Religious Persecution: Anne Askew

Anne Askew16 July 1546

On the 16th of July 1546, the Protestant martyr, Anne Askew was burned at the stake for her beliefs. Anne had been unfairly racked “till her bones and joints were almost plucked asunder, in such sort as she was carried away in a chair”. She had been imprisoned in the Tower by Thomas Wriothesley and Richard Rich in an attempt to force her to implicate Katherine Parr (the Queen) and other prominent court members including: Anne Seymour and her husband Edward Seymour. She never gave up their names.

Anne Askew, John Lascelles, John Adams & Nicholas Belenian
Anne Askew, John Lascelles, John Adams & Nicholas Belenian

Anne Askew was strong in her beliefs – she truly believed that everyone should be able to read the bible for themselves and not only rely on the clergy to interpret it for them. Something we take for granted in the 21st century.

John Foxe,English historian and martyrologist, recorded the event in his book Actes and Monuments which was an book that emphasized the sufferings of English Protestants. Here is what he had to say:

John Foxe

Hitherto we have entreated of this good woman: now it remaineth that we touch somewhat as touching her end and martyrdom. She being born of such stock and kindred that she might have lived in great wealth and prosperity, if she would rather have followed the world than Christ, but now she was so tormented, that she could neither live long in so great distress, neither yet by the adversaries be suffered to die in secret. Wherefore the day of her execution was appointed, and she brought into Smithfield in a chair, because she could not go on her feet, by means of her great torment. When she was brought unto the stake she was tied by the middle with a chain that held up her body. When all things were thus prepared to the fire, Dr. Shaxton, who was then appointed to preach, began his sermon. Anne Askew, hearing and answering again unto him, where he said well, confirmed the same; where he said amiss, “There,” said she, “he misseth, and speaketh without the book.”

The sermon being finished, the martyrs standing there tied at three several stakes ready ready to their martyrdom, began their prayers. The multitude and concourse of people was exceeding; the place where they stood being railed about to keep out the press. Upon the bench under St. Bartholomew’s Church sat Wriothesley, chancellor of England; the old Duke of Norfolk, the old earl of Bedford, the lord mayor, with divers others. Before the fire should be set unto them, one of the bench, hearing that they had gunpowder about them, and being alarmed lest the faggots, by strength of the gunpowder about them, and being alarmed lest the faggots, by strength of the gunpowder, would come flying about their ears, began to be afraid; but the earl of Bedford, declaring unto him how the gunpowder was not laid under the faggots, but only about their bodies, to rid them out of their pain; which having vent, there was no danger to them of the faggots, so diminished that fear.

Then Wriothesley, lord chancellor, sent to Anne Askew letters offering to her the King’s pardon if she would recant; who refusing once to look upon them, made this answer again, that she came not thither to deny her Lord and Master. Then were the letters like-wise offered unto the others, who, in like manner, following the constancy of the the woman, denied not only to receive them, but also to look upon them. Whereupon the lord mayor, commanding fire to be put unto them, cried with a loud voice, “Fiat justicia.” (Let justice be done)

And thus the good Anne Askew, with these blessed martyr being troubled so many manner of ways, and having passed through so many torments, having now ended the long course of her agonies, being compassed in with flames of fire, as a blessed sacrifice unto God, she slept in the Lord A.D. 1546, leaving behind her a singular example of christian constancy for all men to follow.

Possible portrait of Anne Askew
Possible portrait of Anne Askew


Ridgway, Claire; This Day in Tudor History: July 16
The Anne Boleyn Files: Anne Askew Sentenced to Death (June 18, 2010)
Luminarium: Encyclopedia Project – Anne Askew
Wikipedia: John Foxe

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7 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Thank you for bringing her to our attention. Must have been a follower of William Tyndale. I will enjoy finding out more about her life!

  2. Is this where we get our word “askew” from, considering how badly twisted and turned in Anne’s limbs were? The word seems to have come into usage in the 1500s, yet I can find no reference to its origin. It seems too coincidental that the result of her torture would be the very definition today of the word. Anyone have any thoughts on this?

  3. Good article. I would like to have seen what the situation with the Queen was about that brought about this situation? What was the Queen being accused of?

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