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The Mowbray Legacy - Background

A chance conversation about one of England’s great families, who in the Middle Ages had lived in the Isle of Axholme, Lincolnshire, set me on a course that would reveal local connections with great British leaders, American Presidents and a sprinkling of Hollywood’s greatest-ever stars, as well as our present Queen, two wives of Henry VIII, and a host of other famous people, including Pocahontas, the Princes in the Tower, an early American pirate, Diana, Princess of Wales and the Duchess from Alice in Wonderland. Of the more recent Mowbray descendants the name Edda Kathleen van Heemstra Hepburn-Ruston may conjure-up an image of a well-upholstered elderly European dowager, when, in fact, she was the delicately beautiful Hollywood star better known to the world as Audrey Hepburn.

However, for the most part, using our imagination as to what the Mowbrays looked like will have to be the order of the day. Try to picture hairy and haughty Robert de Mowbray in chains before the walls of Bamburgh Castle on the brink of having his eyes put out, or the dreadful plight of eleven-year-old John locked in the Tower of London with his terrified mother while his father was being hanged at York; and never forget the indomitable Katherine Neville, the Mowbray dowager who resided at Epworth and married a twenty-year-old as her fourth husband when she was nearly seventy! The Mowbrays were involved in just about everything that happened in England for four hundred years, from the Battle of Hastings to the Wars of the Roses, and played their part in its development as a nation.

The book that resulted from my wanderings up and down the country is not attempting to present itself as a definitive or academic account; its aim is to act as a resource for the local community by clarifying what the Mowbrays achieved nationally and what their connection was with that part of Lincolnshire known as the Isle of Axholme. As always, my researches have taken me to places in this lovely country of ours that I had no idea existed and have brought me into contact with some wonderfully friendly, interesting and helpful people it has been my great privilege to meet, and whom I cannot thank enough for their contributions, encouragement and support.

Marilyn Roberts


Grateful thanks are due to the following:

Helen and Arthur Beaumont of Epworth, for the enormous amount of help they have given me in and around the Isle of Axholme.

Matthew Blackbourn of the Royal Armouries, Leeds, for information on medieval warfare and on the Mowbray family.

Stan Boor, former Lord of the Haxey Hood, for information about the Haxey Hood game and on Haxey Church.

Adam Brace of York Minster Library.

Jennifer Carr, who has encouraged my endeavours for so many years.

Steven Catherall, Head of Visitor Services, Westminster Abbey, for making arrangements for me to see Anne Mowbray’s final resting place.

John Clark, Curator of Medieval History at the Museum of London.

John Blythe Dobson of Winnipeg, for guiding me to the American genealogy books.

Rev’d Ian M.G. Friars, Rector, Long Melford Church, Suffolk, for permission to photograph the stained glass window depicting Elizabeth Talbot and Elizabeth Tilney.

Joanne Griffith, custodian, Mount Grace Priory.

Pauline Harvey of Epworth, for information on the Mowbray tiles.

The Lord of the Haxey Hood (Philip Coggan) and his team for 2003.

Robert Helmerichs, for information leading to articles on Geoffrey of Coutances.

The late Professor Richard Holmes of Cranfield University (Royal Military College of Science), for help in locating information on the Battle of Neville’s Cross.

Christine Hopwood of the Friends of York Minster, for her kind hospitality and help with the York connections.

Stanley Johnson of Epworth, for the pedigree of H.M. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

Chris Keating, for his invaluable computer skills.

Cath Maloney of the Museum of London’s Archaeological Archive and Research Centre (LAARC).

Staff at the Mechanics’ Institute Library in Epworth.

The late Andrew Milson, formerly Curator of the Old Rectory in Epworth, for introducing me to the subject of the Mowbray family.

The late Miss Elizabeth J. Nall of Hoveringham, for her information on the Goushill tomb.

Staff at North Lincolnshire Libraries.

Stephen O’Connor of the National Archive (formerly Public Record Office), for his attempts to locate the Mowbray Deed.

Derek Palgrave of the Palgrave Society, for information on the pirate Palgrave Williams.

Sara Rodger, Assistant Librarian to the Duke of Norfolk, Arundel Castle.

Dr. Mike Rogers of Lincolnshire Archives, for locating and translating the Thomas Mowbray document of 1392, and to the Archives for permission to reproduce the document here.  

St Mary’s Church, Warwick, for permission to photograph the Beauchamp tomb.

Tony Scupham-Bilton, for most of the Molesworth/De Havilland family links.

Gordon Simpson of Gordon Video Services, Scunthorpe.

Staff of The Society of Genealogists, London.

Wendy Sterry for assistance with the Norfolk connections.

The City and County of Swansea for the photograph of Alina de Mowbray.

Ron Thornton of Owston Ferry, for access to the Carthusian Monastery at Low Melwood.

Tower of London – former assistant curator Jeremy Ashbee, now of English Heritage.

Eileen Wallace, Castle Secretary, Arundel.

Leigh Wetherall Dickson of the Churches’ Conservation Trust, for information on the Mowbray stained glass in the Holy Trinity Church in York and for permission to photograph the same.

Thanks also to the staff at the York City Archives, the Borthwick Institute in York and the North Yorkshire Archives at Northallerton for making searches of their indexes, and to William Hodges of the Bodleian Library, Oxford, who tried to locate the original information on Lady Anne Mowbray’s wedding.

The Mowbray Legacy Acknowledgements Back to Top