Life and transactions of Mrs. Jane Shore, concubine to K. Edward IV
Life and Transactions
Mrs. JANE SHORE,
Concubine to K. EDWARD IV.
containing an account of
Her Parentage, Wit, and Beauty.
Her marriage with Mr. Shore. The
King’s viſits to her, her going to
Court, and leaving her Huſband.
Her great diſtreſs and miſery after
the King’s death, &c.
Printed and Sold by C. Randall.
Life and Transactions
Mrs. JANE SHORE.
MRS. JANE SHORE was daughter to Mr. Thomas Wainſtead a citizen of good repute, who lived in Cheapſide, by trade a mercer. She being the only child of her parents, was brought up with all the care and tenderneſs imaginable; not wanting any education that was proper for her; and her natural temper, which was very airy, being joined to her education, and that degree of pride, which, as it is natural, ſome make neceſſary for the female ſex, helped to ſet her off to the beſt advantage. ———Fine feathers always make fine birds, and if the birds are fine without them, doubtleſs they make them doubly ſo.
This lovely woman, was the delight of her father, who clothed her, richly, adorning her with jewels; and his trade lying among the court-ladies, he often carried her with him to ſhew her the paſtimes which were made frequently there, to divert the queen, &c. which gave her an early longing after a greater gentility than ſhe had ever yet attained to, or her city breeding was fit to produce.
When ſhe grew to the age of fifteen her competent ſtock of beauty and good carriage, cauſed many to fall in love with her, and ſome great Lords fixed their eyes upon her, to get her for a miſtreſs, which her father perceiving, ſent her to his ſiſter at Northampton, where ſhe remained about a year, till he ſuppoſed the inquiry after her was over, and that ſhe might return without any hazard of being any further tempted to lewdneſs. Yet ſhe was no ſooner returned, than a plot was laid one night to have her carried away by Lord Haſtings, who, after the death of King Edward, took her for his concubine, as will appear in the cloſe of this hiſtory. But the maid he had bribed with gold to get her abroad, repenting of ſuch treachery, to her maſter gave timely notice, and to prevented it.
Her father perceiving, that, unleſs he took ſome ſpeedy courſe, her great ſtock of beauty would be her ruin, reſolved to marry her, ſo that having ſurrendered her Virginity, and being in the arms of a huſband, thoſe that ſought to crop her Virgin Roſe would not regard her, but give over their purſuit.
And among thoſe that courted, and earneſtly fought her, in way of marriage, was one Matthew Shore, a rich goldſmith in Lombard-ſtreet, whom her father pitched upon as a fit huſband, and acquainted his fair daughter with his intention to marry her to him. but ſhe appeared very averſe to it, alledging ſometimes diſproportion of years, he being above thirty; at other times his being diſfigured with the ſmall pox, and many other exceptions ſhe made. However, her father’s poſitive commands and the rich preſents her lover made her, won her conſent or ſeemingly ſhe yielded to the match, and ſo married they were in great ⟨pomp;⟩ many of the court, as well as the city being invited to her wedding, which was kept with great feaſting, many days.
The wedding being over, and the bridegroom having enjoyed his charming bride, grew exceedingly fond of her, even to dotage, which ſickened and pulled her love toward him, and he perceiving it, ſtrove to wind himſelf more into her affections; and to this end he clothed her very richly, and adorned her with jewels, denying her nothing ſhe deſired, or that he thought would tend to her ſatisfaction or delight.
It was not long before Lord Haſtings heard the unwelcome tidings, that big faireſt Jane was married; which, however, did not make him give over his purpoſe of enjoying her fair body ſo that often he reſorted to ſee her treating her at home, and her huſband abroad; often inviting them both to court and took his opportunities to pour out many amorous diſcourſes endeavouring, by all means, to make her defile the marriage-bed. And one time intending to try his utmoſt efforts, he threw her on a bed when they were alone; but ſhe got from him, and ran to her huſband, telling him plainly how rude Lord Haſtings had been, which angering Shore he modeſtly rebuked him, and forbade him his houſe, which made him go away in a great heat, but reſolving to be revenged.
