Not a snappy title I know but this post is about who it says on the can! I keep coming back to Jane Shore (double click to open my previous post in a new window). On this occasion I have a day school of Edward IV coming up and have been reading Margaret Crosland’s Life and Legend of Jane Shore by way of preparation as Jane Shore was the merriest of his mistresses. The lady with the large necklace in the picture next to this paragraph is an assumed portrait of Jane. Victorian compositions tend to show her suitably draped in a sheet doing public penance for her harlotry!
Edward IV’s mistress was, of course, Jane Shore, immortalised by Sir Thomas More’s sympathetic portrayal. She was baptised Elizabeth Lambert. Popular history has her husband down as Matthew Shore – goldsmith. Interestingly Thomas More does not identify Shore’s first name or his profession.
Scrub out Matthew Shore- goldsmith for the time being. Replace him with William Shore – mercer. John Lambert, Jane’s father was a mercer and William turns up often in the Mercers’ Company accounts. Let’s face it the link makes much more sense.
William was born in Derby in the mid 1430s making him fifteen or so years older than Jane (i.e. twice her age when they married). It is suggested that his father may have been Robert Shore a churchwarden for All Hallows, Derby. Crosland notes the extent to which the Shores donated items to the church which draws on Sutton’s research. His parents managed to marry their daughter, apparently their only other child, into a local gentry family, the Agards, and have William apprenticed in London. Sutton notes that Richard Claver an eminent member of the Mercers’ Company had family links with Derby. In any event young William was apprenticed, experienced the full rigours of life as apprentice and journeyman before entering the Mercers’ Company in 1459 at the latest. William travelled extensively it appears and struck a deal with John Lambert that acquired him a bride.
Crosland next finds the couple in the Court of Arches near the church of St Mary-le-Bow. The job of this court was to check degrees of consanguinity and clarify legal issues before marriage took place. Really and truly, Crosland explains, Jane Shore had no business being there as she was already married and the court could make no judgement on her case.
Yet it transpires that Jane, a comely wench, had a problem. Her duty as a wife was to beget children – but it takes two to tango as they say in Halifax. Sadly for Jane, Mr Shore wasn’t interested in tangoes or indeed any other aspect of physical married life. Jane kept returning to the Court of Arches trying to have her marriage annulled. The case as it is presented is simple – she has been married for three years but the marriage had not been consummated. This apparently was the legal requirement for the dissolution of the marriage but the Court of Arches could merely shrug its shoulders and say it was none of their business.
Realistically someone of Jane’s station couldn’t expect to pay the prohibitive costs involved in taking the case to Rome where such matters were discussed.
Somewhat surprisingly then Jane was granted a divorce by Pope Sixtus IV on the 4th March 1476. Desmond Seward and Margaret Crosland surmise that someone with a bit of clout and a lot of money had taken an interest in Jane’s plight…quite possibly Edward IV.
Interestingly William Shore also received communication from the Yorkist king. In 1476 he was in receipt of letters of protection and he doesn’t turn up in London’s records until 1484. It looks as though William left the country immediately after his marriage was terminated and didn’t feel it prudent to return until after Edward’s demise.
William Shore or Schower died in 1495 and is buried in Scropton in Derbyshire. Scropton lies on land once owned by the Agard family. His monument is still available to view should one feel the urge. History even provides his will which is transcribed in the Sutton article which shows that he maintained his links with Derby both during his life and after his death.
Crosland, Margaret. (2006) The Life and Legend of Jane Shore. Stroud: Sutton Publishing
Seward, Desmond. (1995) The Wars of the Roses and the Lives and Five Men and Women of the Fifteenth Century. Constable
Sutton, Anne F (1986) “William Shore, Merchant of London and Derby” Derbyshire Archeological Journal Vol 106 pp 127-39 distributed by York: Archaeology Data Service (distributor) (doi:10.5284/1018074).http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archiveDS/archiveDownload?t=arch-2300-1/dissemination/pdf/106/DAJ_v106_1986_127-139.pdf