Jane Caro – Just a Queen – Podcast

Author, lecturer, mentor, social commentator, columnist, speaker and broadcaster, Jano Caro talks to the Co-op about her latest book about Queen Elizabeth I “Just a Queen”.

The common thread running through her career is a delight in words and a talent for using them to connect with other people. This is her second book on QE1 and is a gripping and page-turning young adult book about one of history’s greatest women. Just a girl to those around her, Elizabeth is now the Queen of England. She has outsmarted her enemies and risen above a lifetime of hurt and betrayal – a mother executed by her father, a beloved brother who died too young and an enemy sister whose death made her queen.

http://www.coop.com.au/books/just-a-queen/caro-jane/9780702253621


Rob:
You’re listening to the Co-op Book Podcast. I’d like to welcome Jane Caro to the co-op chat live here in the ambiance of the [Corkscrew 00:00:21] River at the St. Albans Writers’ Festival. Hello Jane.


Jane:
Hello!


Rob:
Now, we know Jane as a media commentator, a lecturer in her past lives, social commentator, and most recently and at the moment most importantly, author of two books on Queen Elizabeth the first. Jane, what’s the fascination with QE 1?


Jane:
QE 1, well I think the fascination with her is she’s one of the few women in history who wielded power, is universally seen as having wielded it well. Wielded it on her own. And lived a long life and died in her own bed. She didn’t come to a sticky end, she wasn’t a martyr, and she was a remarkable human being and probably a genius. What’s not to be fascinated by?


Rob:
Absolutely. Now, us me mortals are fascinated by paper, we do a bit of research. You took it to the next level. You wrote a book in the first person as QE [crosstalk 00:01:25].


Jane:
I know! I know, how could I be so arrogant?


Rob:
Well, what was it like to get into her skin every day writing those books?


Jane:
Oh, I loved it. I loved every minute of it because I mean, it couldn’t be in a way more removed from what I do every day which is deal with the current political situation or the current social situation and get on my high horse about various things that I feel strongly about. I was able to escape into the world of the 1550’s and completely immerse myself in a life that couldn’t be more removed from mine if you tried. That was just wonderful. It was exciting from an imagination in time travel point of view, but also it was such a change, such a difference. Also, I didn’t have to plot anything. I didn’t have to wonder how it was going to turn out. The history’s all there and really accessible so all I needed to do was [nut 00:02:15] out why she did was she did, what sort of a person she was, and what it must have felt to be her. Because she was a real human being with all the strengths and weaknesses that real human beings have. It was so much fun doing that.


Rob:
It sounds like a hoot. Her life, though, it didn’t start out as a hoot did it?


Jane:
No, no, no. She had a tough life. Women in that period, though, very rarely had a lovely life. Child birth was unbelievable dangerous. They died like flies and in the most agonizing way. They had no right to their own income earnings, didn’t work, they were completely at the mercy of their husbands. Then if their husbands died, of their sons. It wasn’t fun being female. I think of the women of her period, she probably had one of the better lives because she was in control of her life. She could make decisions for herself. That was rare and [gee 00:03:07], she made some good ones.


Rob:
This spirit of hers that made her, in a way, take on what was commonly expected, this independence, where did that come from do you think?

Jane:
I think it came out of her childhood which was really uniquely awful. She was rejected by her father before she was three, after he executed her mother. She was really totally neglected and not expected to amount to anything. I mean, I think the most that was expected for was that she be married off to some bloke and be, if she was lucky, the mother of princes and kings. But she was of no importance. Yet, she got so me opportunity. She was very, very well educated. Her tutors thought she was remarkable. They recognized her ability. I think her sister loved her even though they had a terrible and [bivalent 00:03:59] relationship. I think her father sort of loved her. She was a reminder to him of her mother all the time and his awful crime in killing that women, but nevertheless I think she have something. And her ladies loved her. In fact, that’s one of the things about her life. She was an incredibly loyal person and people were incredibly loyal to her. No one left her, she never fired anybody.


Rob:
Now, you’ve written currently two books. One focused on her childhood, and then I don’t want to give away the ending, but-


Jane:
Well, most people know.


Rob:
Yes. Oh, true true. The demise of Mary Queen of Scots and the second books are the takes on her adult life. Where do we go from here?


Jane:
Well, we go to Elizabeth’s death cushion because at 69, she sat on a cushion and sucked her finger for about quite a few days and they kept trying to get her to go to bed. They realized that she was on the way out. She refused to go to bed. She just sat on that cushion silently sucking her finger. Eventually at the very, very end she went to bed and she died. So my concede for the third book will be that she’s thinking back over her whole life and trying to make sense of it. Trying to decide whether she did what she set out to do and like most of us, I think, not being sure and having many regrets.


