Life and transactions of Mrs Jane Shore (1)
LIFE AND TRANSACTIONS
Mrs JANE SHORE,
CONCUBINE TO KING EDWARD VI.
containing an account of
Her Parentage, Wit and Beauty,
her Marriage with Mr Shore, the
King’s Visits to her. Her going
to Court, leaving her huſband.
Her great diſtreſs and Miſery
after the King’s Death, &c.
Printed and Sold by J. ⟨Morren⟩, Cowgate.
LIFE and TRANSACTIONS
Mrs JANE SHORE.
MRS Jane Shore was the daughter of Mr Thomas Wainſted 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 care and tenderneſs imaginable; not wanting any education that was thought neceſſary or proper for her; 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 make fine birds; and if the birds are fine without them, doubtleſs they make them ſo doubly.
This lovely woman was the delight of her father, who clothed her richly, adorned 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 genteelity than she had ever yet attained to, or her city breeding could 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 enquiry 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, but 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 ſo 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 ſought her in way of marriage, was one Matthew Shore, a rich goldſmith in Lombard-ſtreet, whom her father pitched upon as a 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 love 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 the wedding, which was kept with great feaſting, many days.
The wedding now being over, and the bridegroom, having enjoyed his charming bride, grew exceedingly fond of her, even to dottage, which ſickened and pallied 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 his fair Jane was married: which however, did not make him give over his purpoſe of enjoying her fair body; ſo that he often 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 endeavouring 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, forbidding him his house, which made him run away in a great heat, reſolving to be revenged.
This Lord being chamberlain to Edward the fourth, having frequently his ear, and finding he was much inclined to lady Elizabeth Gray, took an opportunity to tell him of Jane’s beauty, extolling her wit above her features, which made the King hearken, to this new adventure, and he reſolved to go to Shore’s ſhop in diſguiſe to ſee her.
The King whoſe thoughts ſtill run on his intended miſtress, delayed not long to pay her a viſit; and in order to it, attired himſelf like a merchant, and withdrew privately from the court, only attended by a page.
And coming into Shore’s ſhop, then the richeſt in 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 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 extremely. 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 that 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 atired 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 by her huſband’s deſire, ſhe 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 goodman 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 anything 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 though 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 good judgement in fine women; I have ſeen Shore’s wife, and ſhe excels the praises you gave me 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 take her from his arms, 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 Highneſs, 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 it would make her do any thing. Her will I engage in this matter, and truſt me ſhe will ſoon bring it to paſs to your ſatisfaction—The King liked this advance, and it was agreed that he ſhould ſee her at this Mrs Blague’s and have freedom to court her; but ſhe ſhould not know that he was the King, until he thought proper to have it diſcovered.
Lord Haſtings was not idle in promoting his maſter’s happineſs, and 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 though Mrs Blague often left them alone and the King courted her with all his rhetoric, 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 much ſurprised at it, but intreating 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 looked round through his maſk, fixed his eyes upon her, immediately ſtepped 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 ſhe 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
When ſhe read this letter, she left Mrs Blague abruptly, judging she had a hand in the matter.
All that night the fair Jane was reſtleſs; her husband enquired the cauſe, but could not learn it. As ſoon as ſhe was 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; glitter 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 ſhe 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 arms 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 ſupped with her husband; when, on a ſudden, ſome body came on a feigned errand and ſaid, her mother was taken ill, & deſired to ſpeak with her. He would have gone with her, but ſhe put it off; and giving him the laſt kiſs he ever received from her, ſhe left him.
And coming where the chariot ſtood ready, ſhe and Mrs Blague got into it, and were admitted into the King’s ſecret apartments, and 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; but they had not 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, dropping ſome diſembliug tears; ſo that her huſband was almost diſtracted and at laſt they concluded ſhe was taken awry by ſome courtier; and in three days after a lady informed them 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 inquiry indeed if it was her voluntary act, and finding it was, and she quite unwilling to leave her new lover, ſo that Mr Shore 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 maintain 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 glitieaing of 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 with the poor and miſerable that lay under his diſpleaſure, ſhe with her wit, would ſo abate his anger, ſo that ſhe ſaved the lives of very many, both rich and poor. And though ſhe could in a manner do all with him, but it was never known ſhe uſed her influence to the prejudice of any. And both in London and the progreſs 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 repartee. And though the King had another miſtreſs before her, namely Lady Beſſy, yet he preferred our heroine much above her, and would often merrily ſay I have two miſtreſſes, of quite different tempers, one of 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 the 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 it of her ſhe procured of the King a ſtately houſe and manor worth 2801. per annum. The Romiſh prieſts were ſpighted at her, becauſe ſhe ſheltered many from their rage and fury, after they had burned John Hall for a heretic.
As no worldly pomp nor greatneſs is of long continuance, ſo now her glory it was ended, and her days of inexpreſſible miſery began; for the king dying at Westminster, in the 40th year of his age, no ſooner was he buried in the chapel of his own founding, at Windſor, but ’Crookbacked Richard, his brother, who murdered Henry VI, and Prince Henry, his ſon, aſpiring to the throne, though Edward had left two ſons behind him, viz. Edward and Richard, and ſeveral daughters, all lawfully begotten, by the Queen, 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 her, ſaid, if they had done ſo they ought to be puniſhed. Richard furiouſly replied, thou traitor, doſt thou ſerve me with Ifs and Ands? I ſay they have done ſo, and that I will make good on thy body; wherefore, I arreſt thee, Lord Haſtings, of 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 wa 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 for her; but ſhe like a faithleſs woman, when Jane came and asking for them, not only denying 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 fine, 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 neice. He ordered 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 ſhirt before her proceſſion, with a croſs and a wax-taper in her hand through Cheapſide, which ſhe 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 King Edward’s reign; which with the diſgrace their only daughter had 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, trundeled a penny loaf after her, which ſhe thankfully took, and bleſſed him, with tears in her eyes. But ſome malicious neighbour informing againſt him, he was taken up and hanged, for diſobeying King Richard’s proclamation; which ſo terrified others, that they durſt not relieve her with any thing, ſo that in miſerable rags and almoſt naked, ſhe went about a moſt ſhocking ſpectacle, wringing her hands, and bemoaning her unhappy circumſtances.
Thus ſhe continued till the battle of Bodworth field, wherein Richard was ſlain, by Henry earl of Richmond, who ſucceeded him by the name of Henry the ſeventh, in which reign ſhe hoped for better days. but fortune raiſed her another adverſary, for he married the eldeſt daughter of Edward the fourth; and King Edward’s Queen who mortally hated her, then bearing a great ſway, ſhe procured another proclamation to the ſame effect, and ſo ſhe wandered up and down in as poor and miſerable a ſituation as before; till growing old, and utterly friendleſs, ſhe finiſhed her life in a ditch, which was from that time called Shore’s ditch, adjoining to Biſhop gate Street.
Thus you may ſee the riſe and fall of this once ſtately and then unhappy woman, with whoſe dying lamentation we ſhall conclude.
DYING LAMENTATION OF
THOUGH by the rigour of the law you are forbid to give me any relief, yet you may pity my unhappy ſtate; for the ſcripture ſaith, ‘That to the miſerable, pity ſhould be ſhown.’ I am now putting a period to a miſerrble life; a life that I have long been weary of. What! would I deſire to live in the ſplendour, pomp, and glory of Edward’s court? No; I am happier now on the dunghill than ever I was in his arms, for, oh! it was an adulterous bed indeed, Oh! wretch that I knew 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; they promiſe fair, but 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 ſince 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, though 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 forever.
This work was published before January 1, 1928, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.