Anne Askew

Anne Askew was born in Lincolnshire in 1521. When she was fifteen her family forced her to marry Thomas Kyme. Anne rebelled against her husband by refusing to adopt his surname. The couple also argued about religion. Anne was a supporter of Martin Luther, while her husband was a Catholic.

Eventually Anne left her husband and went to London where she gave sermons and distributed Protestant books. These books had been banned and so she was arrested. Her husband was sent for and ordered to take her home to Lincolnshire. Anne soon escaped and it was not long before she was back preaching in London.

Anne was arrested again. This time. Sir Anthony Kingston, the Constable of the Tower of London, was ordered to torture Anne in an attempt to force her to name other Protestants. According to Anne: "Then they did put me on the rack, because I confessed no ladies or gentlemen, to be of my opinion... the Lord Chancellor and Master Rich took pains to rack me with their own hands, till I was nearly dead. I fainted... and then they recovered me again. After that I sat two long hours arguing with the Lord Chancellor, upon the bare floor... With many flattering words, he tried to persuade me to leave my opinion... I said that I would rather die than break my faith."

Kingston was so impressed with the way Anne behaved that he refused to carry on torturing her, and Henry VIII's Lord Chancellor had to take over. After a long period of torture Anne still refused to give names or to recant. Her body was so badly damaged that she had to be carried to her trial. Found guilty of being a Protestant, Anne was condemned to death and burnt at the stake.

Woodcut, The Death of Anne Askew (1563)
Woodcut, The Death of Anne Askew (1563)

Primary Sources

(1) While she was in the Tower of London, the Protestant, Anne Askew, wrote her own account of being tortured. A copy of this account was then smuggled out to her friends. (29 June, 1546)

Then they did put me on the rack, because I confessed no ladies or gentlemen, to be of my opinion... the Lord Chancellor and Master Rich took pains to rack me with their own hands, till I was nearly dead. I fainted... and then they recovered me again. After that I sat two long hours arguing with the Lord Chancellor, upon the bare floor... With many flattering words, he tried to persuade me to leave my opinion... I said that I would rather die than break my faith.

(2) John Foxe, Book of Martyrs (1563)

The Lord Chancellor sent to Anne Askew letters offering her the king's pardon if she would recant.. she refused... and thus the good Anne Askew ended the course of her long agonies and was burnt at the stake.