Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Kate's got her head screwed on

Was Hilary Mantel totally out of order in bringing up the body ("painfully thin") and demeanour ("shop window mannequin") of Kate, Duchess of Cambridge during a lecture the Booker prize winner gave earlier this month?

David Cameron certainly seems to think so. Ms Mantel's comments were he says: "Totally misguided and totally wrong ." Also, he adds, "hurtful".

Certainly it was a cutting critique. Kate, says Ms Mantel, "appeared to have been designed by a committee and built by craftsmen, with a perfect plastic smile and the spindles of her limbs hand-turned and gloss-varnished." The Duchess, she feels lacks the personality of both Diana, Princess of Wales and 'power player' Anne Boleyn, a central character in the author's two Booker prizewinning novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies.

Kate, by contrast, she sees as "a shop-window mannequin, with no personality of her own, entirely defined by what she wore". To the Mantel mind most Royal women in history have been, "at the most basic ... breeding stock, collections of organs".

It is, of course, all horribly unsisterly. But does she not have a point?

Ms Mantel's lecture focused primarily on the Tudor queen she portrays as clever and manipulative.

The mistress, who persuaded Henry VIII to divorce, break from Rome, found a new church and take her as queen (before he had her beheaded) would also seem to be fairly far removed from Kate never putting a foot wrong in her bland LK Bennett's.

But isn't Kate also playing the game – albeit to 21st century rules?

Isn't "painfully thin" with a "plastic smile" projecting "no personality of her own" precisely what's currently demanded of the girl?

Imagine if Kate were to pile on a few stones, snarl at cameras, hit out at welfare cuts ... how long do you think she'd survive on the chopping block of today's public opinion?

Ms Mantel may have made some entirely valid observations.

But Kate may be even more shrewd than her predecessor – in knowing how to keep her head.

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