Anne Neville’s Portraits

Source: Luton Culture
Source: Luton Culture

(I meant to write this a few days ago, on the anniversary of Anne’s death, but technical difficulties intervened. However, it seems strangely appropriate to be writing this post literally during a solar eclipse, as the day of Anne’s death was the day of a great solar eclipse as well.)

The picture above was kindly sent to me by Luton Culture, when I asked to see a more detailed version of this particular corner of the Luton Guild Book’s frontispiece. (See here in its entirety, but in less detail.) The figures who have been identified on the frontispiece are Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, with Archbishop Rotherham in the foreground; but I believe this piece has other hidden treasures as well.

In short: I believe the lady in blue on the right is Anne Neville – and that would make this the most realistic likeness we have of her.

Let us first consider the pictures we know to represent Anne. None of them are especially satisfactory as portraits, but when you look at them in close detail, they do give more information than the low-quality versions that are usually in circulation. (Click the image to see it in full size.)

Portraits of Anne Neville
First picture: detail from the Rous Roll, cropped from an image purchased from the British Library; second: detail from the Beauchamp Pageant, likewise cropped from an image purchased from the British library; third: taken from my own copy of a facsimile edition of the Salisbury Roll.

What we can gather from the first two is a slender young woman with an oval face; soft features of somewhat child-like proportions; a small straight nose; a smallish pouty mouth; a high forehead; and a rather weak chin (the like of which can also be seen on the effigy of her aunt Joan Neville, Countess of Arundel).

The third picture tells us less. The women on the Salisbury Roll conform to a specific template: the earlier women of the family are practically identical to each other. Anne, Richard, and Anne’s mother (alongside her husband, whose face is covered with a helmet) are later additions, and the artist follows the earlier template, but there’s enough differentiation on the level of detail to show that some small degree of realistic representation is attempted. At the very least, Anne has a smaller chin and nose than her predecessors.

Anne’s hair here is a lighter shade of red than her mother’s, but it’s hard to tell the colour of her eyes; there seems to be a tinge of blue paint in them, but it might also be green. (Richard’s eyes on this picture are, strangely enough, flesh-coloured.)

For the sake of comparison, here are the pictures of her mother, the Countess of Warwick, from the same sources. As you can see, the facial features – though drawn in a simplistic fashion – are quite constant between them.

Portraits of Anne Beauchamp, Countess of Warwick
Portraits of Anne Beauchamp, Countess of Warwick

Another interesting picture is a court scene from Writhe’s Garter Book. (I’ll post other fascinating detail images from this book later on, as I believe it may show a scene from the Garter ceremony of Elizabeth Woodville’s son, the Marquis of Dorset.) Here are the women who are seated on the other side of the King:

Detail from the Garter ceremony scene in Writhe's Garter Book
Source: taken from my own copy of the facsimile edition of Writhe’s Garter Book.

It’s an interesting example of a clumsily drawn picture that nonetheless clearly differentiates between the people it represents. Just as an intriguing example, look at the woman who sits on her own in the background, in the middle of the picture above. She is drawn with a few simple lines, but the proportions of her face, her full lips and her large eyes make her look much like the full-lipped and large-eyed pretty young woman who also appears in the Luton picture. (I’d love to know who she is. As an aside, the woman beside her in the Luton picture bears something of a resemblance to Elizabeth Woodville, so, considering her rank, I think there’s a possibility she might be Elizabeth’s younger sister Catherine, the Duchess of Buckingham.)

The first women in the foreground of the Garter ceremony scene are clearly royal, judging by their apparel and by their position in the picture. At first I took them to be the King’s two sisters, but if the picture does depict Dorset’s Garter ceremony in 1476, the other woman can’t be Anne of York, who had died in January 1476. In that case, the first woman in red, who has a white rose pinned to her headdress, might even be the King’s mother Cecily. (On the other hand, Anne of York might be depicted posthumously as well.)

The next pair of women are arm-in-arm, and I believe them to be the Neville sisters. I admit the other one would be a rather poor depiction of Isabel, but the lady in the red dress does conform to Anne’s facial ‘type’ from the previous pictures.

