Protestant & Heretic

Well the end of Showtimes series, The Tudors draws near. And I have just watched episode 9 today. Yes I know I am behind the times, however there was a woman to write about . . . no not Catherine Parr. For she, is highly remembered as Henry’s sixth wife. No, I am talking about Anne Askew. Anne was an English poet and a Protestant who was persecuted as a heretic. Why is she so important? Anne was the only woman on record to have been tortured before her execution.

Born into a noble family in Lincolnshire, during her teens she was forced by her father to marry Thomas Kyme, as a replacement for her sister who had died. As an act of rebellion against her husband, anne refused to adopt the “Kyme” name.  Needless to say her marriage did not go well, on  several occasions Anne went to London to ask for divorce through justicifaction of the scripture (1 Corinthians, 7.15). Eventually, Anne left her husband and went to London where she made herself known by speaking out against the Church of England. Her rebellion included giving sermons and distributing Protestant books.  Her behaviour led to her first arrest, her husband was sent for and was ordered to take Anne back to Lincolnshire. Again Anne left her husband and returned to London.

In the last year of Henry VIII’s reign, Askew was caught up in a court struggle between religious traditionalists and evangelicals. Stephen Gardiner was telling the king that diplomacy – the prospect of an alliance with the 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, according to McCulloch, “legally bizarre and clearly desperate”, in the context of the king’s failing health. The persons 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 Ayscough 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 Askew in the Tower, Edmund Bonner and Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. The intention of her interrogators may have been to implicate Catherine Parr, the Queen Consort 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 was arrested for the second time, were she was examined in June of 1546 by Martin Bowes. Sir Anthony Kingston was ordered to torture Anne in an attempt to force to name others. Evidence from Anne’s own account, written while in prison, Anne was only tortured once. Anne was taken from her cell, was shown the rack and was asked to name those who believed like her. Anne refused, as a result she was asked to remove all of her clothing except her shift. Anne quietly climbed onto the rack, where her hands and feet were bound. Again Anne was asked to name accomplices, again Anne declined. The wheel began to turn and again Anne was asked as she was pulled along until Anne hung stretched out five inches above the table. Where she fainted from the pain, Anne was lowered and revived. However the procedure was done twice more, though Kingston refused to carry on anymore and sought pardon from the king.

Anne was burned at the stake on July 16, 1546, she was only 25. Anne had to be carried from the chair to which she was carried to the stake, forcebly moved to the chair fixed to the stake. The executioner hung a small bag of gunpowder to her neck, as an act of human kindness. According to witness accounts Anne did not cry out until the flames reached her chest, by then the gunpowder had exploded and Anne was dead.


About rebellioustudent

Anthropolgy and English student, extremely rebellious at heart and outspoken. I am going into my fourth year of an undergrad, after that who knows?
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