“Jane Shore”

Author: Thomas Deloney?
Earliest date: 1765 (Percy); reference in the Stationer's Register in 1603, but no copy recovered
Keywords: love royalty death prison adultery
Found in: Britain(England)


Jane Shore, "that was beloved of a king," laments her fate. She had come to the attention of Edward IV, who loved her long but died young. Now she is at the mercy of his successor Richard III, who harries her relentlessly


Jane Shore, the wife of a London merchant, seems to have been the last great love of Edward IV's life (though Edward IV was truly prodigal with his energies). She is said to have been charming as well as beautiful, but this simply meant that she was feared as having too much influence over the king.

Desmond Seward, _The Wars of the Roses_, makes Jane Shore one of his main "viewpoint characters." According to Seward, Jane was born around 1450, with the actual name "Elizabeth Lambert" (this based on very recent research linking Mistress Shore with Mistress Lambert; I don't know if it is universally accepted). Elizabeth Lambert's father John Lambert was a London alderman. Her surname, it is generally accepted, came from her husband William Shore, a successful mercer who was probably at least ten years older than his wife (Seward, p. 88). They were divorced in 1476 (Seward, pp. 225-231). (Elizabeth Jenkins, _The Princes in the Tower_, Coward, McCann & Geoghan, 1983, p. 140, notes that Thomas More declares she was married too young, and reports that More actually knew her.)

Then she took up with Edward IV. Edward was an incredibly lusty liege (I know of no complete count of his bastards, but there must have been a lot of them); at one point he was credited with three mistresses at once, "one the merriest, another the wiliest, the third the holiest harlot of his realm." Jane Shore seems to have been the first of these; in her "the King therefore took special pleasure, for many he had, but her he loved" (Anthony Cheetham, _The Life and Times of Richard III_ (with introduction by Antonia Fraser), George Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1972 (I used the 1995 Shooting Star Press edition), p. 205; this again is apparently from More).

When Edward IV died, his friend Lord Hastings seems to have become involved with Mistress Shore, but Richard III soon had Hastings executed. From that time on, Shore had no protector. The Marquess of Dorset, Edward's stepson, apparently wanted her, but as an obvious enemy of Richard III, he had no influence.

Richard's persecution was severe and probably unfair; rather puritanical himself, and (despite Shakespeare) seemingly devoted to Edward IV, he seems to have blamed Shore for much of Edward's dissipation, which resulted in Edward's death at about 42. He responded by depriving her of property, imprisoning her, and forcing her to perform severe penances.

After the fall of Richard III, she took one Thomas Lynom (listed by Seward, p. 16, as Richard's solicitor) as her second husband.

It is not likely that this or any other Jane Shore ballad went into tradition, but there seem to have been enough of them that they deserve an entry here. The main reference is to the "If Rosamund that was so fair" text; the cross-references are to other Jane Shore pieces. - RBW

Historical references


  1. Percy/Wheatley II, pp. 263-273, "Jane Shore" (1 text)
  2. BBI, ZN1391, "If Rosamund that was so fair"
  3. cf. BBI, ZN2929, "Why should we boast of Lais and his Knights"
  4. BI, Percy2263