Anne Askew (née Ayscough, Ascue; married name Anne Kyme; 1521 –16 July 1546) was an English writer, poet, and Protestant martyr who was condemned as a heretic in England in the reign of Henry VIII of England. Apart from Margaret Cheyne, wife of Sir John Bulmer, who was similarly tortured and executed after the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1537, she is the only other woman on record known to have been both tortured in the Tower of London and burnt at the stake. She is also one of the earliest-known female poets to compose in the English language and the first Englishwoman to demand a divorce (especially as an innocent party on scriptural grounds).
Anne Askew was born in 1521 in Lincolnshire, England. William Askew, a wealthy landowner, was her father. William was a gentleman in the court of King Henry VIII, as well as a juror in the trial of Anne Boleyn's co-accused.Her mother was Elizabeth Wrotessley, of Reading, Berkshire. Askew was the fourth of their five children, which included her brothers Francis and Edward, and sisters Martha and Jane. She also had two stepbrothers, Christopher and Thomas, by her father's second wife Elizabeth Hutton. She was also related to Robert who led the Pilgrimage of Grace.
William Askew had arranged that his eldest daughter, Martha, be married to Thomas Kyme. When Anne was 15 years old, Martha died. Her father decided Anne would take Martha's place in the marriage to Thomas to save money.
Askew was a devout Protestant, studying the Bible and memorizing verses, and remained true to her belief for the entirety of her life. Her reading convinced her of the falsity of the doctrine of transubstantiation, and her pronouncements created some controversy in Lincoln.Her husband was a Catholic, and the resultant marriage was brutal. Askew had two children with Kyme before he threw her out for being Protestant. It is alleged that Askew was seeking to divorce Kyme, so this did not upset her.
Upon being thrown out, Askew moved to London. Here she met other Protestants, including the Anabaptist Joan Bocher,and studied the Bible. Askew stuck to her maiden name, rather than her husband's name. While in London, she became a "gospeller" or a preacher.
In March 1545, Kyme had Askew arrested. She was brought back to Lincolnshire, where he demanded that she stay. The order was short lived; she escaped and returned to London to continue preaching. In early 1546, she was arrested again, but released. In May 1546, she was arrested again, and tortured in the Tower of London (she is the only woman recorded to have been tortured there apart from Margaret Cheyney, wife of Sir John Bulmer). She was ordered to name like-minded women, but refused. The torturers, Lord Chancellor Thomas Wriothesley and Sir Richard Rich, used the rack, but Askew refused to renounce her beliefs. On 18 June 1546, she was convicted of heresy, and was condemned to be burned at the stake.
On 16 July 1546, Askew was martyred in Smithfield, London. Because of the torture she had endured, she had to be carried to the stake on a chair. She burned to death, along with three other Protestants,John Lassells, Nicholas Belenian, also known as John Hemsley ("a priest"), and John Adams, aka John Hadlam ("a tailor"). A secret supporter of the cause slipped gunpowder to the condemned four, which killed them quickly when it exploded.
In the last year of Henry VIII's reign, Askew was caught up in a court struggle between religious traditionalists and reformers. Stephen Gardiner was telling the king that diplomacy – the prospect of an alliance with the Roman Catholic Emperor Charles V – required a halt to religious reform. The traditionalist party pursued tactics tried out three years previously, with the arrests of minor evangelicals in the hope that they would implicate those who were more highly placed. In this case measures were taken that were "legally bizarre and clearly desperate".The people rounded up were in many cases strongly linked to Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, who spent most of the period absent from court in Kent: Askew's brother Edward was one of his servants, and Nicholas Shaxton who was brought in to put pressure on Askew to recant was acting as a curate for Cranmer at Hadleigh. Others in Cranmer's circle who were arrested were Rowland Taylor and Richard Turner.
The traditionalist party included Thomas Wriothesley and Richard Rich, who racked Anne Askew in the Tower, Edmund Bonner and Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. The intention of her interrogators may have been to implicate the Queen, Catherine Parr, through the latter's ladies-in-waiting and close friends, who were suspected of having also harboured Protestant beliefs. These ladies included the Queen's sister, Anne Parr, Katherine Willoughby, Anne Stanhope, and Anne Calthorpe. Other targets were Lady Denny and Lady Hertford, wives of evangelicals at court.
Anne Askew underwent two "examinations" before she was finally burned at the stake for heresy. On 10 March 1545, the aldermen of London ordered for her to be detained under the Six Articles Act. Askew stood trial before the "quest", which was an official heresy hearing commission. She was then cross examined by the chancellor of the Bishop of London, Edmund Bonner. He ordered that she be imprisoned for 12 days. During this time she refused to make any sort of confession. Her cousin Brittany was finally allowed to visit her after the 12 days to bail her out.
