Imagining the Royals as they were in Tudor times has brought Hilary Mantel unprecedented literary success.
Now, this year's Booker Prize winner has attracted attention of a different kind by discussing the current Royal Family, describing Kate Middleton as a "shop window mannequin" with a "plastic smile", no personality and no purpose other than to produce an heir to the throne.
Part of a long lecture given at the British Museum two weeks ago, the author's comments were swiftly plucked out and splashed across the front page of the Daily Mail, who have described it as a "venomous attack".
Hilary Mantel called Kate Middleton a "shop window mannequin"
A full transcript of the speech - entitled 'Royal Bodies', and which can be read here - shows that Mantel actually gave a sympathetic analysis of the Royal family, and her comments were about Kate as a media construct, rather than a personal attack.
Nevertheless, given the strength of the remarks, the descriptions of the Duchess were taken out of context and made into headlines.
The author of Bring Up The Bodies - who has written about her struggle with her own weight - described Kate as "painfully thin as anyone could wish, without quirks, without oddities, without the risk of the emergence of character."
Drawing an unflattering comparison with Princess Diana, Mantel continued: "She appears precision-made, machine-made, so different from Diana whose human awkwardness and emotional incontinence showed in her every gesture."
Mantel's comments were largely about Kate as a media construct, rather than a personal attack.
Mantel also described Kate's first official portrait by Paul Emsley, saying of the Princess: "Her eyes are dead and she wears the strained smile of a woman who really wants to tell the painter to bugger off," she said.
While Twitter tried to decide whose side it was on, Ingrid Seward, editor-in-chief of Majesty magazine, defended the Duchess to the Independent. "When Diana came on the scene she would just sit there and look pretty. We all thought she was pretty bland. It wasn't until later that we learned about all the troubles of her marriage and her personality began to shine through. Kate might yet come into her own," she said.
A spokesman for Mantel told The Telegraph that the speech was not a criticism, with the author speaking about royal women as victims of their predicament. “It is a piece about appearance,” he said. “It’s about being trapped. It is about the performance, how the institution of royalty has to project and how it comes across.”
The Duchess herself, meanwhile, will have little choice but to react as stoically as is expected of her. She recently endured the frustration of pictures of her in a bikini being published in an Italian magazine, following the topless photos scandal of last year.
On Tuesday she will continue with her Royal duties when she visits the addiction charity Hope House in South London to meet women recovering from alcohol and drug dependency.
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