Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Royal Mistress

I was excited to be one of the first on the library's hold list to get this book.  I read it as fast I could, excited to learn more about Jane Shore.  She is best known for being the mistress of King Edward IV and for being his merriest whore.  I did not know more than that about her.  Jane Lambert, actually named Elizabeth but went by Jane, was the daughter of a silk merchant.  She had a father whom she did not get along well with.  She was wilful and quick witted whereas her mother was more soft spoken and subservient.  Jane met Tom Grey, Marquess of Dorset and stepson of the King.  She didn't know his true identity at the time, but fell in love with him.  He was married and she refused to be his mistress.  She thought often of him and would see much of him in the future.  She had rejected several marriage proposals but agrees at age 22 to marry William Shore, also a silk merchant.  She became a free woman with the marriage.  Unfortunately the marriage doesn't go well as he is dull and impotent.  Jane desires children and is of a passionate nature, so she tries to get an annulment.  Her beauty if not hidden long as she is spotted by Will Hastings, the King's chamberlain and invited to several events.  It is obvious he desires her, but Jane demurs because he is much older than her.  When Will talks about his new friend to the King, he desires to meet her for himself.  The King, Will and his step son Tom Grey, often shared women and went out on the town together to visit brothels.  Will was not happy to see her taken from him, but agrees as he is his sovereign. 

Invited to court, William and his wife Jane Shore go happily to meet the King and Queen.  It is not long before the King pays William to agree to an annulment and helps him set up a business away in Antwerp.  He agrees and Jane becomes the King's mistress; he buys a house for her nearby the palace.  He showers her with gifts and jewels and loves her deeply.  During their 7 year relationship, Jane stays good friends with Will Hastings.  After the death of King Edward, Jane is unsure what to do.  She had used her royal gifts to help purchase goods or gifts for friends and people in need.  She only had a little saved by.  Her family had disowned her after she became a mistress, so she didn't see them anymore.  Will offered her his protection and she agreed, after contemplation, to be his mistress.  Following the King's death, much tumult arose.  The King had named his brother Richard as protector over the boy Edward until he came of age.  At this time, the widowed Queen Elizabeth Woodville was conspiring as well.  She entered sanctuary with her children while she figured out what to do. 

Richard was apprised of a story of a precontract between his brother Edward and an Eleanor Butler.  This meant the boy king Edward was illegitimate and meant Richard would be king.  He was not expecting this role but took it on with the help of Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham.  By then the two princes, brothers, were in the Tower together while the rest were in sanctuary.  Richard was declared King, and set about making a more modest and moral court.  He had a wife Anne and a son.  During these few months the princes suddenly disappeared, believed killed by the king.  Buckingham had come to tell him he had smothered them to erase the threat of their mother and her schemings for them.  Richard was disgusted and upset but didn't share this information.  It came back to haunt him, when Buckingham turned against him with Bishop Morton.  They spread the lie that King Richard had actually killed the boys.  Morton persuaded Buckingham to turn against his cousin and go to support Henry Tudor, Margaret Beaufort's son.  This is how Richard III became known as a monster and a killer.

Jane's relationship with Will was short, as he was suddenly taken and immediately beheaded for treason.  King Richard wanted a moral court and was not pleased that Will took his former King's mistress as his own.  He was also believed to have conspired with Elizabeth Woodville against Richard.  Jane was soon taken to Ludgate Prison for adultery with the deceased king and his chamberlain Will.  Will Hastings was immediately beheaded without trial.  Jane's home and possessions were all taken.  She was eventually released, and forced to do penance.  She had to walk in just a shift for an hour in the streets of London with a taper, and then prostrate herself before the church and priests.  She was forgiven but not allowed back to her home.  Not long after her penance, she met up with Tom Grey and they began a relationship after all the years of waiting.  Her ideas of him had been lofty and had had time to grow, so she thought she had finally found her true love.  Instead, he left her abruptly and took her jewels and money with him. 

She was again charged by King Richard with adultery and sent to prison again.  She was also charged with possibly housing Tom, now a fugitive.  While in prison, she was questioned by Thomas Lyneham.  He fell in love with her immediately and proposed to her.  He worked for King Richard and had to ask permission, and was granted such if she lived with her family until their wedding day.  Jane reconciled with her father and kept herself chaste until their wedding.  They had a daughter named Julyan and were very happy together.  Jane had found her true love. 

My Thoughts:  Jane Shore was an interesting character- she was known as King Edward's merriest whore, the Rose of London, as well as for being beautiful and doing many good deeds for people.  She was a mistress three times, then a wife and mother.  Thomas More wrote a kind story about meeting her when she was old, begging for favors or money from acquaintances.  It seems her husband Thomas had passed away leaving her with debts.  A sad end to an interesting woman.  It is very sad Will Hastings was executed so suddenly.  This time was so interesting following Edward's death, because it changed so much.  His children were declared illegitimate, his two boys murdered, his brother became King, his mistress Jane Shore took 2 more lovers before marrying.  Richard III was eventually killed in an uprising schemed by Elizabeth Woodville and Margaret Beaufort.  Her son Henry Tudor took the throne and Richard was killed in battle.  Elizabeth's eldest daughter married Henry, and they started The Tudor line.  The Lancaster's and York's were finally at peace with this marriage.  Tom Grey was never again given any power after fleeing sanctuary and leaving Jane.

Richard III is still heavily debated as well as the disappearance or rather murder of the two princes.  Richard is believed by many to have killed his nephews where others believe it was likely Buckingham or even Margaret Beaufort to make way for her son Henry Tudor.  Either way, I find it unlikely they just were sent away somewhere.  They were too big of a threat.  A pre contract was valid back then, when a couple plighted their troth to one another.  It is amazing it was kept secret until after Edward's death when it was most fortuitous to Richard.  I do wonder because of that if he was a good man or not.  It seems he didn't have ambitions during his brother's life, and the author certainly believes he didn't kill his nephews or want the throne.  He was a religious fanatic and many construed that for ambition.  Either way, a very interesting time period and interesting people.  Jane Shore was interesting to me because even after such a severe penance and the beheading of her lover, she still hooked up rather quickly with Tom Grey.  Her belief in love must have swayed her.  I am happy that she reunited with her father and did find love in marriage and had a child. 
I recommend reading the author's other books to find out more about this time period.

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