This Lord, being Chamberlain to K. Edward the IV. having frequently his ear; and finding he was much inclined to fine women, though he was married to Lady Elizabeth Grey, took an opportunity to tell him of Jane’s beauty, extolling her wit above her features, which made the King hearken to his new adventure and he reſolved to go to Shore’s ſhop in diſguiſe to ſee her.
The King whoſe thoughts ſtill ran on his intended miſtreſss delayed not long to pay her a viſit; and in order to it attired himſelf like a merchant and withdrew privately from court, being only attended by his page: And coming unto Shore’s ſhop, then the richeſt in all Lombard-ſtreet, he found the good man employed in his buſineſs; and waiting till he was a little at leiſure, he deſired to ſee ſome plate, which being ſhewn him, he under a pretence of carrying it beyond ſea, ſoon agreed for a conſiderable quantity: But yet, no wife appeared, which made him delay the time with diſcourſe, of what was then tranſacting in England and places abroad, where he ſaid he had travelled.
This delighted Shore mightily, ſo that he ordered his man to fetch up a bottle of wine, and they drank merrily, the good man beginning with a health to the King, which the King pledged him in. So when ſome other healths had paſſed, the King aſked, if there was not a miſtreſs to ſo fair a houſe? otherwiſe, he could help him to a wife, rich, young and beautiful.
For this offer, Shore thanked him, but told him, he was already married to ſuch a one as he deſcribed, whom he loved entirely. This diſcourſe made the King more deſirous to ſee her ere he departed, and aſked if he could not have a sight of her. Shore, little thinking what was intended for his ruin, and proud of his wife’s beauty, ſoon yielded to his requeſt, and ordered her to be called down, who came attired in a ſky-coloured morning gown, flowered with gold, embroidered with pearls and ſpangles, her head attired with curious lace, under which her hair flowed wantonly, and her bluſhes made her appear ſtill more beautiful, The King no ſooner ſaw her, but he ſtepped forth and ſaluted her coral lips, impreſſing on them many balmy kiſſes. Then ſhe, by her huſband’s deſire, ſat down, and the King drank to her, ſhe pledged him, and paſſed it to her huſband. Then much diſcourſe enſued, in which ſhe appeared ſo witty, that the King reſolved to have her at any rate, and ſo preſented her with ſome curious things. He paid for his plate, which the good man would have ſent home but he refuſed it, ordering his page to carry it; and, with many kiſſes he took leave of the charming fair one for that time.
The King had no ſooner departed, but Jane aſked her husband, Who that gentleman was, that had been ſo liberal to her? he told her, he ſaid he was a merchant, but he knew him not. Ah! ſaid ſhe, I rather take him for ſome Lord in diſguiſe; therefore, dear huſband, if he should come again, tell him that I am ſick, or any thing you can feign to diſappoint him Mr. Shore was greatly pleaſed at her conduct and more diſcourſe had paſſed, but people coming into the ſhop about buſineſs, ſhe retired.
The King ſoon arrived at court, where he had been miſſed by his nobles, ſoon changed his apparel, and came amongſt them with a chearful countenance, and tho’ others were ignorant, Haſtings well perceived where he had been and the ſatisfaction he had received, and no ſooner were they in private, but the King ſaid, Well Haſtings, thou haſt very good judgement in fine women: I have ſeen Shore’s wife, and ſhe excels the praiſes you gave of her; I like her well, and muſt enjoy her, but how must I bring it about? to court her in her huſband’s preſence, as a private perſon, I ſhall be ſerved as you was; and to do it as a King, will look too low for me.— I will not force her from his arms, for that would cauſe a murmuring among my ſubjects, who would fear the like by their wives and daughters but I muſt have her, and with her own conſent.
