In the annals of history, Elizabeth “Jane” Shore, an Englishwoman known for her fiery spirit and charisma, emerges as a captivating figure. She etched her name in the annals of time as one of the sultry mistresses of the dashing English monarch, Edward IV. Jane Shore’s undeniable charm and influence earned her a special place in the king’s heart, a place she used to champion the rights of the marginalized. However, as fate would have it, her life took a dramatic turn following Edward IV’s demise. Accused of harlotry by the ruthless Richard III, Jane Shore was subjected to a public walk of shame through the bustling streets of London, clad only in her undergarments. Yet, she defied the odds and lived to tell the tale, ultimately reaching the ripe age of 82.
The Early Life of the Jane Shore
Jane Shore, originally known as Elizabeth Lambert, hailed from London and was born into privilege in 1445. As the daughter of the prosperous merchant, John Lambert, and his wife Amy, Jane enjoyed a life of affluence. Her upbringing was graced with a top-tier education, and she mingled with the cream of English society.
Jane’s exceptional intelligence and captivating beauty drew many admirers, but her father, intent on securing her a suitable match, arranged her marriage to the affluent goldsmith William Shore, who happened to be 15 years her senior.
Unfortunately, the union was marred by a lack of passion and affection, qualities for which Jane would later be renowned. In 1476, Pope Sixtus IV granted Jane an annulment, citing her husband’s impotence as the reason. Jane, a fearless woman, refused to be confined by societal norms and embarked on a journey that would forever leave its mark on history.
Jane Shore: A Pioneer Who Harnessed Her Influence for the Betterment of All
In the year her annulment was granted, Jane Shore crossed paths with King Edward IV. She quickly captured his heart and became his cherished mistress. Despite Edward IV’s reputation as a ladies’ man, Jane held a unique place in his affections. He praised her vivacious personality and quick wit, describing her as “Merry in company, ready and quick of answer.” Over time, Jane Shore’s influence over the king grew considerably.
Jane wielded her substantial influence not only for her own benefit but also to advocate for those who had fallen out of favor with the king. She repeatedly succeeded in securing pardons for the unjustly accused. While her precise role in court politics remains shrouded in mystery, it’s clear that she utilized her power for the greater good.
Following the demise of Edward IV, Jane Shore endeavored to establish alliances.
Following King Edward IV’s passing in 1483, Jane Shore sought to maintain her position at the English court. She became the mistress of Thomas Grey, the son of Elizabeth Woodville, Edward IV’s queen, and her first husband, Sir John Grey of Groby.
Jane also enjoyed the support and protection of another admirer, Lord Hastings, who was a close friend and advisor to the king. Thanks to her relationships, Jane played a pivotal role in uniting the Woodvilles and the Hastings in an alliance that was perceived as a threat by Richard III, the younger brother of Edward IV.
To understand Richard III’s apprehension, one must examine his actions after Edward IV’s demise in April 1483. Richard was named Lord Protector for his 12-year-old nephew Edward V, and he subsequently declared the marriage of Edward IV to Elizabeth Woodville invalid under the Titulus Regius act in 1484. This declaration rendered their children illegitimate and barred them from ascending the throne. Edward V and his brother Richard, known as the Princes in the Tower, are believed to have met a tragic end while imprisoned by their uncle in the Tower of London, a prelude to Richard III’s ascent to power.
Fueled by fear and paranoia, Richard III accused Lord Hastings of treason and swiftly had him executed. The Woodvilles also faced allegations of witchcraft, though no further action was taken. Unfortunately, several of Elizabeth’s relatives, including one of her brothers, met a grim fate, executed on orders from Richard III.
Jane Shore and Her Notorious Walk of Humiliation
As the mastermind behind the alliance between the Hastings and Woodvilles, Jane Shore found herself in the crosshairs of the merciless King Richard III. Although she faced accusations of witchcraft, insufficient evidence to convict her led to charges of harlotry, a charge of sexual immorality or prostitution.
At St. Paul’s Cathedral, Elizabeth “Jane” Shore received the customary sentence for harlotry, requiring her to perform public penance. Jane walked barefoot through the streets of London, clad only in her kirtle, an outer petticoat, and holding a taper, a candle-like object.
In a twist of fate, Jane’s dignified demeanor during this walk of shame left an indelible mark on witnesses. While the intention was to humiliate her, some historians argue that this act contributed to Richard’s reputation as a cruel and unjust ruler. In fact, her public penance is believed to have inspired the “Walk of Atonement” in the television series Game of Thrones.
Jane Shore was subsequently sent to Ludgate Prison. During her imprisonment, she captured the infatuation of Thomas Lynom, the King’s Solicitor, who proposed marriage despite Richard’s objections. Eventually, Lynom succeeded in securing a pardon for Jane from the king.
Contrary to rumors of Jane Shore’s impoverished end, it is unlikely that she experienced such a fate. Her husband was relatively wealthy, affording her a comfortable life. In her later years, Jane crossed paths with Sir Thomas More, who immortalized her in his “History of King Richard the Third.” In 1527, at the age of 82, Jane passed away and found her final resting place at Hinxworth Church in Hertfordshire.
Elizabeth “Jane” Shore’s life is a testament to resilience in the face of adversity. Her journey from a tumultuous marriage to the corridors of power at the English court and her dramatic public penance in the streets of London make for a remarkable narrative. Jane Shore’s influence and the alliances she forged left an indelible mark on a tumultuous period in English history. Her legacy endures, reminding us of the enduring spirit of those who dare to defy societal norms and expectations.