Jane Shore lives among the list of the most famous mistresses – along with the likes of Roseamund Clifford, Alice Perrers. Like Alice, Jane lives and loved at the very centre of political power for a while – but unlike Alice, left an attractive reputation.
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The life of Jane Shore in brief (d. 1526/7)
Jane married William Shore a London mercer, but the marriage was annulled in 1476, at her request, because of his impotence.
Edward IV claimed to have three concubines: the merriest, the wiliest, and the holiest harlot in his realm. Jane qualified as the merriest; according to Thomas More:
'a proper wit had she, & could both read & write well, merry in company, ready & quick of answer, neither mute nor full of babble, sometime taunting without displeasure & not without disport’.
'For many he had, but her he loved, whose favour to say truly … she never abused to any man's hurt, but to many a man's comfort. … And finally in many weighty events, she stood many men in great stead, either for none, or very small rewards, & those rather gay then rich: either for that she was content with the deed itself well done, or for that she delighted to be asked to help, & to show what she was able to do with the king'
Edward's death on 9 April 1483 left her in need of a new protector; and different chronicles link her with two great rivals – the Woodville, Thomas Grey, marquess of Dorset; and Edward's closest friend, and chamberlain William, Lord Hastings.
However, she fell foul of the pious Richard III and was forced through the streets of London to do penance:
'In which she went in countenance & pace demure so womanly, & albeit she were out of al array save her kyrtle only: yet went she so fair & lovely … that her great shame wan her much praise’
Jane found her protector in the king's solicitor, Thomas Lynom who married her. Lynom was dead by 29 July 1518; and Thomas More paints a picture of her penury; but if the Thomas Lynom who was active in Wales after 1518 was her son, it could well be poetic licence – something with which More was well acquainted. It's not sure when Jane died – but her memory is still alive and kicking in various historical novels!