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Anne Mowbray, Duchess of York

Anne Mowbray, Duchess of York, was married as a child to Richard, Duke of York, son of Edward IV. The ceremony took place on 15th January 1478 in St Stephen's chapel in the Palace of Westminster and the bridegroom was only five years old.

Anne was born in Framlingham Castle in Suffolk on 10th December 1472. Her father was John Mowbrary, Duke of Norfolk and her mother Elizabeth (Talbot). She died at Greenwich aged eight on 19th November 1481 and was buried in Westminster Abbey in the chapel of St Erasmus, recently built by her mother in law Queen Elizabeth Woodville. This chapel, probably on the south side of the Lady Chapel which Henry III erected in 1220, was pulled down in 1502 to make way for a new larger Lady Chapel built by Henry VII. It had been thought that her body was re-buried in this new chapel or elsewhere in the Abbey.

Re-burial in Westminster Abbey

But on 11th December 1964 Anne's coffin was found when the site of the church of the Minoresses of St Clare in Stepney, east London, was being cleared. Her mother had retired to this convent. The shaped lead coffin in an arched brick vault was clearly marked with her name on a coffin plate attached around the coffin. The Latin on the plate can be translated:

Here lies Anne, Duchess of York, daughter and heir of John, late Duke of Norfolk, Earl Marshal, Nottingham and Warenne, and Marshal of England, Lord of Mowbray, Segrave and Gower; late the wife of Richard, Duke of York, second son of the most illustrious prince Edward IV, King of England and France, and Lord of Ireland; who died at Greenwich on the 19th day of November. A.D. 1481 and in the twenty first year of the reign of the said King.

The coffin was removed to the London Museum at Kensington Palace and the remains, which included a nearly complete skull with red hair, were examined at Guy's Hospital Medical School.

The Dean of Westminster gave permission for her remains to be re-buried in the Abbey, in the north east apsidal chapel of the Lady Chapel, as near as could be found to the original site of her burial. Prior to the private ceremony her coffin lay in state in the Jerusalem Chamber at the Abbey surrounded by candles and flowers. On 31 May 1965 she was finally laid to rest.

A new stone was laid over her grave which reads:

1472 ANNE 1481 Daughter of John (Mowbray) Duke of Norfolk child wife of Richard, Duke of York second son of King Edward IV was originally buried near this place. On the rebuilding of this chapel in 1502 her coffin was removed to the church of the Minoresses of St.Clare, London on the site of which church it was discovered in 1964 and reburied here 31 May 1965.

At the top are incised the coats of arms of Brotherton, Richard Duke of York impaling Brotherton and Mowbray. Unfortunately this stone is normally covered by a portable organ.

Richard, Duke of York and his brother Edward V were imprisoned in the Tower of London by order of Richard III and they were not seen again. Bones thought to be theirs were unearthed in the Tower in the reign of Charles II and these remains of the "Princes in the Tower" were brought to the Abbey by order of the king and interred in a small marble monument near the grave of Elizabeth I. Anne lies a few feet away from this urn.

A photo of the coffin is at the Museum of London.

Further reading

"The teeth of Anne Mowbray" by Martin Rushton in British Dental Journal, Oct 19, 1965

"Anne Mowbray: skeletal remains of a medieval child" by Roger Warwick, in The London Archaeologist, summer 1986

"Anne Mowbray and the Princes in the Tower: a study in identity" by Theya Molleson, in The London Archaeologist, spring 1987

Narrative of the marriage of Richard, Duke of York, with Anne of Norfolk, the matrimonial feast and the grand jousting, a contemporary account printed in W.H.Black's Illustrations of Ancient State and Chivalry, London 1840

"Elizabeth Woodville. Her life and times" by David MacGibbon, 1938

Died

19th November 1481

Buried

31st May 1965

Location

Lady Chapel

Memorial Type

Grave

Anne Mowbray, Duchess of York
Anne Mowbray grave

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2018 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

At different times of the day, or in different seasons, the light falling in the Abbey will light up something that you have walked past a million times and never seen before.

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Vanessa, Head of Conservation

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