Jane Shore

[shawr, shohr]
Elizabeth "Jane" Shore (c. 1445 - c. 1527) was one of the many mistresses of King Edward IV of England, the first of the three whom he described respectively as the merriest, the wiliest, and the holiest harlots in his realm, and later a courtesan to other men of royalty.

Early life, first marriage

Described as a petite woman of round face and fair complexion, she was more captivating by her wit and conversation than by her beauty. 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, the daughter of a prosperous merchant named John Lambert and his wife Amy, daughter of a well-off grocer named Robert Marshall. She was christened 'Elizabeth' and took up the name 'Jane' later on, for unknown reasons.

Jane was married very young to a merchant named William Shore, who though young, handsome, and well-to-do, never really won her affections. Their marriage was annulled in 1476 on the grounds of his alleged impotence.

Mistress to a king, courtesan, prison, and second marriage

She probably became mistress of the king in late 1475 or 1476. Edward did not discard her as he did many of his mistresses, and their relationship lasted until Edward's death in 1483. Afterwards she was mistress of the queen's oldest son Thomas Grey, 1st Marquess of Dorset, and of William Hastings, 1st Baron Hastings, who would later be convicted of treason and executed in the Tower of London on 13 June 1483. The precise order of her relationships with these men is not known with certainty.

Jane was required to do an open penance at Paul's Cross for her promiscuous behaviour, by Richard III, though this may have been motivated by the suspicion she had harboured Dorset when he was a fugitive. She accordingly went in her kirtle through the streets one Sunday with a taper in her hand, attracting a lot of male attention all along the way.

While she was in prison for her misconduct, 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, pardoning Jane so she could be released from prison (into her father's custody), but asking the chancellor to dissuade Lynom from the match, if possible. Nevertheless, they were married and had one daughter. Although Lynom lost his position as King's Solicitor when Henry VII defeated Richard III, he was able to stay on as a mid-level bureaucrat in the new reign.


  • Jane Shore is frequently referred to in William Shakespeare's play, Richard III as "Mistress Shore." (She actually appears in Laurence Olivier's 1955 film version, played by Pamela Brown - she has only one line: "Good morrow, my Lord", which is, of course, interpolated into the film.) Edward IV, Thomas Grey, and Lord Hastings, are all characters in the play.
  • The Tragedy of Jane Shore is a 1714 play by Nicholas Rowe.
  • The Goldsmith's Wife is a 1950 novel by Jean Plaidy based on the story of Jane's life.
  • "Figures in Silk" by Vanora Bennett, pub. 2008, features Jane Shore and her sister Isabel.
  • A performance of a play, Jane Shore was given on Saturday July 30 1796 at a theatre in Sydney, Australia. The pamphlet for the play was printed by a convict in the settlement, George Hughes, who was the operator of Australia's first printing press. The pamphlet for the play is the earliest surviving document printed in Australia. It was presented as a gift to Australia by the Canadian Government and is held at the National Library of Australia in the National Treasures collection in Canberra.

There are three films entitled Jane Shore listed on the IMDB database -


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