Hilary Mantel, the Booker Prize-winning author who transformed Tudor power politics into compelling novels in the acclaimed Wolf Hall trilogy of historical novels, has died. she was 70
Mantel died “suddenly but peacefully” surrounded by close family and friends, editor HarperCollins said Friday.
Mantel is credited with reviving historical novels with “Wolf Hall” and two sequels about 16th-century English ruler Thomas Cromwell, right-hand man of King Henry VIII.
The publisher said that Mantel was “one of the greatest English novelists of this century”.
“Your beloved works are considered modern classics. She will be greatly missed,” the statement said.
Mantel won the Booker Prize twice, in 2009 for Wolf Hall and in 2012 for the sequel Bring Up the Bodies. Both have been adapted for stage and television.
The last part “The Mirror and the Light” was published in 2020.
Nicholas Pearson, longtime editor of Mantel, said her death was “devastating”.
“Just last month I sat with her on a sunny afternoon in Devon as she excitedly talked about the new novel she had started,” he said. “It is unbearable that we will no longer be able to enjoy their words. What we have is a work that will be read for generations to come.”
Prior to 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 (Beyond Black).
She also wrote a memoir called Giving Up the Ghost that chronicled years of illness, including an undiagnosed endometriosis that left her infertile.
She once said years of illness shattered her dream of becoming a lawyer but turned her into a writer.
Mantel’s book on Cromwell made her a literary superstar. She transformed the shadowy Tudor politician into a compelling, complex literary hero who is alternately thoughtful and rowdy.
A self-made man rising 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 get rid of Boleyn to do so he was able to marry Jane Seymour, the third of Henry’s six wives.
The Vatican’s refusal to annul Henry’s first marriage prompted the monarch to reject the pope’s authority and install himself as head of the Church of England.
During this dramatic period, England transformed itself from a Roman Catholic to a Protestant nation, from a medieval kingdom to a burgeoning modern state, and has inspired countless books, films and television series, from Seasons of the Year to Die Tudor’s”.
But Mantel managed to make the well-known story fun and exciting.
“I’m very excited about the idea that a historical novel should be written forward-pointing,” she told The Associated Press in 2009. “Remember that the people you follow didn’t know the end of their own story. So they went ahead day by day, pushed and jostled by circumstances, doing their best but essentially walking in the dark.”
Queen Elizabeth II made Mantel a lady, the female equivalent of a knight, in 2014.
Mantel is survived by her husband. Gerald McEwen.