Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Elizabeth (Jane) Shore, (d. 1527)

Through sexual liaisons with EDWARD IV and several prominent courtiers, Elizabeth Shore, better known as Jane Shore, became entangled in the political intrigues that led to the usurpation of RICHARD III and the revival of civil war in the 1480s.

One of Edward IV’s many mistresses, Shore was, according to Sir Thomas More’s HISTORY OF KING RICHARD III, the king’s favorite— less for her beauty than for her engaging personality. “Proper she was and fair. . . . Yet delighted not men so much in her beauty, as in her pleasant behaviour. For a proper wit had she, and could both read well and write, merry of company, ready and quick of answer, neither mute nor full of babble, sometimes taunting without displeasure and not without disport” (Ross, Richard III, p. 137).

The daughter of a LONDON merchant and the wife of William Shore, a London goldsmith, Jane Shore may have become the king’s mistress in about 1470. Although Edward never allowed his lovers to become political figures, Shore, again according to More, exercised a benign influence over the king, tending to mollify him when he was angry or displeased with anyone.

Upon Edward’s death in April 1483, Shore may have become the lover of Thomas GREY, marquis of Dorset, and then of his rival, William HASTINGS, Lord Hastings. If this second relationship occurred, it may have involved her in politics, for on 13 June 1483, at a council meeting in the TOWER OF LONDON, Richard, duke of Gloucester, charged Shore and Queen Elizabeth WOODVILLE with trying, on Hastings’s urging, to destroy him through sorcery. The accusation led to Hastings’s summary execution and to Shore’s arrest. Forced soon after to do public penance as a harlot by walking through London dressed only in her kirtle (underskirt or gown) and carrying a lighted taper, Shore was afterward imprisoned in Ludgate. Although it is possible that Shore participated, perhaps as a go-between, in anti-Gloucester plots involving either Hastings or Dorset, her active cooperation with her late lover’s wife in sorcery is most unlikely. Both contemporary writers, like More and Polydore Vergil in his ANGLICA HISTORIA, and many modern historians believe that Gloucester’s charges were largely invented to destroy Hastings, who was loyal to EDWARDV and thus a serious obstacle to the duke’s plan to take the throne.

While in prison, Shore charmed the king’s solicitor, Thomas Lynom, who sought permission to marry her, Shore’s husband having presumably died. Richard III (the former duke of Gloucester) told his chancellor, John RUSSELL, bishop of Lincoln, to dissuade Lynom from such a foolish action, but he gave permission for the match should the solicitor be adamant. Whether or not the marriage occurred is unclear, for beside the fact that she was still living in London in poverty in Henry VIII’s reign, almost nothing is known of Shore’s life after 1484.

Further Reading: Ross, Charles, Edward IV (New Haven, CT:Yale University Press, 1998); Ross, Charles, Richard III (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981); Seward, Desmond, The Wars of the Roses (New York:Viking, 1995).

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