Now, coming back to the Luton Guild Book. The woman behind the Queen is obviously one of the King’s sisters, judging by the royal coat of arms on her cape. (She also bears a resemblance to the second woman in the picture from Writher’s Garter Book; the one who has either a pearl trim or gold embroidery along the edge of her headdress.) The women behind her would be the ones who are next in rank: the wives of the King’s brothers. I suggest that the woman in red is Isabel Neville, Duchess of Clarence, compared here with her picture from the Rous Roll:

Portraits of Isabel Neville, Duchess of Clarence

I think there is a considerable similarity in the facial features, with a chin and nose much more pointed than Anne’s.

If that one is Isabel, rank-wise it would make sense for the woman beside her to be her sister Anne. The facial features would match as well (again, click the collage to view in full size):


Indeed, I think there is a startling similarity between the last two pictures – potential depictions of Anne, taken from the same angle.


If Anne and Isabel are the ladies in the picture, then there’s a possibility that the Luton Guild Book holds another hidden treasure as well: a picture of Richard as a young Duke of Gloucester, as well as a picture of George, Duke of Clarence. I believe there is a strong possibility that the man in blue is Clarence, and the man in green Gloucester.


This detail is cropped from the image of the frontispiece on Mediaeval Imaginations by the University of Cambridge, but it would be interesting to see this part in closer detail, as well.


20 thoughts on “Anne Neville’s Portraits

  1. I wrote this comment once before, but for some reason it didn’t show.

    I can see why you’d think the man in blue could be George based on his social position. However, he looks nothing like any of the surviving portraits and depictions of George.

    I think the man in blue may be Buckingham; though we don’t have any descriptions of him (as far as I know), this figure bears a strong resemblance to the 16th century portraits of his son Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham.


  2. My attempts to post Tinypic photos in another post didn’t work. Oh well. I really wanted to ask about some portraits of Anne Neville, Isabel Neville and other 15th century ladies, the photos of which can be seen floating around online, especially on Pinterest. They look like they could be from 16th century (obviously they can’t be contemporary, as they would be mentioned) and copied from older protraits, but I’ve never seen any info about them. I was struck by how much the portraits of Anne and Isabel look like full painting versions of these portraits from the Luton Guild Book.

    Another thing, while I’ve said before that the man in blue doesn’t look like George at all, but looks like he could be Buckingham, I’ve also thought about the possibility of the man standing on Richard’s left being George, but wasn’t sure. Among the illustrations in the new book by John Ashdown Hill, “Wars of the Roses”, there are several details from the 1500 Coventry Tapestry. Besides the picture that was supposed to represent Richard III, which can be found online, there are also images of figures apparently supposed to represent Cardinal Beaufort, Edward of Lancaster, and George, Duke of Clarence. I think that the George image has some similarities in feature with the man standing on Richard’s left. I’ve got no electronic version of it, but I’ll scan the picture from the book.


    1. timetravellingbunny –

      Oh dear, oh dear – I’m so very sorry about ignoring your comments – I didn’t do so on purpose. (One of them was even stuck in the ‘pending’ folder.) I haven’t posted anything on this blog for months, and I assumed I would get an email notification, should any new non-spammy comments appear, as I did before. Guess not! :/ I got no notification at all of your comments – or if I did, those notifications must have gone into my spam folder.

      Anyway, I apologise again. I’ll email you as you’re probably not checking this page anymore!

      Re: the man in blue – I would be very interested to see the picture of the tapestry. I haven’t bought Ashdown-Hill’s new book yet, though I mean to do so soon. I’m not really aware of other contemporary portraits of George than the Rous Roll (which gives him a rather full face) and the Beauchamp Pageant. The Beauchamp Pageant one actually looks a lot like the man in blue in the Luton Guild Book – it’s from the same angle, too. I’ve got very detailed images of both: I’ll post them for you here tomorrow, for comparison.

      As for the pictures of Anne and Isabel, the pictures unfortunately didn’t come through! Could you please link to them?


      1. Many thanks, timetravellingbunny – very interesting indeed! I’ll reply properly when I get my laptop back from repairs (I’m v. bad at typing on touch screens). I can definitely see the resemblance…! Beyond the resemblance, though, were there other reasons mentioned for the identification?


