FIRST let me say that I am not much of a Royalist.
But when Prince Charles visited The Examiner several years ago - to share in the celebrations for the paper’s 125th anniversary – I found him to be pleasantly polite and willing to work a room full of people he’d never met before and would never meet again as if he positively enjoyed it.
He behaved like a consummate professional Royal and I have to say that I was impressed.
Kate Middleton, now the Duchess of Cambridge, and incubator of an heir to the throne, has taken well to her role as a professional Royal.
She is also politely interested in those she meets and, even when suffering from pregnancy sickness, has managed to keep on smiling. This is no mean feat as I know well.
And yet this week the award-winning historical novelist Hilary Mantel had a go at what she called the "machine-made" princess "designed by committee".
Mantel has made her name writing about that most troubled of monarchs, Henry VIII, and his problems securing an heir. In her recent lecture at the British Museum she decided to compare his wives and other famous queens with modern-day royal wives, such as Diana and Kate, and suggested that nothing much had changed – the sole purpose of royal wives being the production of an heir and looking bland on portraits.
She says her first impressions of Kate were a woman "painfully thin as anyone could wish, without quirks, without oddities, without the risk of the emergence of character."
Unsurprisingly, the content of her speech was cherry-picked and heavily rounded upon by the tabloid press, who accused Mantel of being vicious.
As I understand it Mantel, in speaking from an historical perspective, was saying that the public has always wanted its queens and princesses to be sweet, pretty, demure, elegant and conscientious. And when they don’t live up to these high standards they are scrutinised, critiqued and pilloried for their failings. So far Kate is living up to the cardboard cut-out image of perfect princess in a gilded cage. She is keeping her nose clean and her opinions to herself.