On 19 June 1546, Askew was, yet again, locked away in prison. She was then subject to a two-day-long period of cross examination led by Chancellor Sir Thomas Wriothesley, Stephen Gardiner, The Bishop of Winchester (John Dudley), and Sir William Paget (the king's principal secretary). They threatened her with execution, but she still refused to confess or to name fellow Protestants. She was then ordered to be tortured. Her torturers did so, probably motivated by the desire for Askew to admit that Queen Catherine was also a practicing Protestant. inches above its bed and slowly stretched. In her own account written from prison, Askew said she fainted from pain, and was lowered and revived. This procedure was repeated twice. Sir Anthony Kingston, then Constable of the Tower of London, refused to carry on torturing her, left the tower, and sought a meeting with the king at his earliest convenience to explain his position and also to seek his pardon, which the king granted. Wriothesley and Rich set to work themselves. They turned the handles so hard that Anne was drawn apart, her shoulders and hips were pulled from their sockets and her elbows and knees were dislocated. Askew's cries could be heard in the garden next to the White Tower where the Lieutenant's wife and daughter were walking. Askew gave no names, and her ordeal ended when the Lieutenant ordered her to be returned to her cell.According to her own account, and that of gaolers within the Tower, she was tortured only once. She was taken from her cell, at about ten o'clock in the morning, to the lower room of the White Tower. She was shown the rack and asked if she would name those who believed as she did. Askew declined to name anyone at all, so she was asked to remove all her clothing except her shift. Askew then climbed onto the rack, and her wrists and ankles were fastened. Again, she was asked for names, but she would say nothing. The wheel of the rack was turned, pulling Askew along the device and lifting her so that she was held taut about 5
Anne Askew was burned at the stake at Smithfield, London, aged 24, on 16 July 1546, with John Lascelles, Nicholas Belenian and John Adams.She was carried to execution in a chair wearing just her shift, as she could not walk and every movement caused her severe pain. She was dragged from the chair to the stake which had a small seat attached to it, on which she sat astride. Chains were used to bind her body firmly to the stake at the ankles, knees, waist, chest and neck.
Those who saw her execution were impressed by her bravery, and reported that she did not scream until the flames reached her chest [ citation needed ]. Prior to their death, the prisoners were offered one last chance at pardon. Bishop Shaxton mounted the pulpit and began to preach to them. His words were in vain, however. Askew listened attentively throughout his discourse. When he spoke anything she considered to be the truth, she audibly expressed agreement; but when he said anything contrary to what she believed Scripture stated, she exclaimed: "There he misseth, and speaketh without the book."
Askew wrote a first-person account of her ordeal and her beliefs, which was published as The Examinations by John Bale, and later in John Foxe's Acts and Monuments of 1563, which proclaims her as a Protestant martyr. The story of Askew's martyrdom was thus written into the Protestant hagiography; but as MacCulloch comments, it is written under a version of her unmarried name (which he attributes to some embarrassment over her desertion? of her husband Kyme).MacCulloch notes that Robert Parsons picked up on this aspect of the story.
John Bale and John Foxe's writings on Askew are the most well-known accounts of her life, but a closer look at their writing causes some critics to question whether these editors help or hurt readers' understanding of Anne Askew. John Bale was the first to publish any work commemorating Askew's life, and he claimed to have solely taken Askew's writings and added only a preface and notes; but critics Thomas S. Freeman and Sarah Elizabeth Wall contest this claim (1169). It is unlikely that Bale invented the entire text, but they find that certain quotes within Askew's narrative have a Baleian tone (1169), and some sections may have been deleted (1170). The exacts are unknown, but Bale seems to have made considerable changes to the account. They also point out that Bale's work has imposed a misogynistic (or adverse towards women) misreading on the narrative. Askew is a woman who is remembered for taking a stand against the church's oppression, but Bale insists on her being a "weak vessel of the lord" (1166). Her narrative clearly disproves this, and shows that she was an educated woman who actively fought and challenged male control. Because of these criticisms, some argue that Askew's story is improved if read independently of Bale's notes and additions in order to understand her legacy without the distraction of an intrusive author (1167). Foxe's translation and interpretation are often considered an improvement from Bale's original. He eliminated Bale's notes and frames the story more around Askew's narrative (1167). But Foxe also took some artistic liberties by altering language to make certain allusions more obvious (1171) and breaking the narrative into paragraphs (1177). Critics have noted six clear Biblical citation errors within the work (1171); and Foxe also added new information that may have become known through eyewitnesses coming forward with new details, but the exact sources are unclear (1185). While Bale is criticized and Foxe is often commended for doing a better job with capturing her narrative, it is important to point out the accuracy issues of the two texts principally responsible for Askew's legacy.It is also important to notice the impact that Bale and Foxe had on the overall reputation of martyrs of the 16th century; with Anne Askew serving as a prime example. While Askew was writing her accounts of her arrests and trial, she used strategies other men were using at this time, such as John Lascelles (Hickerson, 2006, 53). She stayed silent, did not give up her allies, and stayed true to her faith. Although, other men were doing this at the same time, Askew was highly criticized for doing so and was portrayed as a weak woman. Bale also saw this as a chance to add his thoughts and comments to her published writing to make it more legitimate in the eyes of the people (Hickerson, 2006, 56-58). Her criticism and Bale's comments changed her impact on the Protestant Reformation movement.
