LONDON – Booker Prize-winning author Hilary Mantle, who turned Tudor power politics into page-turning fiction in the acclaimed “Wolf Hall” trilogy of historical novels, has died, her publisher said on Friday. She was 70 years old.
Publisher HarperCollins said Mantle died Thursday “suddenly yet peacefully” surrounded by close family and friends.
Mantle is credited with reviving historical fiction with “Wolf Hall” and two sequels about the 16th-century English powerbroker Thomas Cromwell, the right hand of King Henry VIII – and in Mantle’s Hands, a bloody , the charismatic anti-drama of the high-stakes political.
The publisher said that Mantle was “one of the greatest English novelists of this century.”
“His beloved works are considered modern classics. He will be greatly missed,” it said in a statement.
Writer JK Rowling tweeted: “We’ve lost a genius.” Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that “it is impossible to overestimate the importance of Hilary Mantle’s literary legacy.”
Mantle won the coveted Booker Prize for fiction twice, in 2009 for “Wolf Hall” and in 2012 for its sequel “Bring Up the Bodies”. Both were adapted for stage and television.
The final installment of the trilogy, “The Mirror and the Light”, was published in 2020.
Mantle’s longtime editor, Nicholas Pearson, said his death was “devastating”.
“Only last month I sat with him on a sunny afternoon in Devon, while he talked excitedly about the new novel he had started,” he said. “That we will not enjoy any of his words more is unbearable. What we have is a body of work that will be read for generations.”
Born in Derbyshire, central England, in 1952, Mantle attended a convent school, then attended the London School of Economics and Sheffield University. She worked as a social worker in a geriatric hospital, an experience she drew on for her first two novels, “Every Day is Mother’s Day”, published in 1985, and “Blank Space”, which was published the following year. came.
In the 1970s and 1980s she lived in Botswana and Saudi Arabia with her husband, Gerald McEwen, a geologist.
Mantle was a published novelist for nearly 25 years when his first book about Cromwell made him a literary superstar. Prior to “Wolf Hall”, she was a critically acclaimed but moderately selling author of novels on topics ranging from the French Revolution (“A Place of Greater Safety”) to a psychic medium (“Beyond Black”). She was
“For most of my career I wrote about odd and marginalized people,” Mantel said in 2017. “They were psychic. or religious. or institutional. or social worker. or French. My readers were a small and selective band, until I decided to march and raise the flag in the middle ground of English history.”
Mantle turns thoughtful and dull, turning Cromwell, a shadowy Tudor political fixer, into a compelling, complex literary hero.
A self-made man who rose from poverty to power, Cromwell was an architect of the Reformation who helped King Henry VIII realize his desire to divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn – and later, To get rid of Boleyn so that he can marry Jane Seymour, who would be the third of Henry’s six wives.
The Vatican’s refusal to annul Henry’s first marriage prompted the emperor to reject the authority of the Pope and to establish himself as the head of the Church of England.
The dramatic period transformed England from a Roman Catholic to a Protestant nation, emerging from a medieval empire into a modern state, and it inspired countless books, films, and television series from “A Man for All Seasons” to “The Tudors”. .
But Mantel managed to make the popular story exciting and suspenseful.
“I’m very fond of the idea that a historical novel should be written with a forward-looking look,” she told the Associated Press in 2009. “Remember that the people you’re following didn’t know the end of their story. So they were moving day by day, pushing through situations, doing their best, But were essentially walking in the dark.”
Mantle also took a close look at 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”, attracted the outrage of the British tabloid press.
Mantle said she was not talking about the Duchess herself, but was describing Kate’s view as produced by the press and public opinion. The author nevertheless received criticism from the then Prime Minister David Cameron, among others.
Right-wing commentators also took issue with a short story entitled “The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher”, which imagined an attack on the former Conservative leader. It was published in 2014, the same year Queen Elizabeth II made Mantle the female equivalent of a dame, a knight.
Mantle remained politically outspoken. An opponent of Brexit, she said in 2021 that she hoped to gain Irish citizenship and become “a European again”.
In addition to her novel, Mantle wrote a 2003 memoir, “Giving Up the Ghost,” about chronic years of ill health, including undiagnosed endometriosis that left her infertile.
She once said that years of illness shattered her dream of becoming a lawyer but made her a writer.
Mantle’s literary agent, Bill Hamilton, said the author “firmly” dealt with chronic health problems.
“We will miss her dearly, but she leaves an extraordinary legacy as a shining light for writers and readers alike,” he said.
Mantle is survived by her husband.