Author Hilary Mantel has hit back at the widespread criticism she received after describing Kate Middleton as a “shop-window mannequin” who was “designed to breed.”
Mantel, an award-winning novelist who until now has not addressed the row, insists she has nothing to apologize for.
The double Booker Prize winner touched off a storm of protest in the UK last month after making the comments about the Duchess of Cambridge during a lecture at the British Museum. In that lecture, Mantel 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.
“She appears precision-made, machine-made: so different from Diana, whose human awkwardness and emotional incontinence showed in her every gesture.”
At the time, Mantel’s comments sparked outraged defenses of Kate by public figures and members of the British public, many of whom see the duchess and her husband, Prince William, as the new, modern face of the British monarchy.
Even David Cameron, the British prime minister, weighed in on the row. During a recent official visit to India, he said:
“I think she [Mantel] writes great books, but I think what she’s said about Kate Middleton is completely misguided and completely wrong. 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 make these rather misguided remarks.”
Newspapers such as Daily Mail called Mantel’s comments “an astonishing and venomous attack,” while the Guardian said they were a “damning” take. The Independent and The Spectator, however, were supportive of the author.
Speaking in an interview on BBC Radio 3’s Night Waves program on Thursday, Mantel said she had been “set up” and that her words had been taken out of context.
“My lecture and the subsequent essay was actually supportive of the royal family and when I used those words about the Duchess of Cambridge, I was describing the perception of her which has been set up in the tabloid press, ” said Mantel.
“My speech ended with a plea to the press and to the media in general. I said ‘back off and don’t be brutes. Don’t do to this young woman what you did to Diana.’ My whole theme was the way we maltreat royal persons, making them one superhuman and yet less than human.”
Of the press, Mantel was adamant that they twisted her words intentionally and knew she wasn’t criticizing the duchess personally.
“I don’t believe for one moment that there was any lack of clarity, after all, I have been practising my trade for a number of years now,” she told the radio program.
“It was a matter of taking the words completely out of context – twisting the context – and setting me up as a hate figure. I have absolutely no regrets. What I said was crystal clear.”
During the controversial lecture, which was organised by London Review of Books, Mantel more or less suggested Kate had been chosen for her Royal role because of her seemingly demure personality.
The author did have one message for the duchess, though, telling BBC 3’s Anne McElvoy, “I do think that the Duchess of Cambridge is an intelligent young woman who, if she cares to read my essay, will see that I meant nothing but good to her.”