She called Kate Middleton 'plastic' and 'designed to breed,' but Tom Sykes says her lecture must be read in context. Read the full text here.
The writer has said in a lecture about Royalty that Kate Middleton is a "jointed doll" perceived as having “no personality of her own, entirely defined by what she wore”. She went on that Kate has a “perfect plastic smile”, had been “selected for her role of princess” to “breed in some manners” and because she was “irreproachable: as painfully thin as anyone could wish, without quirks, without oddities, without the risk of the emergence of character”. She also said, "In her first official portrait by Paul Emsley, unveiled in January, her eyes are dead."
Now British PM David Cameron has waded into the row, speaking in India, where he is on a tour, Cameron said, "What she said about Kate Middleton is completely misguided”, he blustered, “We should be proud of [Kate]…not make misguided remarks”.
Has he even read the piece?
Yes she did say those things, but context is all. And a writer like Mantel at least deserves to be taken in context. The author was delivering an hour-long lecture for the London Review of Books, entitled "Royal Bodies," which you can read in full here (it's well worth it).
In fact Mantel is not criticising Kate but reflecting on monarchy, talking about how queens from the Tudor period to the modern day have been judged by their appearance and fertility.
Before her pregnancy, Mantel said, the Duchess of Cambridge had been seen as “a jointed doll on which certain rags are hung”. These days, she was seen as “a mother-to-be, and draped in another set of threadbare attributions”, “her only point and purpose being to give birth.”
Its actually a tender and sympathetic piece of writing, filled with compassion for royal women trapped in their gilded cages, with a staggering scene at its heart where Mantel, at Buckingham Palace for an event, catches the Queen’s eye:
“Such was the hard power of my stare that Her Majesty turned and looked back at me, as if she had been jabbed in the shoulder; and for a split second her face expressed not anger but hurt bewilderment. She looked young: for a moment she had turned back from a figurehead into the young woman she was, before monarchy froze her and made her a thing, a thing which only had meaning when it was exposed, a thing that existed only to be looked at.
“And I felt sorry then. I wanted to apologise. I wanted to say: it’s nothing personal, it’s monarchy I’m staring at.”