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Anne Mowbray -The High and Excellent Princess

Marilyn Roberts is one of the foremost experts on the Mowbray family, a historian of the top rank, and her poignant rendering of the short life - and afterlife - of Anne Mowbray, last of her line and child bride of the younger of the Princes in the Tower, is as riveting as it is brilliantly researched. The author's encyclopaedic knowledge of the geography of her story brings it all the more vividly to life. This is history at its forensic best. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.


The Three Lords public house at the corner of St Clare Street and Minories © Marilyn Roberts

The Sanctuary outside Westminster Abbey where the celebratory joust for the wedding of five-year-old Anne Mowbray and four-year-old Prince Richard of York was held in January 1478 © Marilyn Roberts


© Marilyn Roberts

Facing south: Minories in the east End of London north of the Tower. In Anne’s day the convent buildings were on the left side of the road as seen here, in a relatively rural location.  St Clare Street is the first left, at the pub, while part of the red brick building next to it houses another pub/restaurant called ‘The Abbey’ © Marilyn Roberts

Author’s Preface (part)

The seeds of The High and Excellent Princess were unknowingly sown in the year 2002 during a conversation at the Epworth Old Rectory Museum in North Lincolnshire, but were destined to remain dormant for some time. The then Curator knew of my research into the medieval Mowbray family – it was a conversation with him concerning a medieval floor tile from their nearby mansion that had kindled my interest in the first place – and was curious as to what was known about a little Mowbray girl who married one of the Princes in the Tower. At the time I knew next to nothing about the child, however, and only began seriously to research her story more than six years later.


The Mowbray Legacy, following the fortunes of the family from the Norman Conquest to the death of the fourth and last Mowbray Duke of Norfolk, was eventually published in 2004. The High and Excellent Princess began life as an appendix to a revision planned for 2012, but soon took on a life of its own. This present brief work on Lady Anne, the last duke’s heiress and only child, should, therefore, be seen as part of the process of rounding off of previous research on the Mowbray dynasty, and is not in any measure a detailed account or professional assessment of the work carried out on her remains found in London in the 1960’s.

John Mowbray’s daughter was born approximately halfway through, and died before the end of, that period of just over thirty years in the second half of the fifteenth century known now as the Wars of the Roses, when the feuding Houses of Lancaster and York almost succeeded in annihilating one another. However, for Anne’s whole lifetime there was a lull in the murderous proceedings and she would be in her shroud before the death of Edward IV led to the revival of hostilities.

Interest in that era has recently been invigorated by the discovery of the remains of King Richard III under a car park in Leicester, and comparisons will be made at some stage in the future, no doubt, between the current practices and procedures in dealing with human remains of exceptional historic interest that have been applied to him, and the unfortunate catalogue of errors associated with Anne Mowbray’s discovery. Experts will write articles about the enormous scientific progress that has been made in the period of forty-eight years that separated the finding of her body and that of King Richard, her uncle-by-marriage, and the vexed question of the rights and wrongs of exhumation to help establish familial links with the remains purported to be those of the Princes in the Tower will also surely be broached at some stage.

The aim in doing the research on this medieval little girl was to find answers to what were my own questions about her life, and in particular the circumstances that led to her having been interred three times – two of those in Westminster Abbey.  It was never the intention to include a large amount of detail on general day-to-day medieval life, or to produce several pages of what would amount to mini-biographies of lesser characters; neither will the causes and effects of the Wars of the Roses be examined in any great detail. Very little is known about Lady Anne Mowbray herself, so this was always going to be a shorter book than usual.

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Please note that there is a tenth chapter, King Richard III and the exhumation licence, in the 2014 reprint comparing the controversies surrounding Lady Anne’s exhumation in 1964 and reburial in 1965 with those currently raging around the terms of the exhumation licence for Richard III issued in 2012. For the benefit of those who have purchased the original version of the book, Chapter 10 is presented in full elsewhere on this website under the heading The burial of Richard III - questions of legality.