Rob:
Now, if I think of people that would’ve potentially written books on Elizabeth, I wouldn’t have picked you as a Republican.


Jane:
Well, I am a Republican, but I’m a Republican for Australian. I think now it would be absolute desecration to get rid of the monarchy in England. I mean, they have these extraordinary line to their ancient past. Through one, okay it has many permutations in it, but basically one family. Well, I’m interested in families and relationships and all that kind of thing and there they all are. They’re past is documented right, right back because they were royal. Well, we don’t have access to that kind of knowledge about anybody else. I think it’s an extraordinary asset to have this royal family. I don’t think they should have anything to do with Australia, that’s just silly.


Rob:
I won’t give away my [lennings 00:06:18], but I agree.

Jane:
[crosstalk 00:06:20]


Rob:
It’s interesting that in the monarchy you think of sort of the iconic monarchs. The most powerful and successful seem to be three women; two Elizabeth’s and a Vic.


Jane:
That’s exactly right and they’re all along this reigning. Queen Elizabeth the first is the third longest reigning monarch. Victoria is the second longest reigning monarch. And about two weeks ago, Elizabeth the second surpassed Victoria and became the longest reigning monarch ever in England. It’s quite interesting, George the third actually lived, was on the throne longer than Elizabeth the first. But because he went crazy at various intervals, and there was a regency in between, it’s not considered one unbroken rule.


Rob:
Now, as you know many of our listeners are university students or recently graduated students, what was life for you like a university.


Jane:
From what I can see, it was much more fun than it is at university now. I did a straight English Literature degree and I didn’t work very hard and I had a lot of fun in extra curricular activities. I was in the ancient history reviews and thoroughly enjoyed doing all of that. My great friends … The things I remember about university had nothing to do with what went on in lectures and tutorials. It’s everything else. Al l the friends I made and the fun I had.


Rob:
Think it’s tougher now for students now with expectations?


Jane:
I think it’s much tougher. I think we’re a much nastier community. We sort of feel that there’s something illegitimate about anybody having any fun, but my view is, you only learn when you’re having fun.


Rob:
Do you think there’s anything we can learn or our leaders, more importantly, can learn from QE 1?


Jane:
Oh yeah, absolutely. I think she was very, very reluctant to go to war. She often used to delay making decisions and I found, this as I get older. When there’s a difficult decision to make, sometimes it’s worthwhile just doing nothing and waiting to see what happens. Because sometimes events move in a certain way and you think, well, I’m glad I didn’t jump in there because I would have made the wrong decision. Or I didn’t have to make that decision, get the blame for it because it happened anyway or someone else did it. She was cautious. She took her time. Infuriated the men around her. They wanted her to make a decision! She would go, “Mm, not making that decision yet. I’m waiting to see.” I think there’s something to be said for that. We expect instantaneous decisions now and I don’t think that’s helpful. She wanted to be kind and merciful whenever she could and she didn’t want to make windows into men’s souls. In other words, she didn’t care what you did privately, as long as you obeyed the law outwardly. Well, I think that some of our more religious politicians could learn a very, very useful lesson from that. Same sex marriage for starters, reproductive rights is another one. Get your nose out. Nothing to do with you.


Rob:
Absolutely. Absolutely.


Jane:
Absolutely, yes.


Rob:
Jane, who do you read? Who are you reading at the moment? Who do you like to read?


Jane:
At the moment, I’m just about to start reading a [Michael Robotham 00:09:36] because I bought it at a … I heard him at the Brisbane Writers’ Festival, loved it. So I thought, okay, I’ll read one of his books. I haven’t read any of Michael’s before which is very slack of me. I’ve also thoroughly enjoy reading historical novels. CJ Sampson is one of my favorites. I loved Elizabeth Gilbert’s, The Signature of All Things. I’m a big of a cherry picker. I go around and pick all sorts of things. I read a fascinating book I picked up in a news agent somewhere which is called Why They Did It. It’s two psychologists analyzing Australia’s strangest killers and trying to work out why they did what they did. I love that stuff. I love that stuff! I love the why. That’s part of the thing with the Elizabeth. Why was she the way she was? Why did she do what she did? What made her tick? That’s what I’m really interested in.


Rob:
Well, I’m sure we’re all awaiting the final part of the trilogy.


Jane:
Just Flesh and Blood, it’ll be called.


Rob:
Thank you for your time today.


Jane:
Thank you.
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