Revered historian Professor Mary Beard once said the Duchess of Cambridge had become a ‘maternal, doll-like, precious vessel’ but today accepted a damehood from her husband, Prince William.
She seemed to put her 2014 words behind her as she offered to become the personal Latin tutor to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s three children as she collected her award from Buckingham Palace.
The broadcaster, well-known for her documentaries and appearances on the BBC, said she would do ‘anything’ to ensure princes George and Louis, and Princess Charlotte, grew up with an understanding of the ancient Roman language.
Professor Mary Beard is made a Dame Commander of the British Empire by the Duke of Cambridge
Speaking moments after she received the honour for services to the study of classical civilisation from William at Buckingham Palace, Dame Mary told the Press Association: ‘Well, I hope he was listening. Of course he was very polite and said: ‘I’ll have to get you to teach them’, and I said: ‘Anything!’
She joked: ‘I didn’t quite say: ‘You get the little squits to learn Latin…’ but I did say you get them to learn because it is very important.
‘It’s important to learn where we’ve been and where we’ve come from, and for people to have access to some of the most extraordinary and influential literature in world culture.
Dame Mary Beard, Professor of Classics, University of Cambridge displays her award For services to the Study of Classical Civilisation
‘That kind of direct connection with something so influential written so long ago is, I think, terribly important.
‘Of course, because it was a very happy and joyous occasion in which we were being friends, he left me with the strong impression that his children would be learning Latin.
‘But he was bound to. It would be rude for him – and I’m sure he wouldn’t – to say: ‘Well we looked at that and we really think it’s a waste of time’.
The 63-year-old said today: ‘Had somebody said to me at 23 that I would accept a damehood of the British empire, I would have said: ‘Sorry, sunshine, that’s not what my politics is all about’
‘Gratified as I was to feel his general warmth over this, I think I’d be foolish to think I single-handedly convinced him to teach them Latin.’
Dame Mary was at the palace five years on from receiving her OBE for services to classical scholarship. It was in 2014 she made the remarks on the Duchess’s image.
‘[Kate] has been constructed as this admirable, maternal, doll-like, precious vessel,’ Professor Beard told The Times.
‘[Kate] has been constructed as this admirable, maternal, doll-like, precious vessel,’ Professor Beard told The Times in 2014
‘Who has done it? In part, she has constructed herself. In part, she has taken on a job, which has its up sides and its down sides.’
Her comments followed Hilary Mantel’s controversial likening of Kate to a ‘shop-window mannequin’.
The Booker-Prize-winning novelist sparked outrage when she described the future Queen as ‘gloss-varnished’ with a perfect plastic smile during a lecture at the British Museum last year.
Professor Mary Beard is made a Dame Commander of the British Empire by the Duke of Cambridge during an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace
Who is Mary Beard?
Dame Winifred Mary Beard, DBE, FSA, FBA is an English scholar and classicist from Much Wenlock in Shropshire.
She is Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge, a fellow of Newnham College, and Royal Academy of Arts Professor of Ancient Literature.
Her works include Pompeii, winner of the 2008 Wolfson History Prize, and SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, a non-fiction best seller from 2015.
Beard was also made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2013 New Year Honours.
She married Robin Cormack, a classicist and art historian, in 1985. Their daughter Zoe is a historian of South Sudan and their son Raphael is a scholar of Egyptian literature.
In 2000, Beard revealed in an essay reviewing a book on rape that she too had been raped, in 1978. Her blog, A Don’s Life, gets about 40,000 hits a day, according to The Independent (2013).
The Cambridge University professor has also previously said she herself had ‘a ‘touch of republican’ about her, but felt much more comfortable accepting the honour now she was ‘older and wiser’.
The 63-year-old said today: ‘Had somebody said to me at 23 that I would accept a damehood of the British empire, I would have said: ‘Sorry, sunshine, that’s not what my politics is all about’.
‘But I’ve grown older and wiser, and I think that it does seem an odd title – a mixture of pantomime, because dames cart around the stage, don’t they? – and we don’t have an empire any longer.
‘That makes it quaint, charming, and doesn’t have those bits of politics attached to it.’
The academic married art historian Robin Cormack in 1985. They have a daughter, Zoe and son, Raphael.
She was joined at the palace by engineer Roma Agrawal, who worked on the Shard landmark in central London, and milliner Rose Cory, who was appointed to the Queen Mother. Both received MBEs.