Duchess of York (1478-1481)
Baroness Mowbray and Segrave (1472-1481)
Born 1472 Died 1481
Anne Mowbray was the only surviving child of John Mowbray, 4th Duke of Norfolk and Elizabeth Talbot daughter of John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury. She was born at Framlingham Castle in Suffolk, on the 17th December 1472 and as an indication of her high status was christened by William Wayneflete, the Bishop of Winchester at Framlingham when she was only a few days old.
Anne was only three years of age when her father died on the 16th January 1476 leaving her as a very wealthy and desirable heiress. So desirable in fact, that king Edward IV made sure that she was married to the right person, which turned out to be his younger son Richard, Duke of York. So on the 15th January 1478 at St. Stephen's Chapel in Westminster, the five year old Anne was married to the four year old Richard. Edward even went so far as to ensure that the marriage contract included a clause that stipulated that if the marriage produced no issue and Anne predeceased her husband, then all the Norfolk estates would be retained by Richard.1
This was rather far-sighted of Edward IV as this is indeed what happened as Anne died at Greenwich on the 19th November 1481, a month or so before her ninth birthday. By this means the crown, at least in the person of the young Richard, now retained the estates of Norfolk which became a bone of contention with those who would otherwise have inherited the Mowbray fortune.
Anne was buried in a lead coffin in the Chapel of St. Erasmus in Westminster Abbey. There she remained until the year 1502 when the Chapel of St. Erasmus was demolished to make way for the Henry VII Chapel, and her coffin was moved to a vault at the Abbey of the Minoresses in Stepney. The abbey and the Order of St. Clare which ran it both disappeared with the Dissolution of the Monasteries as indeed did the remains of Anne Mowbray.
In December 1964 some workers at a building site in Stepney noticed a lead coffin lying amongst a pile of excavated rubble. They notified the local police who arranged for it to be collected by the London Museum. The inscription on the coffin clearly identified the contents as being the last remains of Anne Mowbray. When opened the coffin revealed her skeleton still wrapped around with the funeral shroud and with traces of her red hair remaining on her skull. After carrying out a detailed scientific and medical examination 2 the coffin was reburied at Westminster Abbey in May 1965, not far from where it had originally been interred all those years before.
The disinheritance of the Berkeley and Howard families who would otherwise have inherited the Mowbray fortune on the death of Anne Mowbray would later become a significant factor in determining the succession after the death of Edward IV. Although Edward IV was immediately followed by his son Edward V, John Howard in particular, was all too ready to support Richard III's usurpation of the throne in 1483 in return for which he received a share of the Mowbray estates together with the title of Duke of Norfolk.
1 It would seem likely that Anne had already shown some indications of illhealth by this time, and that an early death seemed a distinct possibility.
2 The results were published as follows;
- The Teeth of Anne Mowbray by Martin A. Rushton - British Dental Journal, (Vol. 119, No. 8, 19th October 1965)
- Anne Mowbray: skeletal remains of a medieval child by Roger Warwick - London Archaeologist, (Vol. 5, No. 7, Summer 1986).
- Finding out about people in the 15th century: Anne Mowbray
- Charles Arnold Baker The Companion to British History (Longcross Press, 1996)
- A genealogical survey of the peerage of Britain at www.thepeerage.com