History's HEROES? 1521 - 1546

Anne Askew

Who was she?

Things you may not know about Anne Askew

Now widely known as Askew, her name is more accurately spelt Ayscough. More
Her family had close family ties to the court of King Henry VIII. More
She was forced into marriage as a substitute for her sister Martha who had died. More
Anne never referred to herself by her married name. More
Very little is known of her domestic life or children. More
She was a woman of very strong and sincere beliefs. More
She was intelligent and witty as well as courageous. More
Anne was a 'gospeler'. That is someone who knew large parts of the bible by heart and could preach about it. More
Sir Anthony Kingston, the Constable of the Tower of London, was so impressed with the way Anne behaved that he refused to torture her. More
Anne Askew is the only woman on record to have been tortured at the Tower of London. More
A link between Anne’s sister and the Duchess of Suffolk may have been used by the plotters to link Anne to the Queen's court More
A few days before Anne was burned, the Privy Council seized Queen Catherine's estate books. More
Anne had to be carried on a chair to her execution. More
Her body was covered in gunpowder before her execution. More
So many people turned out for the execution that there was hardly enough room to carry it out. More
At her execution there was a sudden thunderstorm and a loud clap of thunder. More
She was the last martyr in the reign of Henry VIII. More
She became more famous dead than when alive. More
In Victorian times an Anne Askew doll was produced, complete with the rack and stake. More

Anne Askew in brief

Then they did put me on the rack because I confessed no ladies or gentlemen to be of my opinion; and thereon they kept me a long time and because I lay still and did not cry, my Lord Chancellor and Master Rich took pains to rack me with their own hands till I was nigh dead."

Anne Askew (or Ayscough) was a woman of courage and strong beliefs. She was tortured, in the Tower of London, as a Protestant heretic for preaching in London and handing out Protestant leaflets, before being burned at the stake.

Anne was one example of the many brave men and women, both Catholics and Protestants, in Tudor times, willing to die for their beliefs. Anne lived during the reign of King Henry VIII, at a time when it was dangerous to have strong Catholic or Protestant views. She had an enquiring mind, strong faith and sincerity and was willing to stand up and preach despite the fact that, as a woman of high social status, this was bound to attract the attention of the authorities.

What was exceptional about Anne was that despite being arrested, interrogated, and put on the rack (a device so fearful that most victims confessed whatever was required of them), she refused to give names or implicate others, including women at court close to Queen Catherine Parr. She also refused to be silent, arguing forcefully and confounding her accusers with her knowledge and learning. After her ordeal, no longer capable of walking, she was taken to her execution in a chair and fastened to the stake by a chain to hold her up. Again she refused to recant and was burned in front of a great crowd. She was only 25 years of age. 

Anne Askew Picture Gallery

Source documents

Transcript of Ballad
The Ballad of Anne Askew
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