DESCRIPTION: Jane Shore, "that was beloved of a king," laments her fate. She had come to the attention of Edward IV, who loved her long but died young. Now she is at the mercy of his successor Richard III, who harries her relentlessly
AUTHOR: Thomas Deloney?
EARLIEST DATE: 1765 (Percy); reference in the Stationer's Register in 1603, but no copy recovered
KEYWORDS: love royalty death prison adultery
1461-1470 AND 1471-1483 - Reign of Edward IV
1483-1485 - Reign of Richard III
FOUND IN: Britain(England)
REFERENCES (3 citations):
Percy/Wheatley II, pp. 263-273, "Jane Shore" (1 text)
BBI, ZN1391, "If Rosamund that was so fair"
cf. BBI, ZN2929, "Why should we boast of Lais and his Knights"
NOTES: Jane Shore, the wife of a London merchant, seems to have been the last great love of King Edward IV's life (though Edward IV was truly prodigal with his energies). She is said to have been charming as well as beautiful, but this simply meant that she was feared as having too much influence over the king.
Seward-Roses makes Jane Shore one of his main "viewpoint characters." According to Seward, Jane was born around 1450 (though in another of his books, Seward-Richard, p. 203, he says she "must have been in her early forties in 1483"; this, it appears to me, places her birth impossibly early). She was born "Elizabeth Lambert" (this based on recent research linking Mistress Shore with Mistress Lambert; I don't know if it is universally accepted).
Williamson, p. 42, suggests that she was called "Jane" rather than "Elizabeth" or a diminutive either to avoid confusion with the Queen, Elizabeth Woodville, or as a sort of "bed name," as actresses take stage names to protect their privacy. If the latter, it clearly didn't work too well. Ashdown-Hill, p. 166, has a different explanation: since she was generally called "Mistress Shore," after her first husband's name, "by the sixteenth century her real first name seems to have been completely forgotten, and in 1609, when Beaumont and Fletcher produced their play, Knight of the Burning Pestle, they could find no record of it, so they invented Jane Shore to give the character a name on stage." The difficulty with the latter explanation is that it obviously fails to explain the 1603 Stationer's Register reference to Jane Shore.
Elizabeth Lambert's father John Lambert was a London alderman. This is about all we can derive from ordinary records. Most of the rest of what we know about Elizabeth "Jane" Lambert Shore comes from Thomas More's The History of Richard III. This is an extremely controversial source, and one containing many errors of fact, but since Shore was still alive when it was written, it may perhaps have some value here. I'm referring to the text of More printed in NortonAnth, which supplies More's description of Jane and no other part of the history (perhaps because the editors didn't want to have to deal with all the arguments about this history).
Jane's surname, it is generally accepted, came from her husband William Shore, a successful mercer who was probably at least ten years older than his wife (Seward-Roses, p. 88). They were divorced in 1476 (Seward-Roses, pp. 225-231; More, in the first of the three long paragraphs of the account in NorthonAnth, says merely that "her husband dwelled not with her," adding in his second paragraph that she was "very well married, saving somewhat too soon").
Then she took up with Edward IV. Edward was an incredibly lusty liege (I know of no complete count of his bastards, but there must have been a lot of them); at one point he boasted of three mistresses at once, "one the merriest, one the wiliest, and one the holiest harlot in his realm" (paragraph 2 of More in NortonAnth). Jane Shore, according to More, was the first of these; in her "the King therefore took special pleasure. For many he had, but her he loved" (More, paragraph 2; cf. Cheetham, p. 205, which punctuates the passage rather differently).
When Edward IV died, his friend Lord Hastings seems to have become involved with Mistress Shore, but Richard III soon had Hastings executed. From that time on, Shore had no protector. (It can't have helped that Hastings apparently used Shore as a go-between to Elizabeth Woodville, the Queen of Edward IV, who was Richard's strongest enemy; see Jenkins, pp. 162-163.) The Marquess of Dorset, Elizabeth Woodville's son by her first marriage and hence Edward IV's stepson, apparently wanted her (Seward-Roses, p. 269), but as an obvious enemy of Richard III, he had no influence.
Richard's persecution of Jane was severe and probably unfair ("he spoiled her of all that she ever had, above the value of two or three thousand marks, and sent her body to prison.... [H]e caused the Bishop of London to put her to open penance, going before the cross in procession upon a Sunday with a taper in her hand" -- so More, paragraph 1; the carrying of a taper was the standard punishment of a harlot). Rather puritanical himself, and (despite Shakespeare) seemingly devoted to Edward IV, Richard seems to have blamed Shore for much of Edward's dissipation, which resulted in Edward's death at about 40. Nonetheless, as Williamson, p. 72, points out, this was a light penalty if, as some have argued, he thought her guilty of treason by being a go-between between Hastings and the dowager Queen Elizabeth Woodville.
Jenkins, p. 166, reports that "on a Sunday, wearing nothing but her kirtle, she was led barefoot through the streets, a taper in her hand. More... says that first she was very pale but the gaze of the crowds made her blush, and 'she went so fair and lovely, her great shame won her much praise among those that were more amorous of her body than concerned for her soul." (The cynical part of me can't help but note that More's presumed source, Bishop Morton of Ely, was a celibate Catholics. Just who was doing the lusting here?)
After the fall of Richard III, she took one Thomas Lynom (listed by Seward-Roses, p. 16, as Richard's solicitor) as her second husband. According to Williamson, p. 73, Richard actually wrote a letter approving this match, although the message expressed surprise and tried to talk Lynom out of it.
Jane Shore apparently did become a byword for beauty, although probably more for reasons of chronology than because she was in fact exceptionally good-looking; see the notes to "Robin Hood and Maid Marian" [Child 150].
It is not likely that this or any other Jane Shore ballad went into tradition, but there seem to have been enough of them that they deserve an entry here. The main reference is to the "If Rosamund that was so fair" text; the cross-references are to other Jane Shore pieces. - RBW
Last updated in version 3.8
- Ashdown-Hill: John Ashdown-Hill, Eleanor, the Secret Queen: The Woman who put Richard III on the Throne, 2009 (I use the 2010 History Press paperback)
- Cheetham: Anthony Cheetham, The Life and Times of Richard III (with introduction by Antonia Fraser), George Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1972 (I used the 1995 Shooting Star Press edition)
- Jenkins: Elizabeth Jenkins, The Princes in the Tower, Coward McCann, & Geoghan, 1978
- NortonAnth: M. H. Abrams et al, The Norton Anthology of English Literature, sixth edition, 1993
- Seward-Richard: Desmond Seward, Richard III: England's Black Legend, 1983; I use the 1984 Franklin Watts edition
- Seward-Roses: Desmond Seward, The Wars of the Roses, Penguin, 1995
- Williamson: Audrey Williamson, The Mystery of the Princes, 1978, 1981 (I use the 1987 Alan Sutton paperback edition)
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