Mantel makes headlines over Middleton comments

Double Man Booker Prize-winner Hilary Mantel has made newspaper headlines today (19th February) following a lecture given as part of the London Review of Books Winter Lectures series in which she criticised the media's portrayal of Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge.

The Daily Mail has run a full front page on the story, calling it an "astonishing and venomous attack" by Mantel on Middleton, arguing that Mantel compares Middleton unfavourably to both Princess Diana and Anne Boleyn.

Meanwhile, BBC Radio 4's "Today" programme and the Times were among others to pick up on the lecture, with the newspaper running a story on page three of its printed edition. A spokesman for Mantel is quoted as saying the speech was not a criticism but was sympathetic to the Duchess: "It is a piece about appearance. It's about being trapped. It is about the performance, how the institution of royalty has to project and how it comes across."

The Independent calls Mantel's lecture "a withering assessment of Kate Middleton", while the Guardian said the speech "has sparked a row". The Telegraph focused on Mantel portraying Middleton as "a shop window mannequin", and described it as "a scathing assessment of the way royal women are viewed".

In the lecture, given two weeks ago at the British Museum and run as a podcast and article on the LRB website, Mantel said the Duchess "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". She criticised the media's treatment of Middleton, and said: "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. They will find that this young woman's life until now was nothing, her only point and purpose being to give birth."

Mantel started off the lecture by saying at last year's Hay-on-Wye festival she was asked to name a famous person and choose a book to give to them; she chose Kate Middleton, and picked Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution by Caroline Weber (Aurum Press).