London Hilary Mantel, the Booker Prize-winning writer who transformed Tudor power politics into the page-turning novels in the famous “Wolf Hall” trilogy of historical novels, has died. She was 70 years old.
Publisher HarperCollins said Friday that Mantel passed away “suddenly but peacefully” surrounded by family and close friends.
Mantel is credited with revitalizing historical fiction with “Wolf Hall” and two sequels about powerful 16th-century English broker Thomas Cromwell, King Henry VIII’s right-hand man.
The publisher said that Mantel was “one of the greatest English novelists of the century”.
Her beloved works are considered modern classics. “We will miss her very much,” she said in a statement.
Mantel has won the Booker Prize twice, for “Wolf Hall” in 2009 and its sequel “Bring Up the Bodies” in 2012. Both have been adapted for theater and television.
The last installment, “Mirror and Light” was published in 2020.
Nicholas Pearson, Mantel’s longtime editor, said her death was “devastating.”
“Just last month I sat with her on a sunny afternoon in Devon, while she was talking excitedly about the new novel she had set out to write,” he said. “It is unbearable for us not to enjoy any of her words. What we have is a body of work that will be read for generations.”
Prior to “Wolf Hall”, Mantel was the critically acclaimed author of novels but modestly selling themes ranging from the French Revolution (“A Great Place of Safety”) to the life of a psychic (“Beyond the Black”).
She also wrote a memoir, Giving Up the Ghost, recounting years of ill health, including undiagnosed endometriosis that left her sterile.
She once said that years of illness shattered her dream of becoming a lawyer but made her a writer.
Mantell’s book on Cromwell made her a literary star. She has transformed the enigmatic Tudor political fixer into a compelling and complex literary hero, alternately full of brooding and bullying.
A self-made man who rose from poverty to power, Cromwell was the 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 he could marry Jane Seymour, the third of Henry’s six wives.
The Vatican’s refusal to annul Henry’s first marriage led the king to reject the authority of the Pope and to establish himself at the head of the Church of England.
The dramatic period saw England’s transformation from a Roman Catholic country to a Protestant one, and from a medieval kingdom to an emerging modern country, and it has inspired countless books, films and TV series, from “Man for All Seasons” to “The Tudor Family”.
But Mantel manages to make the well-known story exciting and suspenseful.
“I am very keen on the idea that a historical novel should be written pointing forward,” she told The Associated Press in 2009. And remember, the people you’re following didn’t know the end of their story. So they were moving forward day in and day out, pushed and pushed by circumstances, doing their best, but walking in the dark, basically.”
Queen Elizabeth II made the Mantel a lady, equivalent to a knight, in 2014.
Her husband Mantel survived. Gerald McEwen.
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