She was heralded as the symbol of a new, modern era for the royals, but the same narrative meant Meghan Markle was primed for a fall, according to Dame Hilary Mantel.
In a new interview, the Booker Prize-winning author says the Duchess of Sussex was “too good to be true” and subjected to “abominable racism”.
“I think that Meghan was too good to be true. She was a smiling face in a dull institution, she cheered the nation up no end, or at least men and women of goodwill,” Mantel told Harper’s Bazaar.
“I do think abominable racism has been involved. People who say that’s got nothing to do with it – well, they need to check their privilege!’”
Referring to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s decision to step back as senior members of the royal family, she added: “I’m pleased that it’s the marriage that’s surviving and the connection with the monarchy that has to go, because I think almost all of us would have bet that if she left, she’d have to leave alone. Though, none of us know the details of how this is going to work out.”
Harry and Meghan officially ended their royal duties on 31 March, when they stopped representing the Queen and became financially independent. The couple will split their time living between North America and the UK and will cease to use Sussex Royal as a brand, the BBC reported.
Mantle’s comments on the racism faced by the Duchess echo the views of several prominent Black commentators and campaigners who spoke to HuffPost UK after the couple announced they would be stepping back.
“I’m pleased that it’s the marriage that’s surviving and the connection with the monarchy that has to go.”
Mantel was speaking to Harper’s Bazaar to celebrate the publication of the final instalment of her bestselling Tudor trilogy, which started with 2009′s Wolf Hall.
She said she handled the pressure of writing the third instalment, titled The Mirror and the Light, by “keeping my eye on the content of the book, and asking: ‘Does that succeed with readers?’”
The book has already been named on the 16-strong long list of the Women’s Prize For Fiction. In 2012, Mantel won both the Man Booker and Costa prizes for the second book in the trilogy, Bring Up The Bodies.
“The whole issue of prizes, bestseller lists and so on is out of my hands. When you’re actually writing day by day, I don’t find any of that matters,” she told Harper’s.
It’s not the first time that Mantel has commented on royal women and the media. In a 2013 speech at the British Museum, she said the Duchess of Cambridge was forced to present herself as a personality-free “shop window mannequin” whose sole purpose was to deliver an heir to the throne.
“It may be that the whole phenomenon of monarchy is irrational, but that doesn’t mean that when we look at it we should behave like spectators at Bedlam,” she added. “Cheerful curiosity can easily become cruelty.”
In an interview with the BBC, Mantel suggested today’s royals are “perceived as public property in the same way that Tudor women were perceived”.
“I hesitate to call her a victim,” the novelist said of Markle. “But I think there has been an element of racism in the invective against her.
“I think it’s more deeply embedded in people’s consciousness that any of us are willing to admit.”
This interview is from the April 2020 issue of Harper’s Bazaar.