Dame Hilary Mantel, two-time Booker Prize winner and author of the epic Wolf Hall trilogy, has died aged 70.
In a statement, its publisher 4th Estate Books said: “We are heartbroken at the death of our beloved author, Dame Hilary Mantel, and our thoughts are with her friends and family, in particular her husband, Gerald.
“It’s a devastating loss and we can only be grateful that she left us such a magnificent job.”
The Derbyshire-born British writer won the Booker Prize for Wolf Hall and its sequel, Bring Up the Bodies.
The trilogy’s conclusion, Mirror and the Light, was published in 2020. It was an instant number one fiction bestseller and shortlisted for the Booker Prize the same year, winning the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, which she first won for Wolf Hall.
The trilogy, which traces the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell at the court of King Henry VIII, made her an international star.
It has been translated into 41 languages, with sales of over five million worldwide.
The first two books were adapted for the screen and aired on BBC Two in January 2015, with the six-part series to critical acclaim, attracting an average audience of over four million viewers.
Directed by Peter Kosminsky, the series starred Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell, Damian Lewis as Henry VIII and Claire Foy as Anne Boleyn.
At the 2016 BAFTA TV, he won Best Drama Series, while Rylance won Best Actor for his performance. At the Golden Globes the same year, it was named Best Miniseries.
In tribute, Harry Potter author JK Rowling shared a tweet from 4th Estate Books announcing Mantel’s death, writing “We have lost a genius.”
Publishers HarperCollins have described Dame Hilary as “one of the greatest English novelists of this century”.
“Her beloved works are considered modern classics. She will be sorely missed.”
His writing career spanned decades, from publishing his first novel Every Day Is Mother’s Day in 1985, to becoming a film critic for Spectator magazine in 1987, before regularly winning literary awards for his books.
Nicholas Pearson, former publishing director of 4th Estate and longtime editor of Dame Hilary, has revealed she is working on a new book.
“Just last month, I sat with her on a sunny afternoon in Devon as she talked enthusiastically about the new novel she had embarked on.
“That we no longer have the pleasure of hearing her words is unbearable. What we have is a work that will be read for generations. We must be grateful. I will miss her and my thoughts are with her husband Gerald.”
When she won her first Booker Prize, Dame Hilary said she would spend the money on “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll”. The second time, she joked about rehab.
She was no stranger to controversy and was outspoken on a number of topics including the monarchy – and Brexit, saying in 2021 she hoped to gain Irish citizenship, leave the country and become “a European again “.
In 2013, she opened up about how Kate Middleton – now Princess of Wales – was being forced to present herself publicly as a personalityless “showcase model”.
The following year, in an interview, she recalled fantasizing about the murder of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, which she later wrote as a short story.
She was also outspoken in her wish for the UK to become a republic, describing “the howling phenomenon of the monarchy” as “irrational”.
The writer also criticized the Catholic Church in 2012, saying it was no longer “an institution for respectable people”.
The author suffered from a chronic illness throughout her life, having a severe form of endometriosis which took many years to be diagnosed and prevented her from having children.
Bill Hamilton, Dame Hilary’s agent at the AM Heath literary agency, said it had been the “greatest privilege” to work with her throughout her career, adding that she would also be remembered for “its ability to electrify a live audience”.
He said: “Her wit, stylistic audacity, creative ambition and phenomenal historical insight distinguish her as one of the greatest novelists of our time.”
“Hilary’s emails were peppered with good words and jokes as she watched the world with relish and pounced on lazy or absurd and nailed cruelty and prejudice,” he said.
“There was always a slight otherworldly aura around her, as she saw and felt things we ordinary mortals missed, but when she saw the need for a confrontation, she walked away without fear in battle.
“And all of this against the backdrop of chronic health issues, which she dealt with so stoically. We will miss her dearly, but as a shining light for writers and readers, she leaves an extraordinary legacy. Our hearts go out to her beloved husband Gerald, family and friends.”
Actor Ben Miles, who played Cromwell in the stage and film adaptations of Wolf Hall and helped Mantel adapt the third book in his trilogy for the West End stage, told Sky News: “She was a woman extraordinary. A good friend and a close colleague. I feel so honored to have known her and to have contributed in any way to the work of one of the greatest writers of our time. Her kindness, her humor and I will greatly miss the undoubted genius of his words.
Mantel leaves behind her husband of over 40 years, Gerald.
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