Who is Hilary Mantel, Celebrated Wolf Hall author passes away at age 70

Hilary Mantel

Who is Hilary Mantel?

Hilary Mantel, the Booker Prize-winning author of the acclaimed “Wolf Hall” trilogy of historical novels, has died. She was 70.

Hilary Mantel was a British writer whose work includes historical fiction, personal memoirs, and short stories.

She won two Booker Prizes, the first for the 2009 novel Wolf Hall, a fictional account of Thomas Cromwell’s rise to power in the court of Henry VIII, and the second for the 2012 sequel Bring Up the Bodies.

The third installment of the Cromwell trilogy, The Mirror & the Light, was released on 5 March 2020 in the UK and the following July was longlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize.

Hilary Mantel

Hilary Mary Thompson was born in Glossop, Derbyshire, the eldest of three children, and raised as a Catholic in the mill village of Hadfield where she attended St Charles Roman Catholic Primary School.

Mantel died “suddenly yet peacefully” surrounded by close family and friends, publisher HarperCollins said Friday.

Mantel is credited with re-energizing historical fiction with “Wolf Hall” and two sequels about the 16th-century English powerbroker Thomas Cromwell, right-hand man to King Henry VIII.

The publisher said Mantel was “one of the greatest English novelists of this century.”

“Her works are regarded as modern classics.” “She will be greatly missed,” the organization said in a statement.

Mantel won the Booker Prize twice, once for “Wolf Hall” in 2009 and again in 2012 for “Bring Up the Bodies.” Both have been adapted for stage and television.

“The Mirror and the Light,” the final installment, was released in 2020.

Mantel’s longtime editor, Nicholas Pearson, called her death “devastating.”

“Only last month I sat with her on a sunny afternoon in Devon, while she talked excitedly about the new novel she had embarked on,” he said. “That we won’t have the pleasure of any more of her words is unbearable. What we do have is a body of work that will be read for generations.”

Before “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 medium (“Beyond Black”).

She also wrote a memoir, “Giving Up the Ghost,” that chronicled years of ill-health, including undiagnosed endometriosis that left her infertile.

She once said the years of illness wrecked her dream of becoming a lawyer but made her a writer.

Mantel’s book about Cromwell catapulted her to literary stardom. She transformed the shadowy Tudor political fixer into a compelling, complex literary hero who alternated between thoughtfulness and thuggery.

Cromwell, a self-made man who rose from poverty to power, was a Reformation architect who assisted King Henry VIII in realizing 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.

Hilary Mantel

The refusal of the Vatican 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.

The dramatic period saw England transform from a Roman Catholic to a Protestant nation, from a medieval kingdom to an emerging modern state, and it has inspired countless books, films, and television series, from “A Man for All Seasons” to “The Tudors.”

But Mantel managed to make the well-known story exciting and suspenseful.

“I’m very keen on the idea that a historical novel should be written pointing forward,” she told The Associated Press in 2009. “Remember that the people you are following didn’t know the end of their own story. So they were going forward day by day, pushed and jostled by circumstances, doing the best they could, but walking in the dark, essentially.”

In 2014, Queen Elizabeth II made Mantel a dame, the female equivalent of a knight.

Mantel survives her husband. Gerald McEwen