Anne Askew, burned as a heretic in the reign of Henry VIII,* was a woman of exceptional bravery. She was also forthright and articulate and had the fore­sight to keep a record of her travails as a testament to her faith, though we do not know how much of what was posthumously published was revised from Anne's actual words. Anne was well born and well educated; she was the daugh­ter of Sir William Askew in Lincolnshire.
Anne's older sister Martha was betrothed to a local farmer, Thomas Kyme, whose father owned extensive lands, and on Martha's death in 1539, Anne's father insisted that she marry him instead. It was a disastrously unhappy mar­riage. Anne was already a committed Protestant. Kyme was appalled by his wife's beliefs, her conflicts with priests, and her refusal to be silenced. Despite the couple having two children, Kyme finally threw Anne out, but when he reconsidered, she refused to return. According to Askew, Kyme was not a true Christian, and thus their marriage was invalid. Anne left Lincolnshire to seek an annulment from her marriage and a community of the faithful in London. Anne found her community and gained introduction to some of the women who surrounded Henry VIII's sixth wife, Katherine Parr, who was also sympathetic to Reformed ideas.
In 1545 Anne's outspoken denial of transubstantiation led to her arrest and an examination for heresy, but her evasive answers to the questions placed made it difficult to condemn her. The intervention of several influential friends finally led to her freedom. Anne apparently began to keep records of her examinations as a way to bear witness to her faith; these were eventually published after her death. Anne was arrested again the following year. When she refused to recant, she was convicted of heresy and condemned to death. She was then moved from Newgate Prison to the Tower of London for further questioning.
In 1546 it was clear that Henry VIII's health was failing, and the conservative faction at court was in a desperate power struggle with those of Reformed leanings. Thomas Wriothesley, lord chancellor, Stephen Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, and Richard Rich, solicitor general, attempted to force Anne to incriminate Catherine Parr and other Protestant ladies at court. To try to force her to implicate others, Anne was placed on the rack. When the lieutenant of the Tower refused to continue racking her, Wriothesley and Rich continued the job themselves.
Anne absolutely refused to recant or to name anyone else. She was so hurt by the torture that she had to be carried to the stake at Smithfield, where she was burned on 16 July 1546. Anne's brilliant answers to her examinations were publicized early in the reign of Henry's son Edward VI less than a year after her death by the Protestant polemicist John Bale.* Anne's words were available to an even wider audience in the Elizabethan period because of her place of honor as one of the martyrs in John Foxe's* Acts and Monuments.
E. Beilin, ed., The Examinations of Anne Askew, 1996.
D. Wilson, A Tudor Tapestry: Men, Women, and Society in Reformation England, 1972.
Carole Levin

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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