The Facial Reconstruction of Anne Mowbray

In connection with his research on Eleanor Talbot and the CF2 bones found at the Norwich Carmel, John has commissioned facial reconstructions of the CF2 skull. But he also decided to explore whether a facial reconstruction could be commissioned of Eleanor Talbot’s equally famous niece, Anne Mowbray, Duchess of York and Norfolk.

Although Anne and Eleanor would never have met (because Anne was born four years after Eleanor’s death), Anne was the daughter of Eleanor’s sister, Elizabeth Talbot, Duchess of Norfolk. Later, Anne was married to Edward IV’s son, Richard of Shrewsbury. If Anne’s remains had not been reinterred in 1965, a sample of her mtDNA could easily have been used to prove or disprove the identity of the Norwich CF2 bones. But unfortunately that route cannot now be followed.

Nevertheless, extensive photographic records of Anne’s bones are held by the Museum of London. Using copies of a selection of images of the skull provided by the Museum of London Archaeological Archive, together with details of relevant measurements, John commissioned a facial reconstruction of Anne Mowbray via the University of Dundee. This was produced by Amy Thornton, alumna of the University of Dundee Msc forensic art course. The image is copyright, but a version of it is attached. A picture has also been included among the plates of John’s recent book, The Private Life of Edward IV.

Of course the eye colour used in the reconstruction is a guess. No scientific evidence is available. However, the hair colour was revealed by photographs of Anne’s hair as found in the coffin in 1964. It has sometimes been suggested that when reddish coloured hair is discovered in sealed coffins, this is due to the fact that pheomelanin (which causes red hair colour) is more likely to survive in such contexts than eumelanin (which causes other hair colours). However, John and Amy both sought academic advice on this point, and the expert advice was that, while Anne Mowbray’s tissue could not now be tested, probably she did have auburn hair, containing a mixture of red pheomelanin and brown eumelanin.

Facial reconstruction of Anne Mowbray, Duchess of York and Norfolk, daughter-in-law of Edward IV and niece of Eleanor Talbot (by Amy Thornton, alumna of the University of Dundee Msc forensic art course).

Facial reconstruction of CF2 (© Caroline Erolin, Medical and Forensic Artist, Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification, University of Dundee) combined with a redrawing of the 1445 image of Eleanor Talbot’s father, John Talbot, first Earl of Shrewsbury (© John Ashdown-Hill).

Projects and Fundraising

John Ashdown-Hill is involved in various follow-up projects following the discovery of Richard III's remains. 

One relates directly to an unresolved issue in connection with Richard III himself. Details of that project cannot be released at the moment. However, John's being assisted with financing it by various organisations.

Another follow-up project is in connection with Eleanor Talbot and the fate of her remains. That's why John commissioned a 2D facial reconstruction of the Norwich skull (CF2). This was revealed at the recent study day organised by the Norfolk Branch of the Richard III Society. It confirmed CF2's appearance - and her resemblance to John Talbot, first Earl of Shrewsbury. 

The study day produced some funding, which the Norfolk Branch are holding in a special account for John's work on this project. He and the Norfolk Branch have also won the support and interest of the Castle Museum in Norwich who are now discussing the inclusion of an exhibition relating to CF2 and Eleanor Talbot as part of their new display in the castle keep.

John's planned ways forward include:

  1. A 3D facial reconstruction of CF2 for display in Norwich Castle
  2. A 3D facial reconstruction of Anne Mowbray to see whether it resembles CF2 (because Eleanor was Anne's aunt).
  3. A re-examination of the Norwich bones to check whether it can be confirmed that CF2 had no children
  4. Isotope analysis to check where CF2 grew up

There might also be further scientific work. 

More than £5000 will be required to pay for all of this.

If YOU would be willing to help by making a small donation, please email the secretary of the Norfolk Branch, Annmarie Hayek: