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Coffee House

David Cameron should have read Hilary Mantel’s essay before criticising it

19 February 2013

1:36 PM

19 February 2013

1:36 PM

How stupid of David Cameron to join this absurd row over Hilary Mantel’s-speech-turned-LRB-essay on monarchy. I strongly suspect that the Prime Minister was told to do so by aides, who for their part had been reading various journalists on the subject, who for their part hadn’t actually read the essay at all. They just all mouthed off because they wanted a little outrage to fill the day, and LRB’s provocative cover has (cleverly, perhaps) given them an excuse.

Anyone with more than three brain cells who bothers to read the bloody thing will see that it is in fact an odd – albeit electrifyingly brilliant – ramble about our understanding of monarchy and how the public images of our Queens and Kings are constructed and changed. It sprawls across all sorts of topics, from Kate to Diana to Marie Antoinette to the Tudors to the recent discovery of Richard III. Mantel’s conclusion, in fact, is pro-Kate:

 I’m asking us to back off and not be brutes… The pen is in our hands. A happy ending is ours to write.

The idea that this is some sort of ‘attack’ is silly. I suppose one should expect hacks and twitterers and bloggers to see insult where there is none — that’s what we do. But if the PM is to wade into such a row, he should surely read the piece and think a little harder before doing so. He’s meant to be on an important trade mission in India, for goodness’ sake.

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