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The royal mistress accused of being a witch

Elizabeth “Jane” Shore (née Lambert) was one of the many mistresses of King Edward IV of England. Jane would go on to become one of the most intelligent and beautiful women in the realm. Known as the witty mistress of the king, she would come to be known as a dangerous political conspirator against Richard III.

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Born in London around 1445, Jane was the daughter of a wealthy merchant family headed by John and Amy Lambert. Throughout her life, she was in frequent contact with wealthy businessmen who would enable her to socialise and become one of the most notable members of society. The family business would also give Jane the opportunity to receive a high level of education. A move quite unusual for someone of her social status, and particularly unusual because she was a female.

Jane attracted many suitors including William Hastings, 1st Baron Hastings, a friend and confidant of Edward IV. It’s believed Hastings fell in love with Jane and his affection turned into continual protection of her. However, such attention made John Lambert determined to find his daughter a suitable husband. Jane would marry William Shore, a goldsmith, and banker, and a common visitor to the Lambert home, he was about 15 years older than Jane. Over time, he would never really win her affection. The marriage was annulled in March 1476 after Jane petitioned on the grounds that her husband was impotent, preventing her from having children. Pope Sixtus IV commissioned three bishops to decide the case and the annulment was eventually granted.

According to the Patents Roll for 4 December 1476, Shore began her relationship with Edward IV after he returned from France. Like many of his mistresses, he didn’t ignore her, he was actually quite devoted to her. She would have a large amount of influence over the king but did not use it for her own personal gain. This was supported by the practice of bringing those in favour before the king to help them gain pardon. Their relationship would last until Edward’s death in 1483.

Upon his death, Jane tried to remain in the English court by becoming the mistress of Thomas Grey, 1st Marquess of Dorset, the son of Elizabeth Woodville, Edward’s queen from her first marriage to Sir John Grey of Groby. Additionally, Jane would become the lover of Lord Hastings and an alliance between the Hastings and Woodvilles would be born. Over time, the relationship between the two families was seen as a threat by Richard, the younger brother of Edward IV. Lord Hastings was accused of treason and executed on 18 June 1483. The Woodvilles did not get away either. Elizabeth was accused of witchcraft, and several of her relatives including one of her brothers were executed.

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Jane would find herself as a target of Richard III and being accused of witchcraft. There was not enough evidence to convict her of witchcraft so she was charged with harlotry (prostitution) instead. She was sentenced to the traditional public penance for harlotry at St Paul’s Cathedral. She was dressed in her kirtle and carried a taper as she was forced to walk the streets of London barefoot.

After her public penance was completed, Jane was sent to Ludgate Prison. During her imprisonment, Thomas Lynom, the King’s Solicitor became infatuated with Jane and sought her hand in marriage. While Richard tried to get Thomas to change his mind, he was adamant and eventually managed to obtain a pardon for Jane from the king. Jane had a child with Lynom and continued to live life until she died at the age of 82 around 1527.

About author

My name is Sydney Zatz and I am a University of Iowa graduate. I graduated with a degree in journalism and sports studies, and a minor in sport and recreation management. A highlight of my college career was getting the chance to study abroad in London and experiencing royal history firsthand. I have a passion for royals, royal history, and journalism, which led me to want to write for Royal Central.