On July 16 1546, Anne Askew along with three other Protestants, John Lascelles, John Adams and Nicholas Belenian, were burned at the stake at Smithfield in London for heresy. As we have explored in my previous post Anne has been so badly racked during her interrogations at the Tower of London that she could no longer walk. Anne was carried to the stake and was tied to it when she could not stand. John Foxe, the writer known for working to rehabilitate the reputation of Anne Boleyn, also took this Anne under his literary wing writing, “Hitherto we have entreated of this good woman: now it remaineth that we tough 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 feed, by means of her great torments. 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 appointment 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 missesth and speaketh without the book.”
The sermon being finished, the martyrs standing there tied at three several stakes ready to their martyrdom, began their prayers. The multitude and concourse of the people was exceeding; the place where their 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, 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 of their pain: which having vent, there was no danger to them of the faggots, so diminished that fear.
Then Wriothesley, lord chancellors, sent to Anne Askew letter 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 woman, denied not only to receive them, but also to look upon the,. Whereupon the lord mayor, commanding fire to be put to them, cried with a loud voice, “Fiat justicia.”
And thus the good Anne Askew, with these blessed martyrs 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 AD 1546, leaving behind her a singular example of Christian constancy for all men to follow.”
Anne Askew went to her death proudly and with admirable courage. She became the first woman not only to be racked in England, but also the first female Protestant Martyr in what would become a long succession of deaths in England’s bloody religious infighting.
**Passage taken from The Actes and Monuments of John Foxe: The Complete Edition
|The Martyrdom of Mistress Askew|
by an unknown artist ca. 1869