Post-classical history

37

MRS SHORE MARRIES AGAIN, 1483

JANE SHORE

The appearance of ‘the shameful and mischievous woman called Shore’ in Richard’s proclamation of 23 October announced that Jane was in trouble again. Rearrested, she had been sent back to Ludgate gaol, almost certainly for sheltering the Marquess of Dorset. No details are recorded of Dorset’s movements between his flight from sanctuary at Westminster in June 1483 and his arrival in Brittany towards the end of the year, but the wording of the proclamation (‘holds in adultery’) indicates that he had been living with Mrs Shore very recently indeed. Then, suddenly, Jane found a new protector in the person of her interrogator – the King’s solicitor, Mr Thomas Lynom.

Some time in the 1490s a man called Edward Drury copied out a register of royal grants and writs, most of them dating from Richard III’s reign. On the very last page of the collection there is a letter from the King himself to his Lord Chancellor, Bishop Russell. It concerns Jane and was apparently written during the last months of 1483:

By the king. Right reverend father in God, &c. Signifying unto you that it is showed unto us that our servant and solicitor, Thomas Lynom, marvellously blinded and abused with the late [wife] of William Shore, now being in Ludgate by our commandment, hath made contract of matrimony with her, as it is said, and intendeth, to our full great marvel, to proceed to effect the same. We for many causes would be sorry that he should be so disposed. Pray you, therefore, to send for him, and in that ye goodly may, exhort and stir him to the contrary; and if ye find him utterly set for to marry her and none otherwise will be advertised, then, if it may stand with the Law of the Church, we be content, the time of the marriage deferred to our coming next to London, that upon sufficient surety found of her good bearing, ye do send for her keeper and discharge him of Our said commandment, by warrant of these committing her to the rule and guiding of her father or any other by your direction in the mean season. Given &c.

(It seems that Mr Lambert was also known to King Richard.)

A member of the King’s council, Mr Thomas Lynom styled himself ‘gentilman’ and, while working in London, appears to have had a home at Sutton-on-Derwent. A northerner, he belonged to a new breed of specialist bureaucrat which entered the royal service during the Yorkist period, with offices in the City or at Westminster. In some ways he resembled the sort of industrious, ambitious high-flier who today finds a niche in the Cabinet Office or on the staff of the White House.1

Since the 1470s he had been doing legal work for Richard in Yorkshire. Working for Gloucester was no sinecure as he was the most legally minded magnate of his time. Constantly selling land in southern England to buy more in the north kept his staff extremely busy; they were always renegotiating leases, altering rents or trying to extract larger fees from his official posts. He seems to have employed a full-scale team of legal researchers, while he himself possessed an excellent knowledge of Common Law; his cartulary from his ducal days has survived and is the reference file of a man obsessed with litigation. His counsel were never out of court and he was not above cowing juries. Clearly he found Thomas Lynom a satisfactory servant. In 1482 Lynom and Richard Pottyer – the Mores’ cynical friend – were rewarded with the goods and chattels in Hampshire of Sir Thomas Greenfield. (They cannot have amounted to much since Sir Thomas was an almsknight of Windsor.)

It was no small compliment to Mr Lynom’s professional abilities that Richard should have appointed him King’s Solicitor in August 1483, an office that had first emerged about 1460 and was the precursor of that of today’s Solicitor General. He was made escheator of Essex and Hertford in November. An escheator collected lands and property due to the Crown by reversion and forfeiture, so understandably he was very busy with this type of work after the Duke of Buckingham’s rebellion. A member of a commission investigating treasonable persons in Essex, he received the Bedfordshire manor of Colmeworth in March 1484 as a reward for his services. He sat on many commissions; for example, in June 1484, with Lord Lovell, William Catesby and others he was entrusted with seeing that Lord Grey of Powys took 1,000 archers from Southampton to Brittany, while later that year he received the commissions of array to raise troops in Essex and Bedfordshire. He was also a tax expert and involved in extracting the loans that the Kingdemanded from his wealthier subjects during 1485. However, his main duties appear to have been organizing the collection of revenue from the Crown lands.2

Disregarding his employer’s objections, the highly respectable Mr Thomas Lynom married ‘Shore’s wife’, undeniably an odd choice of husband for someone with quite such a colourful past. It has been ungallantly suggested that he was after her money, but this had all gone by now. The King may have been justified in describing Thomas as ‘marvellously blinded’. Perhaps he persuaded her to take him by offering to arrange her release from Ludgate gaol. Quite soon – certainly by 1487 – Mrs Lynom gave birth to a daughter whom they christened Julyan.

There are good reasons for supposing that Jane’s parents were delighted by their daughter’s sensible marriage. Mr Lynom was clearly a man of considerable influence, very well thought of by the King. They cannot have been happy when she was consorting with the regime’s enemies – indeed, they must have been horrified. Henry Tudor’s accession to the throne might all too easily mean the loss of John Lambert’s West Country estates, which had once belonged to the Courtenays. The present head of that family, Edward Courtenay – heir to the attainted Earls of Devon – had played a leading role in Buckingham’s rebellion and was now in exile with Henry in Brittany.

