Jane Shore

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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,[1] and later a courtesan to other noblemen.


Early life and first marriage

Born in London in about 1445, Jane Shore was the daughter of a prosperous merchant named John Lambert and his wife Amy, who was the daughter of a well-off grocer named Robert Marshall. She was originally christened ‘Elizabeth’ but took up the name ‘Jane’ later on for unknown reasons.[1]

Spending time in her father’s shop at a young age brought her into contact with ladies of high rank. From these customers Jane was able to observe their behavior and gain an understanding of the manners of those higher ranking than herself.[2] She was thought to have been highly intelligent, and as a result received an education in accomplishments that were not usually associated with a person of her class.[3]

Jane’s beauty was well-known throughout London, earning her the title of “The Rose of London”[4] and many suitors, among them William Hastings, 1st Baron Hastings, friend and confidant of Edward IV. It is likely Hastings fell in love with Jane before her marriage. His affection for Jane is apparent later in life by his continual protection of her.[5] Jane’s beauty was not the only characteristic that made her appealing for men. She was also admired for her pleasant, warm-hearted personality.[6] Jane was also a noted wit.[7]

Such extreme attention made finding his daughter a suitable husband desirous for John Lambert.[8] Such an opportunity presented itself with William Shore (d. 1494), a mercer and common visitor to the Lambert home.[9] He was approximately 14 or 15 years older than Jane,[10] and though young, handsome, and well-to-do, never really won her affections. Their marriage was annulled in March 1476 after Jane petitioned the annulment of her marriage on the grounds that William was impotent, which prevented her from fulfilling her desire to have children. Pope Sixtus IV commissioned three bishops to decide the case, who granted the annulment.[11]

Mistress to a king

According to the Patent Rolls for December 4, 1476, it was during this same year that Jane began her liaison with Edward IV, after his return from France.[12] Edward did not discard her as he did many of his mistresses, and was completely devoted to Jane.[11] She had a large amount of influence over the king, but would not use it for her own personal gain.[13] This was exemplified by her practice of bringing those out of favor before the king to help them gain pardon.[14] Jane, according to the official records, was not showered with gifts unlike many of Edward’s previous mistresses.[13] Their relationship lasted until Edward's death in 1483.

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