Watch: Dame Hilary Mantel dies aged 70
Wolf Hall writer Dame Hilary Mantel has died “suddenly yet peacefully” surrounded by close family and friends aged 70, HarperCollins has announced.
Paying tribute, publishers HarperCollins described Dame Hilary as “one of the greatest English novelists of this century”.
Their statement went on: “Her beloved works are considered modern classics. She will be greatly missed.”
Dame Hilary is best known for her epic The Wolf Hall Trilogy of which Diarmaid MacCulloch, Oxford theology professor and biographer of Thomas Cromwell said: “Hilary has reset the historical patterns through the way in which she’s reimagined the man.”
She won the Man Booker Prize twice, for Wolf Hall and its sequel, Bring Up the Bodies, which also won the 2012 Costa Book of the Year.
They follow the fortunes of Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's right hand man from 1534-1540, who led the way during the English Reformation but was eventually executed for treason.
The conclusion to her ground-breaking The Wolf Hall Trilogy, The Mirror and the Light, was published in 2020 to huge critical acclaim, an instant number one fiction best-seller and longlisted for The Booker Prize 2020 and winner of the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, which she first won for Wolf Hall.
Mantel was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2006 and Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 2014 for services to literature.
The first two books were adapted by Peter Kominsky for the BBC and broadcast on BBC Two in 2015 as Wolf Hall, a six-part series, earning huge critical acclaim. It won Best Drama Series and Best Actor for Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell at the 2016 TV BAFTAs, and Best Miniseries at the Golden Globes the same year.
A second series, covering the events of The Mirror and the Light, was announced in 2019 but has yet to be filmed. Speaking in March 2022, Rylance said Kominsky had showed him the six scripts, and they hoped to film the series in 2023.
The Wolf Hall books have also been adapted for stage by Mike Poulton, with the RSC staging adaptations in 2013 and 2014. The plays of Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies, starring Ben Miles as Thomas Cromwell, transferred to Broadway in 2015 and were nominated for eight Tony Awards including Best Play.
Bill Hamilton, Dame Hilary’s agent at literary agency A.M. Heath, said it had been the “greatest privilege” to work with her throughout her career.
He said: “Her wit, stylistic daring, creative ambition and phenomenal historical insight mark her out as one of the greatest novelists of our time.
“She will be remembered for her enormous generosity to other budding writers, her capacity to electrify a live audience, and the huge array of her journalism and criticism, producing some of the finest commentary on issues and books.
“Emails from Hilary were sprinkled with bon mots and jokes as she observed the world with relish and pounced on the lazy or absurd and nailed cruelty and prejudice.
Read more: Wolf Hall draws 3.9m in BBC Two debut
“There was always a slight aura of otherworldliness about her, as she saw and felt things us ordinary mortals missed, but when she perceived the need for confrontation she would fearlessly go into battle.
“And all of that against the backdrop of chronic health problems, which she dealt with so stoically. We will miss her immeasurably, but as a shining light for writers and readers she leaves an extraordinary legacy. Our thoughts go out to her beloved husband Gerald, family and friends.”
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted “it is impossible to overstate the significance of the literary legacy Hilary Mantel leaves behind”.
She added: “Her brilliant Wolf Hall trilogy was the crowning achievement in an outstanding body of work. Rest in peace."
Mantel was known to have suffered from endometriosis in her early life, with resultant surgeries leaving her infertile from the age of 27, and was a patron and support of the Endometriosis SHE Trust.
Dame Hilary Mantel is survived by her husband Gerald McEwan.