1902 Encyclopedia > Jane Shore

Jane Shore
Mistress of the English king Edward IV
(c. 1445 - c. 1527)

Jane Shore, mistress of King Edward IV, would have been unknown by name even to the studious antiquary but for the events which took place after the death of her royal paramour. She was the first of three concubines whom he described respectively as the merriest, the wiliest, and the holiest harlots in his realm. A handsome woman of moderate stature, round face and fair complexion, she was more captivating by her wit and conversation than by her beauty; yet Sir Thomas More, writing when she was still alive, but old, lean, and withered, declared that even then an attentive observer might have discerned in her shrivelled countenance some traces of its lost charms.

She was born in London, and married before she was quite out of girlhood to a citizen named William Shore, who though young, handsome, and well-to-do, never really won her affections; and thus she yielded the more readily to the solicitations of King Edward. Her husband on this abandoned her, and after Edward's death she became the mistress of Lord Hastings, whom Richard III, then duke of Gloucester, as protector during the minority of Edward V, suddenly ordered to be beheaded on 13th June 1483.

According to the account given by More, Richard had accused Hastings at the council table of conspiring against him along with the queen-dowager and Shore's wife, who by sorcery and witchcraft had given him a withered arm. So having got rid of Hastings he caused Jane Shore to be committed to prison and spoiled her house, containing property to the value of 2000 or 3000 marks, equvalent to a sum of 20,000 or 30,000 pounds at the present day (1886). But having sought in the first place to charge her with conspiracy - a charge which apparently he could not substantiate - he thought afterwards to get the bishop of London to put her to open penance at Paul's Cross for her vicious life. She accordingly went in her kirtle through the streets one Sunday with a taper in her hand, her beauty really enhanced by the blush which her humiliation called up in her usually pale cheeks; and many who detested her mode of life could not but pity her as the victim of a hypocritical tyranny.

The penance certainly did not induce her to reform, for she immediately afterwards became the mistress of the marquis of Dorset; and what is still more extraordinary, next year, having been taken again into custody, and her husband, it may be presumed, being by that time dead, she so captivated the king's solicitor,Thomas Lynom, that he actually entered into a contract of marriage with her. This we know from a letter of King Richard to his chancellor on the occasion, desiring him to dissuade Lynom from the match, as far as he could, by argument, but, if he found him determined, then, provided it was not against the laws of the church, he might convey the king's consent and meanwhile deliver Jane out of prison to her father's custody. Conduct so unlike his previous severity shows that Richard knew how to be gracious as well as despotic. Whether the marriage actually took place is not known. Jane certainly lived to the year 1513, when More wrote his history of Richard III, but how much later we cannot tell.

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