Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Shore, Jane

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SHORE, JANE (d. 1527?), mistress of Edward IV, is stated (Bell, Huntingdon Peerage, p. 24; Life and Character of Jane Shore, 1714, p. 4) to have been the only child of Thomas Wainstead, ‘a mercer of a good figure and reputation in Cheapside, London.’ She was born in London and ‘honestly brought up.’ Her father chose for her husband William Shore (Gairdner, Richard III, p. 90), a goldsmith who resided in Lombard Street, and was, to quote the cautious words of Jane's anonymous biographer, ‘a man of a very fair character both for religion and morals.’ Possibly he was related to Richard Shore, who was an alderman in 1505. It is said that Lord Hastings, who may have met her owing to her father's business lying much at court, tried to induce her to become his mistress; and that he even schemed to carry her off by night, but was defeated in his design by the repentance of a maid who was his accomplice (Bell, Huntingdon Peerage, p. 25).

Jane appears to have become mistress to Edward IV about 1470; over him she exercised the greatest influence. ‘For,’ says More, the best authority, ‘a proper wit had she, and could both rede well and write, mery in company, redy and quick of aunswer, neither mute nor ful of bable, sometime taunting without displesure and not without disport.’ Edward delighted in her merry disposition (Hall, Chronicle, p. 363). According to More, the king's ‘favour, to sai the trouth (for sinne it wer to belie the devil), she neuer abused to any man's hurt, but to many a man's comfort and relief; where the king toke displeasure she would mitigate and appease his mind; where men were out of fauer, she wold bring them in his grace.’ There is an ancient tradition, that it was Jane's intervention that saved Eton and King's Colleges from destruction (cf. Maxwell-Lyte, Hist. of Eton College, p. 80).

On the death of Edward IV Jane's troubles began. Mr. Gairdner's theory (Richard III, p. 87) that she was employed as a go-between by Hastings and the queen is very reasonable. We know that soon after Edward's death she was the mistress of Thomas Grey, first marquis of Dorset [q. v.], son of Queen Elizabeth Woodville by her first husband (Sir Clements Markham in Engl. Hist. Rev. vi. 262, and Richard's proclamation of 23 Oct. 1483; Gairdner, p. 172). Richard III accused ‘Shore's wife,’ among others, of sorcery on 13 June 1483, when Hastings was condemned to death, and she was imprisoned in the Tower (More, Richard III, p. 47; Horace Walpole's ‘Historic Doubts’ in Works, ii. 137, 173–4; Gairdner, p. 87). Her goods, which were of great value, were seized. The husband, Shore, is supposed to have gone abroad at this time, or to have died (Gairdner, p. 89). To complete her ruin Richard brought her as a harlot before the bishop of London's court, and she was forced to do penance, ‘going before the crosse in procession upon a Sonday with a taper in her hand.’ More states that she made a great impression by her beauty. A picture of her in this plight was said by Noble to be in the possession of the Hastings family. It was engraved for Bell's ‘Huntingdon Peerage,’ and is reproduced ‘with a more correct background’ in Brayley's ‘Graphic Illustrator,’ p. 54. At length incarcerated in Ludgate, Jane there fascinated no less a personage than Richard's own solicitor, Thomas Lynom, much to his master's annoyance. The king wrote to the lord chancellor, John Russell (d. 1494) [q. v.], bishop of Lincoln (probably in 1484), that he had heard that Lynom ‘hath made contract of matrimony with her, as it is said, and intendeth, to our great marvel, to proceed to the effect of the same.’ Richard none the less agreed to the match if the bridegroom could not be dissuaded (Gairdner, Richard III, p. 90). Presumably he was dissuaded, and all we know of Jane afterwards is that she fell into poverty, and died either in 1526 or 1527. More evidently knew her in her later days. A tradition states that she strewed flowers at Henry VII's funeral.

There are two portraits of Jane Shore at Eton College. One represents a naked figure near a bath; the other is a bust, and has been engraved by Faber; it was apparently a copy of this that Noble saw near Coventry. At King's College, Cambridge, in the dining-room of the provost's lodge, there is a curious picture of her naked bust. This, an oil painting on a panel, was in the old lodge in 1660, and as ‘Jane Shoar's picture’ is mentioned in an inventory taken on 24 Jan. of that year (Mr. J. W. Clark in Com. Cambr. Antiq. Soc. iv. 306 and 310). Sir George Scharf [q. v.] thought that it really represented Diana of Poitiers. It was etched by the Rev. Michael Tyson, fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. In Harding's ‘Illustrations of Shakespeare’ there are two engravings by Bartolozzi, one of which is said to be from the original at Dr. Peckard's of Magdalene College, which was once in the possession of Dean Colet. Noble also says, quoting Aubrey's notes, that Lady Southcot, sister of Sir John Suckling, had at her house in Bishopsgate Street ‘a rare picture, viz., of that pretty creature, Mrs. Jane Shore, an original.’ The notes to Drayton's poetic memorial of her suggest that there was yet another portrait. It would be rash to assume that any of these pictures are contemporary. Of Jane Shore's beauty More wrote: ‘Proper she was and faire; nothing in her body that you wold have changed, but if you would have wished her higher, thus say thei that knew her in her youth.’ There is no foundation for the story that Jane Shore gave her name to Shoreditch. That appellation existed long before her time.

[Wheatley's edition of Percy's Reliques, ii. 264, where the information is summed up; Roxburghe Ballads, vol. i.; Collection of Old Ballads, i. 145, 153; Corser's Anglo-Poet. ii. 300, iii. 360; Granger's Biogr. Hist. i. 86; Notes and Queries, 7th ser. vii. 217; Walpole's Works, ii. 137; Bell's Huntingdon Peerage, pp. 26–30; Hall's Chronicle, p. 363; Smith's Cat. of Brit. Mezzotints, i. 295; Dep.-Keeper of Public Records, 9th Rep. App. p. 31; Bromley's Cat. of Engraved Portraits, p. 21; Mark Noble in Brayley's Graphic Illustrator, p. 49 n.; Rymer's Fœdera, xii. 204; Ramsay's Lancaster and York, ii. 488, 506; More's Richard III, ed. Lumby, and more fully in Works, ed. 1557; Polydore Vergil's Angl. Hist. ed. 1546, p. 538; Johnson's Lives of the Poets, p. 217; Clarke's Vestigia Anglicana, pp. 360, &c. The Legend of Shore's Wife, by Thomas Churchyard [q. v.], was first printed in the 1563 edition of Baldwin's Mirroure for Magistrates, and reprinted with additions in Churchyard's Challenge, 1593; in 1593 also appeared Bewtie Dishonoured, by Anthony Chute. Drayton's poem in his English Heroical Epistles was published in 1597, and on 28 Aug. 1599 was licensed the ‘History of the Life and Death of Master Shore and Jane Shore his Wife, as it was lately acted by the Rt. Hon. the Erle of Derby his Servants’ (Arber, Stationers' Reg. iii. 147). The ballad in Percy's Reliques has been attributed to Thomas Deloney [q. v.] It was entered to William White, 11 June 1603, but Mr. Chappell thinks no copy of it can be dated earlier than the protectorate. It is printed in the Collection of Old Ballads of 1723, where there is also a burlesque song about Edward IV and Jane Shore. In the Roxburghe Ballads it is furnished with a second part, supposed to be by another author. On 2 Feb. 1714 Rowe's tragedy of Jane Shore was produced, Jane's part being taken by Mrs. Oldfield. Notes and suggestions for this article have been kindly given by Mr. J. W. Clark.]

W. A. J. A.