Hilary Mantel brings up Kate Middleton’s body

The British media must secretly hate Kate Middleton. Why else would they poisonously misquote the brilliant Hilary Mantel? Ok, some context. Mantel is an extraordinary woman, who has won the Man Booker prize twice (a unique achievement) for her novels about Tudor England – I am reading the first now (Wolf Hall) and I can’t wait to finish so I can start the second (Bring up the Bodies).

In a lecture republished in the London Review of Books, Mantel says that she chose Kate Middleton (in an interview) as a famous woman she would give a book. The book is Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution, although Mantel insisted “It’s not that I think we’re heading for a revolution.” She continued in a more controversial vein:

“I saw Kate becoming a jointed doll on which certain rags are hung. In those days she was a shop-window mannequin, with no personality of her own, entirely defined by what she wore. These days she is a mother-to-be, and draped in another set of threadbare attributions. Once she gets over being sick, the press will find that she is radiant.”

In short Manet’s brilliant essay is a decoding and deconstruction of royalty, a subject that deluxewords has recently dissected at length for Pernod Ricard.

One could look at a million photographs of royals in the gutter press and receive zero insights – whereas one carefully reading of Mantel’s story (she describes fashion plate Marie Antionette as having been “eaten by frocks”) will provide a million clues about what it means to be a monarch, or at least a future monarch’s wife.

The truth is that just as contemporary British journalists, most with Oxbridge pedigrees, affect a dull estuary accent to avoid charges of elitism, so Kate and William are busy dumbing down the Windsors so that they become a nice and unthreatening middle class couple with a wardrobe full of Zara and Kent & Curwen.


What I love about Mantel’s piece is not the bowdlerized versions of her lecture used by Sky News to boost their couch potato ratings, but rather these words she wrote about Princess Diana:


“Diana was more royal than the family she joined. That had nothing to do with family trees. Something in her personality, her receptivity, her passivity, fitted her to be the carrier of myth. She came near to claiming that she had a healing touch, the ancient attribute of royal persons. The healing touch can’t be felt through white gloves. Diana walked bare-handed among the multitude, and unarmed: unfortified by irony, uninformed by history. Her tragedy was located in the gap between her human capacities and the demands of the superhuman role she was required to fulfill.”

It’s that kind of writing that has made Mantel a revered novelist and why, when it comes to separating royal chaff from Royal wheat she knows of what she speaks.



I will given Mantel the last words, for in these she defines the qualities that prove Kate Middleton (commoner) and her Death of a Salesman– style husband can never be the real thing: “In looking at royalty we are always looking at what is archaic, what is mysterious by its nature, and my feeling is that it will only ever half-reveal itself.” Unfortunately William and Kate are fully revealed and they have no more mystery than a Vauxhall Astra.



英国媒体一定暗恨着凯特王妃(Kate Middleton)。不然,他们为什么会恶意地对伟大作家Hilary Mantel的言论断章取义?好了,让我告诉你我为什么这么说。

Mantel是一个成就非凡的女人,她凭借描写英国都铎王朝的两本小说获得了两次Man Booker奖——我正在读其中的一本(《狼厅》),而我已经迫不及待地想读另一本了(《Bring up the Bodies》)。事情是这样的,在《伦敦书评》(London Review of Books)杂志中Mantel曾表示,她会选择凯特王妃作为赠送《Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution》这一书的对象。此书由历史学家Caroline Weber所著,主要描述深宫中的路易十六王后Marie Antoinette在法国大革命前后大胆的时尚创新。Mantel还表示:“我没有想要推翻王权的意思。送她这本书的主要原因是,我觉得在穿衣打扮方面,凯特正在成为一个被人操控的布偶娃娃。在王子大婚的那段时间里,在万人瞩目的压力下变成了商店的橱窗模特,没有自己的个性,完全被身上的衣服定义。这些天来,她则被媒体定义成了一个准母亲,所以穿衣打扮都很乏味无聊。不难想像,等她晨吐结束了,报纸又会说她容光焕发,到那时她会套上相应的衣服,还是逃不出紧箍咒。”

可以说,Mantel的很多精彩评述都是对皇室和王权的精妙解读(这也正是deluxewords最近为保乐力加所做的研究主题)。人们尽可以在各种媒体上浏览亿万张皇室贵族的照片而读不到一点内涵,但只要细阅一篇Mantel的文章就能让人探知作为一个君主或是王后的个中滋味(譬如,她把Marie Antoinette描述为“被礼服吞没了”)。相形见绌的是,一群操着沉闷的泰晤士河口音、牛津剑桥毕业的英国记者们,为了避免人们对皇室精英主义的指控,忙着让凯特和威廉褪去温莎堡的贵族气息,变身成质朴的中产阶级夫妇,并让他们的衣柜里塞满ZARA及Kent&Curwen这些大众化品牌。而我喜欢Mantel的演讲,不是经Sky News精心删减过并迅速窜红的那几段,而是一段关于戴安娜王妃的精辟点评:“戴安娜比她嫁入的家庭更加有皇室的风范。风范与家谱没有关系。她的独特个性、待人接物还有处变不惊的风格,让她成为神话般的存在。她走近我们的时候散发着一种能泽被苍生的气息,而这种能力是古帝王的品质。戴安娜会走到人群中间,不戴手套(手套是王室女性的必备)、和蔼可亲:不因讽刺而设防,不因历史而被禁锢。她的悲剧是源于她作为一个正常人和被要求做到的超人之间的角色冲突。”就是这种文字,让Mantel成为一个值得尊敬的小说家。最后,看看她为什么说凯特王妃及其丈夫的真貌将永远不得而知:“在观察皇室之时,我们一直在寻找一种古老的气质,这气质是神秘的,永远都会犹抱琵琶半遮面。”