Apparently Mr Lambert had for some time been involved in litigation with a certain ‘Alexander Verney, Esquire’, over the possession of his Somerset properties. However, at the end of November 1484 Verney formally recognized his ownership of the manor of Puriton, together with that of other lands in the county, in two deeds. Among those who witnessed the documents was John Kendall, King Richard’s secretary.3 It is not too fanciful to suppose that Thomas Lynom had intervened in the case in his father-in-law’s interest. The Lamberts had become part of the Ricardian establishment.

Even if Jane had lost her own money, her father was richer than ever. According to a seventeenth-century antiquary, Sir Henry Chauncey, Mr Lambert bought the valuable manor of Pulters at Hinxworth in Hertfordshire from Sir John Ward, Mayor of London, in 1484 – ‘the 2 Richard III in which year three Lord Mayors, and three Sheriffs of London dy’d of a Sweating Sickness.’4 The village of Hinxworth is in the extreme north of the county, pleasantly situated on rising ground amid rich agricultural land on the flat borders of Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire.

There is a well-attested tradition in the area (recorded in the Victoria County History) that Pulters Manor is in fact Hinxworth Place, a cheerful, rambling old house built of local ‘clunch’ – hard chalk – which was begun about 1460 and enlarged during the next century.5 If so, this must be where John Lambert spent his last days. Locals say that it is haunted. Another building in the village which Jane would still recognize is the parish church, barely a mile away from Hinxworth Place, with a great square tower. It is reached from the house along a path through the fields, no doubt the same path trodden by Jane when she followed her father’s funeral.

Her ex-husband returned to the City in the summer of 1484, with a letter for King Richard from the Governor of the Merchant Adventurers, Mr John Wendy, about problems of trade in Flanders. Apparently William Shore had prospered, acquiring property at Middleburg in Zealand, with business interests as far afield as Iceland. During the next reign he was to be appointed a Collector of Customs in Yarmouth and Ipswich, and then in London – a sure sign of wealth. In 1487 he would make a formal gift of all his goods and chattels to three trusted friends, one of them being the printer William Caxton. (The ‘gift’ was a legal fiction, cancelled by a second document and used to avoid taxes.) He died in 1495, during a visit to his brother-in-law, John Agard, at Scropton in Derbyshire, where he is buried. There is no reason to suppose that he had ever met his former wife again – there is no mention of her in his will.6

The first years of Mrs Lynom’s second marriage must have been overshadowed, not so much by the burden of an unaccustomed respectability as by the problems of her husband’s employer. According to the early Tudor historians, the King spent the entire twenty-six months of his reign in a state of permanent paranoia, constantly expecting an invasion or a plot to assassinate him. Although the Duke of Buckingham’s rebellion had been crushed with little difficulty, Vergil says that ‘King Richard, as yet more doubting than trusting in his own cause, was vexed, wrested and tormented in mind with fear almost perpetually of th’Earl Henry and his confederates’ return; wherefore he had a miserable life . . .’

Sir Thomas More’s description of the King is even grimmer. ‘When he went abroad, his eyes whirled about, his body secretly armoured, his hand ever on his dagger.’

Even so, during Richard’s reign the antiquary John Rous recorded how the King was ‘full commendably punishing offenders of the laws, especially oppressors of the Commons . . .’ Cynics have suspected him of trying to win support by good government. In a proclamation issued after Buckingham’s rebellion, he asked that everyone who might

find himself grieved, oppressed or unlawfully wronged do make a bill of his complaint, and put it to his highness, and he shall be heard and without delay have such convenient remedy as shall accord with his laws. For his grace is utterly determined all his true subjects shall live in rest and quiet, and peaceably enjoy their lands, livelihoods and goods according to the laws of this his land . . .

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Hinxworth Place, Hinxworth, Herts – the Lamberts’ country house.

The Parliament of 1484 saw some sensible legislation, such as that preventing an accused person’s goods being forfeit before they were convicted (too late for poor Jane) and prohibiting the benevolences introduced by Edward IV. But it did little for the King’s popularity – if one may credit Vergil, many people even blamed him for any bad weather.

He took stringent precautions against invasion. Not only were the approaches from Brittany and France constantly patrolled by English ships, but there was also an early-warning system. This was a species of ‘pony express’ with riders stationed along all the main roads from the coast, poised to bring news of any enemy landing.

Nevertheless, it has to be said that Professor Ross discerns ‘no hint in the administrative records of the reign of the nervous agonies or political palsy attributed to him by some of the chronicles’. Ross does, however, admit that Richard spent far more time in Nottingham – the strategic centre of the kingdom – than in London because of his need to strike as fast as possible at any invasion force.7 By any reckoning, Richard III’s regime was insecure.

There were compensations for men like Thomas Lynom. As a Yorkshireman, he must surely have welcomed the irruption of so many northerners into the administration; by 1484 at least two-thirds of sheriffs in the counties south of the Rivers Thames and Severn came from the north. Richard did not trust southerners. At the same time, there was plenty of work for Mr Lynom, who was kept busy extracting loans from the rich to augment insufficient revenues. Because of his excessive expenditure on precautions against invasion, the King had begun to find himself increasingly short of money, and had started using benevolences again, despite having made them illegal during the recent Parliament.8

It was an odd irony that Jane’s future prosperity should depend on the survival of Richard III. For her husband’s career was based on the King’s continuing patronage. The Lynoms would have been less than human if they had not worried about a change of regime – one which they knew might take place at any moment, accompanied by much bloodshed.

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