    2. So here’s the comparison with portraits of Clarence (click on the image to enlarge, if necessary):

      Beauchamp Pageant on the left; Rous Roll on the right. (The latter obviously being the work of a much superior artist.) I sharpened the Luton Guild Book image as much as possible so that we’d see the outlines of the man’s face, but it’s really hard to tell because the image is so low-quality and pixelated. I do see a similarity, but the chin is strange. The picture may look significantly different in real life, though, because of the smudginess here.

      In terms of rank, I can’t think who else it might be, if not Clarence. But you never know…


      1. Thank you for your answer and for posting the pictures! And for even taking an effort to e-mail me – but don’t worry, it’s not necessary – I usually check the “notify me of new comments via email” option whenever I comment on WordPress blogs, so I get all replies and new comments by e-mail in any case.

        I’ve never seen the close-up of the George portrait from the Beauchamp pageant before – I’ve only seen a picture of the entire pageant and the detail with Anne, Richard and Edward of Lancaster. I can see what you mean now – there are definite similarities, maybe not so much in the features as in the facial expression and angle, too much to be a coincidence; maybe they were both using the same portrait as a source, but they ended up emphasizing different features or changing them. But without having seen the Beauchamp pageant George portrait, I had assumed that the identification of the man in blue as George was based only on status… which makes sense, but I couldn’t see any similarity with the Rous Roll portrait, which I had seen, or the later, non-contemporary portraits that may have been based on the Rous Roll, or maybe some other portrait that’s now lost? The face in the Luton Guild Book looks really round and plump, which threw me off; I don’t think that his face in the Rous Roll looks full or round. The Beauchamp pageant, in fact, makes his face look really thin as well as and heart-shaped, and they overdid the pointy chin. Also, George’s most distinctive feature in the Rous Roll and later portraits, including the Coventry tapestry, is a relatively long, straight nose; this also isn’t present in the Luton Guild Book, his nose there is not very long or big and even looks turned-up (like those in Cecily Neville’s portrait with her father and siblings, or Edward in his portraits). That’s the one feature that’s most similar to the Beauchamp pageant. But the shape of the face and chin is quite different from both portraits.
        But maybe the Luton Guild Book would look different if we could see it in more detail.
        The only feature that seems constant in all three is the small, heart-shaped mouth (similar to Edward’s ).

        The Beauchamp portraits generally look pretty odd – almost like caricatures. It’s as if it’s an exercise how to make everyone look as ugly as possible. Richard’s face looks squashed, the face of Edward of Lancaster looks fat, and George’s is even worse than either of theirs.

        I’ll scan the Coventry tapestry picture from the book, and maybe some others as well – the book also has pictures of figures thought to represent Edward of Lancaster and Cardinal Beaufort, in addition to the unusually fair-haired Richard portrait that can be found online. (I think that the Coventry Tapestry and the Broken Sword portrait probably were copied from the same source. Which may have even been the same original portrait that the Society of Antiquaries portrait was copied from.) George, if that’s him, doesn’t look that great there – there’s something odd about his right eye on that portrait, or at least it looks that way in the book – but it has a long, straight nose, similar facial shape as Richard’s apart from a smaller chin, wavy brown hair and dark – probably brown – eyes, that can be seen on later portraits (again, they were probably using the same source as the Coventry tapestry).

        I don’t know if I will be able to link any pictures, it didn’t work the last time when I tried to post tinypic links. I have to figure out how to post pictures on WordPress.


      2. I’ve scanned the pictures from John Ashdown Hill’s “Wars of the Roses”. This is the picture of the detail from the Coventry Tapestry (cca 1500) which is supposed to represent George, Duke of Clarence:


      3. Well, replying on WordPress can be tricky!

        Unfortunately, no, the book doesn’t offer any explanations how George and others were identified.
        It’s just credited in the illustrations page “George, Duke of Clarence from the Coventry Tapestry, courtesy of St. Mary’s Guildhall and Coventry City Council.” Ditto for other images from the tapestry.

        St. Mary’s Guildhall has a website with a page dedicated to the Coventry Tapestry and a picture of the entire tapestry, but no photos of details, and there’s just a PDF article about how Richard was identified (besides the obvious similarity to the Broken Sword portrait), that he was meant to be a baddie in the story about the “sainted” Henry VI, etc.


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