Party Pieces.
Literary credentials: Sister of the author of Celebrate, a book about parties.
Style icon? The Duchess's fashion style has been extravagantly praised by, among others, Tatler and Vanity Fair. - The Independent
* Read the full speech.