Haſtings ſmiling, immediately ſaid Take no care for this ſhall be eaſy to your Majeſty: There is one Mrs. Blague, your lace woman, has a houſe pretty near Shore’s, and is very intimate with his wife. This woman is very fond of money, to ſuch a degree, that would make her do anything. Her will I engage to do this. matter, and truſt me, ſhe will bring it to paſs to your ſatisfaction. The king liked this device, and it was agreed, that he ſhould ſee her at this Mrs. Blague’s, and have freedom to court her, but the ſhould not know that he was the King, till he thought ⟨proper⟩ to have it diſcovered.
Lord Haſtings was not idle in ⟨promoting⟩ his maſter’s happineſs, but with gifts and large promiſes, ſoon made the lace woman pliable, ſo that many meetings were made at her houſe, the King coming in diſguiſe as her friend; and tho’ Mrs. Blague often left them alone, and the King courted her with all his rhetorick, yet ſhe appeared averſe to his love, and often blamed him ſharply for perſuading her to defile her huſband’s bed, and then ſhe would chide Mrs. Blague for ſuffering ſuch a rude man to come to her houſe telling her the design he had on her chaſtity; ſhe ſeemed very ſurprized at it, but entreated her to be at eaſe, for ſhe would not ſuffer him to come there again any more.
This pacified her, but the plot was ſtill deeper laid for her ruin, and at Chriſtmas time, ſhe got leave of Mr. Shore for his wife to accompany her to the court, to ſee the ball there to which he conſented with ſome unwillingneſs: And ſoon after ſhe was introduced, a man of very comely port, entered with a maſk on; and Mrs. Shore heard the ladies whiſper That’s the King, who looking round through his maſk, fixed his eyes upon her, immediately ſtepping to her ſeat, took her out to dance along with him. At this ſhe bluſhed, but not to be unmannerly ſhe complied, and the dance being ended, he took her to a ſingle light, and pulling off his maſk to ſalute her, ſhe perceived it was the ſame man whom ſhe had ſeen at her own ſhop, and at Mrs. Blague’s houſe, and putting a letter into her hand, he retired. She then coming to Mrs. Blague, deſired to go home, to this the conſented, and then read the letter; which was to this purpoſe:
“My Lovely Jane,
“Your beauty has enthralled my heart. ’Tis a King ſues, you will be kind to him, and by a line tell him ſo to his comfort”
When ſhe read this letter, ſhe left Mrs. Blague abruptly, judging ſhe had a hand in the matter.
All this night the fair Jane was reſtleſs; Her huſband enquired the cauſe, but could not learn it. As ſoon as ſhe got up ſhe went to Mrs. Blague, to conſult what ſhe muſt do in this ſtrait, well knowing the king’s humour.
Mrs. Blague, ſeeing her thus penſive, ſaid, Come my dear, you muſt not be coy, nor deny the king’s requeſt: You will glitter ſo near a throne, and enjoy a gallant bed-fellow: I find he is reſolved to have you for a miſtreſs, and therefore, it is beſt for you willingly to ſubmit to him.
At this diſcourſe ſhe trembled, yet conſidering from the many attempts her beauty had cauſed, that it was not made to be enjoyed by one, in a fatal hour the conſented, and inſtead of writing an anſwer to the King’s letter, it was agreed that very night ſhe ſhould take her apparel, and put herſelf into the hands of the king. This being concluded, Mrs. Blague ſent the King notice, who ſent a chariot for them, and in the mean time, her clothes were conveyed away to Mrs. Blague’s. However, ſhe ſupp’d with her huſband, when on a ſudden ſomebody came on a feigned errand, and ſaid, Her mother had taken ill, and deſired to ſpeak with her. He would have gone with her, but ſhe put it off; and giving him the laſt kiſs he ever was to receive from her, ſhe left him, and coming where the chariot ſtood ready, ſhe and Mrs. Blague got into it, and were conveyed into the King’s ſecret apartment, where they found him in his cloſet. He welcomed them, but it being late, Mrs. Blague departed, and they went to bed.
