Hilary Mantel, the two-time Booker Prize-winning British novelist best known for the books “Wolf Hall” and “Bring Up the Bodies,” has died. She was 70.
Her death, which is believed to have been sudden, was confirmed by her publishers 4th Estate Books and HarperCollins U.K. on Friday afternoon local time.
In an identical statement posted on social media, 4th Estate Books and HarperCollins wrote: “We are heartbroken at the death of our beloved author, Dame Hilary Mantel, and our thoughts are with her friends and family, especially her husband, Gerald. This is a devastating loss and we can only be grateful she left us with such a magnificent body of work.”
Mantel is one of the U.K.’s most celebrated authors. Though she wrote more than a dozen books, she primarily found international acclaim in the last 15 years with her seminal Tudor drama “Wolf Hall” — which was turned into an award-winning BBC drama, directed by Peter Kosminsky and starring Mark Rylance and Damian Lewis — and its sequel “Bring Up the Bodies,” both of which won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction.
According to HarperCollins U.K., Mantel is the first British author and the first woman to have won two Booker prizes. Mantel is also the only writer to have won with two consecutive novels.
A cause of death has not yet been shared, though Mantel has been active in recent months, and even participated in a ‘Questionnaire’ interview with London’s Financial Times, published on Sept. 10. Asked what trait she finds the “most irritating” in others, the author quipped: “Toryism.”
In response to a question about her fitness, however, Mantel — who has reportedly long suffered from endometriosis — replied: “When I was small, an unkind doctor called me ‘Little Miss Neverwell.’ Now I’m Great Dame Neverwell. My health is unpredictable and a daily source of tension. But I am always looking for improvement.”
Mantel was born in northern Derbyshire in 1952, and educated at a convent school in Cheshire. She attended the London School of Economics and Sheffield University, where she studied law.
After graduating from university, Mantel worked for a period as a social worker in a geriatric hospital — experiences that informed her novels “Every Day is Mother’s Day” and “Vacant Possession.”
In 1977, Mantel and her husband Gerald McEwen relocated to Botswana and, in 1982, to Saudi Arabia. The writer’s third novel, “Eight Months on Ghazzah Street,” is set in Jeddah.
Mantel returned to the U.K. in 1986, and worked for a time as a film critic for the Spectator. Her novel, “Fludd,” was awarded a number of U.K. prizes, while her fifth novel, “A Place of Greater Safety,” won the Sunday Express Book of the Year Award.
Mantel became a global sensation, however, with “Wolf Hall,” which won the 2009 Man Booker Prize. The book, which is based on extensive, years-long research into the Tudor period by Mantel, is a fictional biography of Thomas Cromwell and his rise to power in the court of Henry VIII. In the 2015 BBC drama, Rylance played Cromwell while Lewis portrayed Henry VIII. The BAFTA-winning and Emmy-nominated show, which aired in the U.S. on PBS’s “Masterpiece,” was also the breakout role for “The Crown” star Claire Foy, who played Anne Boleyn.
“Wolf Hall” sequel “Bring Up the Bodies” won the 2012 Man Booker Prize, while the writer’s most recent effort and the conclusion to the trilogy, “The Mirror and the Light,” was longlisted for the Man Booker.
Mantel was made a Commander of the British Empire in 2006, and in 2014, she was made a dame. She is survived by her husband for the better part of 50 years, McEwen. The pair married in 1972 and divorced for a number of years, only to remarry.