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Mantel’s Royal Bodies


Lovely readers, if there are still many of you out there, I am so sorry it has been such a long time since I have posted. Normal service will resume now and hopefully I can win you back! Over the last few months there have been some computer melt-downs, some dissertation angst and Christmas getting in the way of my blogging. However, an event I attended a couple of weeks ago has convinced me to get back in the swing.

You may have heard about the furore caused by Hilary Mantel’s speech to the London Review of Books in early February. If not, I almost envy you as it has been everywhere! (see here for a sample of one of the more favourable) Well I, readers, was lucky enough to be there in person, close enough to see the twinkle in her eye in fact! Thanks to my lovely father-in-law, we had managed to get tickets and were treated to a warm, witty and eloquent speech. So much so that I was surprised there was such a fuss about it approximately a week later…but perhaps I am naive.

Before I go on, let me just say that I am actually not a critic of the Duchess of Cambridge: anyone who can rock such perfect black eyeliner is ok by me! My admiration for her was a little dampened by the ‘waity katie’ stage and the lack of gainful employment / direction. However, on the whole, I think she is doing a good job in her new role.

There is no doubt in my mind that Mantel was being a little provocative, but the media have taken the speech out of context in my opinion. The full text is here so you can make up your own mind, but my overall impression was of Mantel warning us not to let history repeat itself. Marie Antoinette, Anne Boleyn, Diana: they were all Queens or Princesses who came to sorry ends. Their dress and bodies were all scrutinised by an insatiable public and vicious media. ‘We don’t cut off the heads of royal ladies these days, but we do sacrifice them…’ Mantel said and we should rewrite the story so perfect Kate is not next.

I left the lecture theatre feeling privileged to have heard such a thought provoking, clever and inspirational woman talk. Mantel’s turn of phrase was immaculate. My particular favourites were: ‘Marie Antoinette was a woman eaten alive by her frocks’ and ‘When we call him (Henry VIII) paranoid, we must acknowledge that he was right to think his enemies were everywhere, though he was increasingly bad at working out who they were. As for depression, he had a great deal to be depressed about…’ Wonderful! I will be putting a print out of the speech in one of my memory boxes to enjoy for years to come.

4 thoughts on “Mantel’s Royal Bodies

  1. I couldn’t agree more…goodness me!

  2. Thanks, I’ve updated my post with the following: To illustrate my point, the Daily/Sunday Mail lay into Hilary Mantel for saying the media treats Kate Middleton like a breeding machine, and then describe her as “your Royal Bumpness” rather than a unique human being deserving of respect! Words fail me!

  3. Sensationalist certainly sums it up John, yes…patronising is another word that often springs to my mind when thinking about the media, but that might be just me!

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