We say that Shore's wife hath a pretty foot, A cherry lip, a bonny eye, a passing pleasing tongue.
- Richard III, Act I, Scene 1
Jane Shore (?1445 - ?1527), was the most famous of English king Edward IV's many mistresses, and a classic example of someone who slept their way to the top. Edward once described her as one of the "merriest, the wiliest, and the holiest harlots" in his realm. A petite woman with fair skin and a desirable "round face," Jane was good-looking, but probably owed her success more to captivating wit and sparkling conversation than to beauty alone.
Jane was born "Elizabeth" in about 1445 to a prosperous London merchant. At some point she changed her name to "Jane," for reasons unknown. She was married off while still a girl to a merchant named William Shore, but despite the fact that he was wealthy, young, and handsome, he never won Jane's affections. This may have been because he was impotent, and the marriage was annulled on these grounds in 1476.
Jane probably became King Edward's mistress in late 1475 or early 1476. Although Edward usually kept his mistresses for a short time and then discarded them, he maintained his relationship with Jane until his death in 1483. After Edward died, Jane promptly became the mistress of the queen's oldest son Thomas Grey, first Marquess of Dorset, and then soon after became mistress of William, first Lord Hastings, who was convicted of treason and executed in the Tower of London on June 18, 1483 (The precise order of these liaisons is uncertain and they may have been simultaneous).
When the Yorkists came to power, Jane, as a Lancastrian mistress, was required to do an open penance at Paul's Cross for her promiscuous behavior. She therefore walked through the streets in her petticoats one Sunday with a candle in her hand, attracting throngs of ogling males.
Soon thereafter, while she was in prison for her misconduct, she so captivated the King's Solicitor, Thomas Lynom, that he actually entered into a contract of marriage with her while she was still a prisoner. King Richard III personally pardoned Jane Shore, apparently at Lynom's request, although he failed to dissuade Lynom from such an impropitious match. Lynom of course lost his position as King's Solicitor after Richard fell at Bosworth Field, but he was able to stay as a mid-level bureaucrat under the reign of Henry VII and Shore apparently lived comfortably with him until her death, around 1527.