Now that I have read the Hilary Mantel essay over which there is such a furore I have just a couple of observations to make. Firstly, I can understand the red-top press getting on their high-horse over the piece. Mantel effectively lays their strategy bare in observing that Kate is “a shop-window mannequin, with no personality of her own”. Mantel is saying here, I think, not that Kate is an air-head, but that the public role of princess to which the private individual has been consigned exists only to be imbued with personality, worth and meaning as the press, and by extension the public, sees fit.
Secondly, Mantel’s linking of the princess to her historical counterparts – specifically Marie Antoinette, Diana and Anne Boleyn – exposes a continuity of institutional misogyny which pervades the monarchy in that they were all, first and foremost, only valued for their looks and fashionableness (Antoinette, Diana) and their essential role in perpetuating the royal bloodline through child-bearing (particularly Boleyn).
The article, as I read and understood it, is not so much a polemic against the institution of monarchy (Mantel leaves that question unresolved: “Is monarchy a suitable institution for a grown-up nation? I don’t know”), or indeed on any individual royal personage, but, broadly, an attack on the institutionalised misogynies and anachronisms which subsume those who are a part of the royal family, or who enter it through marriage.