Anne Askew's autobiographical and published Examinations chronicle her persecution and offer a unique look into sixteenth century femininity, religion, and faith. Her writing is revolutionary because it deviates completely from what we think and expect from "Tudor women or, more specifically, Tudor women martyrs" (51). It depicts her confrontations with male authority figures of the time who challenged every aspect of life: from her progressive divorce, which she initiated, to her religious beliefs, which set her apart in England as a devout Protestant woman. Her ability to avoid indictment in 1545 points to what Paula McQuade calls Askew's "real brilliance", showing "her being familiar enough with English law to attempt to use the system to her benefit" (52). While her Examinations are a rare record of her experiences as a woman in Tudor England, they also show her unique position in this world as an educated woman. Not only was she able to write down her experiences, she was also able to correspond with select learned men of the time, such as John Lascelles and Dr. Edward Crome who was also arrested for heresy. As stated above, Askew's Examinations are imperfect and were altered by John Bale and John Foxe, but read as they were originally intended, Anne Askew's writing is one of the most important autobiographical accounts of 16th century religious turmoil we have to date, and is a testament to her intelligence and outstanding bravery.
In the episode "Secrets of the Heart" of the television series The Tudors , Askew is played by Emma Stansfield. She is executed alone, with the gunpowder that hastens her death secretly supplied by Anne Seymour, Countess of Hertford, played by Emma Hamilton.
Hugh Latimer was a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge, and Bishop of Worcester before the Reformation, and later Church of England chaplain to King Edward VI. In 1555 under the Catholic Queen Mary he was burned at the stake, becoming one of the three Oxford Martyrs of Anglicanism.
George Wishart was a Scottish Protestant Reformer and one of the early Protestant martyrs burned at the stake as a heretic. George Wishart or Wisehart was the son of James and brother of Sir John of Pitarrow, both ranking themselves on the side of the Reformers. He was educated at the University of Aberdeen, then recently founded, and travelled afterwards on the Continent. It is thought that it was while he was abroad that he first turned attention to the study of the Reformed doctrines. He engaged for some time in teaching at Montrose. Wishart afterwards proceeded to Cambridge and resided there for about six years, from 1538-1543. He returned to Scotland in the train of the Commissioners who had been appointed to arrange a marriage with Prince Edward and the Queen of Scots. He preached to the people with much acceptance at Montrose, Dundee, and throughout Ayrshire. On passing East to the Lothians, Wishart, who spoke latterly as in near prospect of death, was apprehended by Bothwell in the house of Cockburn, of Ormiston, and carried captive to St. Andrews, where he was tried by a clerical Assembly, found guilty, and condemned as an obstinate heretic. He was executed next day at the stake on Castle Green, his persecutor, Bethune, looking on the scene from the windows of the castle, where he himself was to be assassinated within three months.
Thomas Wriothesley, 1st Earl of Southampton, KG was an English peer, secretary of state, Lord Chancellor and Lord High Admiral. A naturally skilled but unscrupulous and devious politician who changed with the times and personally tortured Anne Askew, Wriothesley served as a loyal instrument of King Henry VIII in the latter's break with the Catholic church. Richly rewarded with royal gains from the Dissolution of the Monasteries, he nevertheless prosecuted Calvinists and other dissident Protestants when political winds changed.
Rowland Taylor was an English Protestant martyr during the Marian Persecutions.
