Hilary Mantel says she is ashamed of Britain and is moving to Ireland

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Hilary Mantel  (Getty Images)
Hilary Mantel (Getty Images)

Dame Hilary Mantel has said she is “ashamed” of Britain and plans to move to Ireland to “become a European again”.

The author made the announcement during an interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

She also criticised the monarchy, claimed Boris Johnson is unfit for office and said the UK is an “artificial and precarious construct”.

The Booker Prize winner said: “The popularity of monarchy as an institution is something that baffles me.

“I don’t want to think that people are naturally slavish, and actually enjoy inequality.

“I might breathe easier in a republic and may be able to arrange it. I hope to loop back into my family story and become an Irish citizen.”

She added: “Our projected move has been held back by Covid, but as much as I love where I live now in the West Country, by the sea, I feel the need to be packing my bags and to become a European again.”

The 69-year-old said she was “conscious” she belonged to an Irish family even though both her parents were English.

“My parents were both born in England but the generation that shaped me was the one before that, and I was conscious of belonging to an Irish family,’ she said. ‘We were northern, working-class and Catholic, and to me, Englishness was Protestant and southern, and owned by people with more money.’

Calling the UK “an artificial and precarious construct”, she added: “It’s not holy, and it’s not even old. As a child, I learned nothing about the history of other parts of these islands.”

Dame Hilary also had strong words for the Prime Minister and her frustration at the public not welcoming refugees trying to enter the country.

“I agree he [Mr Johnson] is a complex personality, but this much is simple – he should not be in public life. And I am sure he knows it,” she said.

“We see the ugly face of contemporary Britain in the people on the beaches abusing exhausted refugees even as they scramble to the shore. It makes one ashamed.

“And ashamed… to be living in the nation that elected this Government and allows itself to be led by it.”

Jeremy Black, emeritus professor of history at Exeter University, called Dame Hilary’s remarks “silly and very conceited”.

“For somebody who has written on history, she shows a very partisan account of Britain’s past and it is one that is fundamentally misleading.”

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