Hilary Mantel has become the first British writer to win the Man Booker Prize for Fiction twice after her novel Bring up the Bodies was named the best book of the year.
The 60-year-old writer, who won in 2009 for the first part of her historical trilogy, Wolf Hall, was named the winner at a ceremony in central London.
Accepting her prize she said: "Well I don't know, you wait 20 years for a Booker Prize and two come along at once." She added that she regarded the award as an "act of faith and a vote of confidence".
Sir Peter Stothard, who chaired the judging panel, said the book, which forms the second part of Mantel's trilogy on the life of Thomas Cromwell, "utterly surpassed" the first volume.
He said: "She uses her art, her power of prose, to create moral ambiguity and the real uncertainty of political life, political life then and the pale imitation of political life now".
He said the book, which concentrates on the end of Henry VIII's marriage to Anne Boleyn, had made "one of the best-known pieces of English history" come alive again "as though for the first time".
The judges, who included Downton Abbey star Dan Stevens, spent just over two hours making their decision in what Sir Peter described as a "rigorous process of literary criticism".
Mantel received a cheque for £50,000 at the event at Guildhall after seeing off competition from five other contenders including journalist and novelist Will Self's book Umbrella which had been among the favourites to win.
When she accepted her prize Mantel said she felt "lucky and privileged".
She said she now faced the "very difficult" job of writing the final book in the trilogy. She said: "I assure you I have no expectations I will be standing here again".