Ann Elizabeth Paludan, née Murray, is a granddaughter of the eminent classical scholar Gilbert Murray and his wife Lady Mary Howard. Her sister Venetia Murray became a journalist and social historian. Their parents split up when the girls were young, and their father died in Spain while covering the Spanish Civil War. Their maternal grandfather was the painter Algernon Newton RA.
Ann attended Oxford University and after graduation became a British diplomat. She married firstly John Ernest Powell-Jones and then Janus Paludan, a Danish diplomat. In 1972, she accompanied him to Beijing when he was appointed Ambassador to China. Later she returned regularly to China on research trips for her books on Chinese history, sculpture, and architecture. Ambassador Paludan then served posts in Egypt and to Iceland, after which the couple retired to northern Cumbria, England.