CHAZY — Five hundred years and counting, authors have penned words about Jane Shore, the final and favorite concubine of King Edward IV of England.
With last week’s Touchstone Books/Simon & Schuster release of “Royal Mistress,” Anne Easter Smith, author of “A Rose for the Crown” and “Queen by Right,” adds her Ricardian spin to the canon on the Plantagenet king’s seven-year liaison with his “merriest mistress.”
Set in the 15th century during the last gasp of the Wars of the Roses, Shore, born Elizabeth Lambert, was a wealthy silk merchant’s daughter. Vivacious, beautiful and quick-witted, her father married her off to William Shore, a guild mercer (textile dealer), who was a much older, wishy-washy, gutless weasel.
The previous best-known historical work on the “Rose of London” was Jean Plaidy’s “The Goldsmith’s Wife.”
“Up until the 1970s, people believed Jane was the daughter of someone totally different and the only daughter of someone totally different,” said Anne Easter Smith, a resident of Newburyport, Mass., and former Press-Republican features editor.
“Along came historian Nicolas Barker. He did a lot more digging. He found out she was Elizabeth Lambert. Once he anchored who her father was, he was able to piece more of Jane’s background.
“That was after Jean Plaidy wrote her book. I’m writing with new information. We now know she was not a goldsmith’s wife. She was a mercer’s wife. William Shore was not a goldsmith.
“This is now Jane Shore for the 21st century, with much more information we have on her. She has been written about in ballads by poets and playwrights throughout the centuries. She was been a very complicated character for writers.”
The “Rose of London” was the concubine of Edward IV; Lord William Hastings, the king’s chamberlain; and Sir Thomas Grey, marquess of Dorset and son of Edward’s Queen Elizabeth Woodville.
The royal court was an unholy mess when the freewoman was thrust from obscurity to notoriety in its midst. Her likeness is captured in a few engravings.
“We don’t have any original paintings,” Smith said. “We don’t have anything from the period.”
In “Royal Mistress,” Smith skillfully reveals her protagonist’s tenuous lot as a woman defined by her beauty and subject to the whim of men who held sway over her — father, mercer, king, lord, marquess and solicitor.
Smith explores the way women give their hearts away to men, sometimes platonic, sometimes romantic.
In her previous books, Smith wrote in the third-person limited. With this book, she uses multiple viewpoints.
“The most fun for me was changing the way I structured the book. I’ve always been in my protagonist’s head. I was a bit worried at first; then I found it quite liberating. It was fun to get into other people’s head.”
She was reticent to get in her male characters’ heads.
“I don’t really know how they think. After writing five books and reading a lot of historical novels where women have done a very good job of writing from the male point of view, I thought I would give it a go,” she said.
With the February confirmation of the mortal remains of King Richard III and the ongoing row between Leicester and York over his final resting place in England, Smith’s book was published at a serendipitous time.
In “Royal Mistress,” Jane Shore’s story intersects that of Smith’s royal favorite, King Richard III, whose moral sensibilities were outraged by his brother’s and chamberlain’s concubine.
“I think that was the most difficult for me, how to approach, to write, Richard in this book,” Smith said.
“Once I decided on multiple points of view, I could now tell the reader why Richard was doing things from Richard’s point of view. If you, as a reader, came away as if he felt he was doing the right thing, that’s what I wanted people to take away from the book.”
Email Robin Caudell:firstname.lastname@example.orgIF YOU GO WHAT: "Royal Mistress" book signing with Anne Easter Smith. WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday. WHERE: Alice T. Miner Museum, 9618 Route 9, Chazy. CONTACT: 846-7336. Limited seating.