Mr. Shore, ſitting up late, and his wife not returning, was very much troubled, and went to his mother- in-law’s, but they had nor ſeen her, nor was her mother ill; ſo that her abſence troubled the whole family. The next day was ſpent in ſeeking for her amongſt her relations and friends, but found her not. Mrs. Blague proteſted ſhe had not ſeen her and dropped ſome diſſembling tears, ſo that her huſband was almoſt diſtracted, and at laſt, they concluded ſhe was taken away by ſome courtier; and in three days after, a Lady informed then that ſhe was with the King. This added more to their grief they knew not what courſe to take; and they knew if they went to croſs the King, it would be their ruin.
They made enquiry indeed, if it was her voluntary act, and finding it was and ſhe, quite unwilling to leave her new lover, they left all hope of recovering her, ſo that Mr. Shore growing melancholy, ſold off all he had, and went abroad, but having ſpent his fortune, he returned in a poor condition, he practiſed clipping and filing gold coin to mantain himſelf; for which he ſuffered death in the latter end of Henry VIII’s reign.
Jane Shore having rendered up her chaſtity to the King, pleaſed with the glittering at a court, and endeared by a monarch’s love, was admired by the vulgar, towards whom ſhe behaved in a moſt courteous manner.
Her power was ſo great with the King, that when his courtiers durſt not intercede for the poor and miſerable that lay under his diſpleaſure, ſhe, with her wit, would ſo abate his anger, that ſhe ſaved the lives of very many, both poor and rich. And though ſhe could in a manner do all with him, yet it was never known ſhe uſed her influence to the prejudice of any. And both in London, and the progreſſes ſhe made in the country, ſhe would cauſe poor people to be ſought for, and relieve their neceſſities, inducing and perſuading others, who expected any good offices from the King by her means, to do the ſame, never ſelling her favours; and by her ready wit, ſhe ſo baffled the court-ladies, who envied her aſpiring that they found themſelves unable to repartes. And though the King had another miſtreſs before her, Lady Beſſy, yet he preferred our heroine much above her, and would often merrily ſay, I have two miſtreſes of quite different tempers, one the moſt religious, and the other the merrieſt in England, and indeed ſhe was had in great favour all the reign of the King having crowds of petitioners waiting at her chamber-door, or at the chariot ſide when ſhe was to ride abroad, whoſe ſuits to the utmoſt of her power ſhe preferred. As for Mrs Blague, who leaſt deſerved of her, ſhe procured of the King a ſtately houſe and Manor, worth 2801 a year. The Romiſh Prieſts much ſpited her, becauſe the ſheltered many from their rage and fury, after they had burned John Huſs for a heretic.
As no worldly pomp nor greatneſs is of long continuance, ſo now her glory was ended, and her days of inexpreſſible miſery began; for the king dying at Weſtminſter, in the fortieth year of his reign, no ſooner was he buried in the chapel of his own founding, at Windſor, but Crook-back’d Richard, his brother, who murder’d Henry VI. and prince Henry his ſon aſpiring to the throne, tho’ Edward had left two ſons behind him, viz Edward and Richard, and ſeveral daughters, all lawfully begotten with the Queen, he quarrelled with Lord Haſtings, (who after the death of the King had taken Jane Shore, for his concubine, as now free) becauſe he would not aſſiſt him in his wicked project, of making away with his two nephews, whom he afterwards cauſed to be murdered in the Tower, alledging that the Queen and Shore’s wife had bewitched him, ſhewing his withered arm, which all knew had been ſo from his cradle; and, that Lord thinking to excuſe them, ſaid if they have done ſo, they ought to be puniſhed Richard furiouſly replied, Thou traitor, doſt thou ſerve me with ifs? I ſay, It is a truch very well known to thee, that they have done ſo, and that I will make good on thy body: wherefore I arreſt thee, Lord Haſtings, for high treaſon. And ſoon after, he cauſed his head to be cut off in the Tower.
Jane Shore had no ſooner notice of the death of Lord Haſtings, her paramour, but ſhe perceived a ſtorm was falling on her own head, therefore, ſhe thought it neceſſary to provide in time, and ſo ſhe carried her jewels to her old confident Mrs. Blague, entreating her to conceal them from her; but ſhe, like a faithleſs woman, when Jane came and aſked for them, not only denied them, but when in the greateſt need, ſhe came to crave alms from her, ſhe thruſt her out of doors, threatening to have her whipped for her impudence.
