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Kate’s Plastic Smile Is Beaming Bright

Poor Kate, no sooner is she out of hospital for her extreme morning sickness, and home from her recovery trip to Mustique than she’s being ripped apart by Hilary Mantel in the London Review of Books. I suppose being such a public figure she should expect a degree of bullying in a public forum, it happens to all ‘celebrities’ (although that description seems odd for a Duchess). But having read the article, which is about far more than Kate’s body or womb but more about the state of the monarchy as a whole, it becomes clear that Mantel appears to be on Kate’s side. She seems to feel sorry for her more than anything, suggesting that she was created for the role because of her manners and maleabilty.

She makes the point that “They will find that this young woman’s life until now was nothing, her only point and purpose being to give birth.” Seems a bit harsh to me, surely there’s more to any woman’s life than giving birth? Even royalty. We live in 2013 not 1509, the need for a Royal baby isn’t quite as pressing as perhaps it was when the future of the country depended on it. It’s nice that they’re having a baby but does it really matter to us beyond it being happy news for the country?

Interestingly she concludes her piece with this:

Cheerful curiosity can easily become cruelty. It can easily become fatal. We don’t cut off the heads of royal ladies these days, but we do sacrifice them, and we did memorably drive one to destruction a scant generation ago. History makes fools of us, makes puppets of us, often enough. But it doesn’t have to repeat itself. In the current case, much lies within our control. I’m not asking for censorship. I’m not asking for pious humbug and smarmy reverence. I’m asking us to back off and not be brutes. Get your pink frilly frocks out, zhuzh up your platinum locks. We are all Barbara Cartland now. The pen is in our hands. A happy ending is ours to write.

This seems to me to a very clear message to leave Kate alone, allow her to get on with her pregnancy and the subsequent birth without the constant attention and interference that Diana was subjected to. It’s a shame, therefore, that this message, which underpins the whole article, is undermined by her opening paragraph in which she calls the Duchess a “shop window mannequin with no personality of her own”. Bit of an own goal.

On the other hand of course is the publicity. Many words have been written about Hilary Mantel in the last 24 hours, many comments have been made online, many bloggers, myself included, have written about her. Doesn’t matter how many Booker prizes you win you still need people to talk about you. So in that respect, perhaps, mission accomplished. And for those who didn’t know already, she is an incredible writer. This line certainly had me sobbing about my shortcomings as a writer, oh to be able to weave a sentence like this.

“with a perfect plastic smile and the spindles of her limbs hand-turned and gloss-varnished”

But as to the Duchess being plastic or fantastic? I don’t really know, or care much either way. I liked the pictures of her today looking healthy and finally looking pregnant. I remember those early months well. You’re so desperate for your bump to start showing, that when it does you wear your slightly looser but still figure hugging dresses to show it off. It’s good to see she’s a normal woman, blooming in her pregnancy. Good luck to her. Her ‘plastic smile’ is beaming bright despite all the fuss.

Duchess of Cambridge starting to show

Duchess of Cambridge starting to show

I just hope she will find the arrival of the Royal child everything she hopes it to be. Anyone who’s ever had a baby will know that the reality is often a world away from the fantasy.



  1. I agree with you. You’ve expressed your balanced view very well. The only Mantel I’ve read is the piece you discuss. It’s Barbara Kingsolver who makes me feel inadequate as a writer.

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