Anne Mortimer

Anne Mortimer

On this day in 1389*, the eighth anniversary of her grandfather’s death, Lady Anne Mortimer died.* She was the eldest child of Roger Mortimer 4th earl of March and his wife Lady Eleanor Holland. She was born at New Forest, Hampshire.* At the time of her birth, Anne’s Father Roger Mortimer was 15 years old and his wife, around 19. Eleanor was the niece of King Richard II by his uterine half-brother Thomas Holland, 2nd earl of Kent who had acted as Roger’s guardian after the premature death of his Father Edmund Mortimer, 3rd earl of March. Roger came of age at nineteen and immediately began a tour of his Irish lands. He had been named as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in childhood, with his illegitimate uncle Sir Thomas Mortimer acting as his deputy until he came of age.

During the 1390’s Roger spent much of his time in Ireland and it is likely that all of his children after the second born Edmund were born in Ireland and were to spend their extreme childhoods in there. Roger appears to identified with his Irish subjects and adopted the native Irish custom of dress despite this being illegal. He was killed in an ambush by the O’Brien family near Kells, Co. Meath in July 1398 aged just 24.

After the death of her Father, Anne was in the custody of her Mother Eleanor alongside her younger sister. Her brothers, Edmund, now 5th earl, aged 6, appears to have lived in the household of Richard II’s child-Queen Isabella along with his younger brother Richard. Anne and Eleanor lived with their Mother who remarried to Edward Charleton, 5th Baron Cherleton in June 1399. Cherleton was a major land holder in Powys, Wales and therefore, a Marcher lord, who already had close connections with the Mortimer family. In 1399 Richard II was overthrown by his cousin Henry Bolingbroke who became Henry IV. The two Mortimer boys Edmund and Roger continued to live in the royal household, alongside Henry IV’s younger children, however well treated they were; they were still prisoners. When Eleanor died in October 1405, King Henry IV made no provisions for Anne or her sister and by all accounts they were left “destitute.” This ill treatment probably stemmed from the fact that Anne’s uncle Sir Edmund Mortimer had allianced himself with Owain Glyn Dwr and married Glyn Dwr’s daughter Catrin in 1402, a day shy of a fortnight later Sir Edmund sent out letters declaring that he would restore Richard II to the throne if he was still alive; if not, then his nephew, Anne’s younger brother Edmund 5th earl was the rightful King of England and Sir Edmund, alongside Glyn Dwr would put him on the throne of England {Glyn Dwr taking Wales}.

In July 1403 the Battle of Shrewsbury was fought with Henry IV meeting Henry “Hotspur” Percy and his uncle Thomas Percy, earl of Worcester was executed afterwards. It is presumed that the forced of Sir Edmund Mortimer with Glyn Dwr were to have joined the battle alongside the forces of Henry Percy, 1st earl of Northumberland {Hotspurs Father} who did not get to Shrewsbury in time. It should be remembered that Hotspurs wife was Elizabeth Mortimer, Anne’s aunt and Hotspurs son and heir; Anne’s first cousin. Elizabeth Mortimer was arrested by Sir Robert Waterton in October 1403.

On the 13th of February 1405 Edmund Mortimer, 5th earl of March and his younger brother Roger were kidnapped by Constance of York, Lady Despencer, from Windsor Castle. This daring plan may have been instigated by Lady Despencers older brother, Edward, duke of York. She certainly pointed the finger of blame at him and he was to spend time ‘honourably confined’ for ten months after he admitted that he had known of his sisters’ intentions. The plan was to get the two boys to their uncle Sir Edmund Mortimer and his Father in law Glyn Dwr in Wales. Whether Anne’s Mother knew of this plot is not known. Whatever the case; Lady Despencer, her young son Richard, a Welsh squire called Morgan and the two Mortimer boys were captured after a brief fight outside of Cheltenham. The Mortimer boys were then sent to Pevensey Castle under the keeping of Sir John Pelham where they would remain for three years.

Shortly after this, in the same month, Glyn Dwr, Henry, earl of Northumberland and Sir Edmund Mortimer reached an agreement known as the ‘Tripartite Indenture’ which was effectively to carve up England and Wales between them, with the Mortimer family taking England, Northumberland taking the north of England and Glyn Dwr taking Wales and much of Herefordshire and Shropshire. Had the Mortimer boys been in the hands of their uncle Edmund and Glyn Dwr at this point in time, much of southern England could have rebelled. All of this may have contributed towards Henry IV’s attitude towards Anne and her younger sister. He may have suspected that they and their Mother had known of the plot. Whatever the truth, the Houses of York and Mortimer appear to have been working together far earlier than scholars tend to acknowledge.

Anne married Richard of Conisbrough, the younger brother of Edward duke of York at some point between 1406 and 1408. They married without parental consent, in haste and without informing their closest relatives until afterwards. It may well be that their marriage was agreed upon during the events of 1405. However, they were too closely related to marry without a dispensation, which they had not done, so the marriage was invalid. Perhaps Anne was pregnant at the time of their marriage, or they had fallen in love and would not wait. We do not know. There were no financial benefits to the match for Richard of Conisbrough was as poor as Anne and with two brothers and a sister it was unlikely that she would ever inherit the Mortimer wealth, lands and titles in full, if at all. On May 23rd 1408 Pope Gregory XII granted permission for their marriage and they were forced to live apart for a short while, do penance and then marry again. Their daughter Isabel was born the following year. If there was an earlier child, then Anne either miscarried or the child was stillborn or died in early infancy. There is sometimes a Henry recorded, but this cannot be verified. Perhaps this mysterious Henry was their first child, and named after Henry IV to please him.

In early 1409 after a lengthy siege, Harlech Castle in Wales fell. Anne’s uncle Sir Edmund Mortimer had been killed during the siege and his wife Catrin, son Lionel and three daughters were all sent to the Tower of London. It is not known what happened to Glyn Dwr himself, he quite simply vanished into Wales- and history. Anne herself lived at Conisbrough Castle with her husband and daughter in extreme financial straits. Even their home was theirs through the kindness of her brother in law Edward duke of York. The marriage itself however; appears to have been happy. Anne died circa September 22nd 1411 aged 21, giving birth to a son Richard. She was buried at Kings Langley with her husbands parents. In 1877 the tomb was opened and three coffins discovered, two quickly identified as Edmund of Langley and his wife Isabella of Castile. The third, presumed to be that of Anne, revealed a small woman under the age of thirty with long auburn hair.

Anne is largely forgotten by history. However, had she of lived to a ripe old age she would have seen her only son Richard become the duke of York as well as the earl of March, and just maybe, she might have seen her grandson Edward, earl of March become King Edward IV. Although she lived for just 21 years, Anne is an ancestor of every King and Queen of Britain from 1509.


* Anne’s year of birth is commonly thought to have occurred in 1390 however the family chronicle clearly states that she was born in the 12th year of Richard II’s reign, that is 1389.

*We have no exact date for Anne’s death but it is presumed to have taken place either during or shortly after the birth of her son Richard on 21st/22nd September.

* Anne’s parents were underage at the time of her birth and were most certainly not in Ireland. She was born in Hampshire where the Mortimers held lands.


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