Robert Crowley, was a stationer, poet, polemicist and Protestant clergyman among Marian exiles at Frankfurt. He seems to have been a Henrician Evangelical in favour of a more reformed Protestantism than the king and the Church of England sanctioned. Under Edward VI, he joined a London network of evangelical stationers to argue for reforms, sharing a vision of his contemporaries Hugh Latimer, Thomas Lever, Thomas Beccon and others of England as a reformed Christian commonwealth. He attacked as inhibiting reform what he saw as corruption and uncharitable self-interest among the clergy and wealthy. Meanwhile Crowley took part in making the first printed editions of Piers Plowman, the first translation of the Gospels into Welsh, and the first complete metrical psalter in English, which was also the first to include harmonised music. Towards the end of Edward's reign and later, Crowley criticised the Edwardian Reformation as compromised and saw the Dissolution of the Monasteries as replacing one form of corruption by another. On his return to England after the reign of Mary I, Crowley revised his chronicle to represent the Edwardian Reformation as a failure, due to figures like Thomas Seymour, 1st Baron Seymour of Sudeley, Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset and John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland. Crowley's account of the Marian martyrs represented them as a cost mostly paid by commoners. The work became a source for John Foxe's account of the period in his Actes and Monuments. Crowley held church positions in the early to mid-1560s and sought change from the pulpit and within the church hierarchy. Against the Elizabethan Religious Settlement, Crowley was a leader in the renewed vestments controversy, which eventually lost him his clerical posts. During the dispute he and other London clergy produced a "first Puritan manifesto". Late in life Crowley was restored to several church posts and appears to have charted a more moderate course in defending it from Roman Catholicism and from nonconformist factions that espoused a Presbyterian church polity.
Joan Bocher was an English Anabaptist burned at the stake for heresy during the English Reformation in the reign of Edward VI. She has also been known as Joan Boucher or Butcher, or as Joan Knell or Joan of Kent.
Nicholas Shaxton was an English Reformer and Bishop of Salisbury.
Anne Herbert, Countess of Pembroke, Baroness Herbert of Cardiff was lady-in-waiting to each of Henry VIII of England's six wives. She was the younger sister of his sixth wife, Catherine Parr.
Agnes Prest was an English Protestant martyr from the reign of the Catholic Queen Mary. She was burned at the stake at Southernhay in Exeter in 1557. According to Foxe's Book of Martyrs, and the story of Exeter Protestant Martyrs she lived near Launceston, Cornwall, and was married to a Catholic husband. She left her husband over his Catholicism, and went to be a spinner but she later on returned to him and was arrested and indicted at the Launceston Assizes. She was then put in Launceston jail and then transferred to Exeter jail. In Exeter prison, she was brought before the Bishop of Exeter, bishop Turbeville. When questioned, she denied the Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation. She was then released for a month. Whilst she was released, she is said to have met a Dutch stonemason in Exeter Cathedral who was repairing the statues of the saints beloved of the Catholics. According to Foxe, she said to him "What a madman art thou, to make them new noses, which within a few days shall all lose their heads". After that point she was returned to jail where she had many visitors, including Walter Raleigh's mother, Catherine Raleigh who praised her for her 'Godly life'. She was then tried for heresy by the Mayor of Exeter, refused to recant her beliefs and was executed by being burnt to death on 15 August 1557.
Sir William Askew was a gentleman at the court of Henry VIII of England. He has gone down in history as one of the jurors in the trial of Anne Boleyn and as the father of Anne Askew, the only woman to be tortured at the Tower of London.
-- Lines 12-21, "The Tunnyng of Elynour Rummyng" by John Skelton. The poem is thought to have been first published this year.
John Lassells was an English sixteenth-century courtier and Protestant martyr. His report to Archbishop Thomas Cranmer initiated the investigation which led to the execution of Queen Catherine Howard.
The Canterbury Martyrs were 16th-century English Protestant martyrs. They were executed for heresy in Canterbury, Kent, and were the last protestants burnt during the reign of Mary I. Their story is recorded in Foxe's Book of Martyrs.
The Stratford Martyrs were eleven men and two women who were burned at the stake together for their Protestant beliefs, either at Stratford-le-Bow, Middlesex or Stratford, Essex, both near London, on 27 June 1556 during the Marian persecutions.
The Guernsey Martyrs were three women who were burned at the stake for their Protestant beliefs, in Guernsey, Channel Islands, in 1556 during the Marian persecutions.
Sir Anthony Knyvett was an English courtier during the reign of King Henry VIII.
In England, burning was a legal punishment inflicted on women found guilty of high treason, petty treason and heresy. Over a period of several centuries, female convicts were publicly burnt at the stake, sometimes alive, for a range of activities including coining and mariticide.
The Stratford Martyrs Memorial is a memorial that commemorates the group of 11 men and two women who were burned at the stake together for their Protestant beliefs, at Stratford-le-Bow or Stratford near London in England on 27 June 1556, during the Marian persecutions.
|Wikisource has the text of the 1885–1900 Dictionary of National Biography's article about Anne Askew .|