Hilary Mantel, author of the ‘Wolf Hall’ Tudor saga, dies at 70
Hilary Mantel, author of the ‘Wolf Hall’ Tudor saga, dies at 70 LONDON — Hilary Shelf, the Booker Prize-winning writer who transformed Tudor power governmental issues into page-turning fiction in the acclaimed “Wolf Lobby” set of three of authentic books, has kicked the bucket, her distributer said Friday. She was 70.
Mantel died “suddenly yet peacefully” on Thursday while surrounded by close family and friends, publisher HarperCollins said.
Mantel is credited with reenergizing historical fiction with Wolf Hall and two sequels about the 16th-century English powerbroker Thomas Cromwell, right-hand man to King Henry VIII.
The publisher said Mantel was “one of the greatest English novelists of this century.”
“Her beloved works are considered modern classics. She will be greatly missed,” it said in a statement.
Mantel won the prestigious Booker Prize twice, for Wolf Hall in 2009 and its sequel Bring Up the Bodies in 2012. Both were adapted for the stage and television.
The trilogy’s final installment, The Mirror and the Light, was published in 2020.
Nicholas Pearson, Mantel’s longtime editor, said her death was “devastating.”
“Barely a month ago I sat with her on a radiant evening in Devon, while she discussed the new clever she had set out on,” he said. “That we will not have the delight of anything else of her words is insufferable. What we really do have is a collection of work that will be perused for ages.”
Before Wolf Hall, Mantel was the critically acclaimed but modestly selling author of novels on subjects ranging from the French Revolution (A Place of Greater Safety) to the life of a psychic medium (Beyond Black).
She also wrote a memoir, Giving Up the Ghost, that chronicled years of ill-health, including undiagnosed endometriosis that left her infertile.
She once said the long periods of sickness destroyed her fantasy about turning into a legal counselor however made her an essayist.
Shelf’s abstract specialist, Bill Hamilton, said the creator had managed “apathetically” with persistent medical issues.
“We will miss her immensely, yet as a focusing light for scholars and perusers she leaves a phenomenal inheritance,” he said.
Born in Derbyshire in central England in 1952, Mantel attended a convent school, then studied at the London School of Economics and Sheffield University. She worked as a social worker at a geriatric hospital, an experience she drew on for her first two novels, Every Day Is Mother’s Day, published in 1985, and Vacant Possession, which followed the next year.
In the 1970s and 1980s she lived in Botswana and Saudi Arabia with her husband, Gerald McEwen, a geologist.
Mantel had been a published novelist for almost 25 years when her first book about Cromwell turned her into a literary superstar. She turned the shadowy Tudor political fixer into a compelling, complex literary hero, by turns thoughtful and thuggish.
An independent man who rose from neediness to control, Cromwell was a designer of the Reconstruction who helped Ruler Henry VIII understand his craving to separate from Catherine of Aragon and wed Anne Boleyn — and later, to be freed of Boleyn so he could wed Jane Seymour, the third of what might be Henry’s six spouses.
The Vatican’s refusal to annul Henry’s first marriage led the monarch to reject the authority of the pope and install himself as head of the Church of England.
The dramatic period saw England transformed from a Roman Catholic to a Protestant nation, from medieval kingdom to emerging modern state, and it has inspired countless books, films and television series, from A Man for All Seasons to The Tudors.
But Mantel managed to make the well-known story exciting and suspenseful.
“I’m extremely excited about the possibility that a verifiable novel ought to be composed pointing forward,” she told The Related Press in 2009. “Recollect that individuals you are following didn’t have a clue about the finish of their own story. So they were going ahead step by step, moved and bumped by conditions, doing all that could be expected, yet strolling in obscurity, basically.”
Mantel also turned a sharp eye to Britain’s modern-day royalty. A 2013 lecture in which she described the former Kate Middleton, wife of Prince William, as a “shop-window mannequin, with no personality of her own” drew the ire of the British tabloid press.
Mantel said she wasn’t talking about the duchess herself but rather describing a view of Kate constructed by the press and public opinion. The author nonetheless received criticism from then-Prime Minister David Cameron, among others.
Traditional pundits likewise disagreed with a brief tale entitled The Death of Margaret Thatcher, which envisioned an assault on the Moderate chief. It was distributed in 2014, that very year Sovereign Elizabeth II made Shelf a lady, what could be compared to a knight.
Shelf remained politically blunt. A rival of Brexit, she said in 2021 that she would have liked to acquire Irish citizenship and turned into “an European once more.”
Shelf is made due by her significant other.