Richard, by means aforeſaid, having got to the crown, and to make himſelf ſeem fair by others ſins, tho’ he was a monſter by nature, publicly declaring his mother to be a whore, his brother and his children to be baſtards; cauſed his Queen to be poiſoned, and would have wedded his niece. He ordered our Jane Shore to be apprehended, ſtripped of all ſhe had, and do pennance, by ſeveral times walking in a white-ſheet, and then walk bare footed and bare-headed in her ſhift before the proceſſion, with a croſs and a wax taper in her hand, through Cheapſide, which the did looking ſo lovely in her bluſhes, that many pitied her; he alſo ſtripped all her friends and relations of whatever they had, pretending they had got it all by her means from the crown in K. Edward’s reign; which with the diſgrace their only daughter was fallen into, cauſed her parents death.
Richard, not content with this, put out a ſevere proclamation to this effect: That on the pain of death, and confiſcation of goods, no one ſhould harbour her in their houſes, nor relieve her with food or raiment. So that ſhe went wandering up and down to find her food upon the buſhes, and on the dung-hills where ſome friends ſhe had raiſed would throw bones with more meat than ordinary, and cruſts of ſtale bread in the places where ſhe generally haunted. And a baker, who had been condemned to die for a riot in King Edward’s reign, and ſaved by her means, as he ſaw her paſs along, in gratitude for her kindneſs, would trundle a penny, loaf after her, which ſhe thankfully received, and bleſſed him with tears in her eyes; but ſome malicious neighbour informing againſt him, he was taken up and banged for diſobeying King Richard’s proclamation; which ſo terrified others, that they durſt not relieve her with any thing; ſo that in miſerable rags, almoſt naked, ſhe went about moſt ſhocking ſpectacle, wringing her hands, and bemoaning her unhappy fate.
Thus ſhe continued till the battle of Boſeworth-field, where Richard was ſlain by Henry Earl of Richmond, who ſucceeded him by the name of Henry the VII; in which reign, ſhe hoped for better days; but fortune raiſed her another adverſary, for, he married Elizabeth, eldeſt daughter of Edward the IV. and K. Edward’s Queen, who mortally hated her, then bearing a great ſway, another proclomation was iſſued to the ſame effect; and ſo ſhe wandered up and down, in as poor and miſerable a condition as before, till growing old, and utterly friendleſs ſhe finiſhed her life in a ditch, which was from thence called Shore’s Ditch, adjoining Biſhopſgate-ſtreet.
Thus you may ſee the riſe and fall of this once ſtately and then unhappy woman, with whoſe dying Lamentation, I ſhall conclude.
The dying Lamentation of
MRS. JANE SHORE
THOUGH, by the rigour of the law, are forbidden to give me any relief, yet you may pity my unhappy ſtate, for the ſcripture ſaith To the miſerable pity ſhould beſhewn I am now putting a period to a miſerable life: a life that I have been long weary of. Nor would I deſire to live in the ſplendour, pomp, and glory of Edward’s court. No, I am happier now on the dung-hill, than ever I was in his arms; For oh! it was an adulterous bed indeed. Oh wretch! that King Edward! that ever I was betrayed by him! What floods of ſorrow have my ſins occaſioned? Oh! learn from me, good people, to beware of vain delights: tho’ they promiſe fair, they leave bitter ſtings behind them. Alas! you know my puniſhment is grievous in this world, and ſo it is, for I have endured a thouſand deaths in one; but now, my dying moments are come, I rejoice. Sincere repentance has ſecured my happineſs above.— But O, where repentance is not given, what ſeas of torment rack the ſoul! O happy dunghill, how do I embrace thee! From thee my pardoned ſoul ſhall ſoar to heaven, tho’ here I leave this filthy carcaſe.
O that the name of Shore, may be an antidote to ſtop the poiſonous and foul contagion of raging luſt for ever.
This work was published before January 1, 1928, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.