16 July – The burning of Anne Askew, Protestant martyr

Posted By on July 16, 2022

On this day in Tudor history, 16th July 1546, in the reign of King Henry VIII, Protestants Anne Askew, John Lascelles, John Adams and Nicholas Belenian were burned at the stake at Smithfield in London.

They’d been found guilty of heresy.

Special provision had to be made for Anne Askew as her body was so damaged due to her having been illegally racked.

In this video and transcript below, I give an account of the executions of Anne and the three men, along with some trivia about one of them.

Transcript:

On this day in Tudor history, 16th July 1546, in the reign of King Henry VIII, Protestant martyrs Anne Askew, John Lascelles, John Adams and Nicholas Belenian were burned at the stake at Smithfield in London for heresy.

If you saw my video from 18th June, you will know that twenty-five-year-old had been found guilty of heresy for her views on the sacrament of the altar and condemned to death. She had refused to recant and had been tortured, put to the rack illegally, at the Tower of London by Sir Richard Rich and Sir Thomas Wriothesley, in the hope that she would give them the names of reformers at court. She was so badly racked, “till her bones and joints were almost plucked asunder”, that on the day of her execution she had to be carried to the stake in a chair and “was tied by the middle with a chain, that held up her body”

The famous martyrologist, John Foxe, recorded the burning of Anne Askew and the men in his book “Actes and Monuments”, also known as Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. Here is what he says of Anne’s death:

“Wherefore the day of her execution was appointed, and she brought into Smithfield in a chair, because she could not go on her feet, 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 appointed 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 misseth, 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 people was exceeding; the place where they 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 out of their pain; which having vent, there was no danger to them of the faggots, so diminished that fear.
Then Wriothesley, lord chancellor, sent to Anne Askew letters 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 them. Whereupon the lord mayor, commanding fire to be put unto 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 A.D. 1546, leaving behind her a singular example of christian constancy for all men to follow.”

Trivia: John Lascelles was the man who told Archbishop Cranmer of Catherine Howard’s colourful past in autumn 1541. His sister Mary had been brought up with Catherine in the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk’s household and knew about Catherine’s relationships with Henry Manox and Francis Dereham.

Another piece of trivia is that the Dr Shaxton who preached at these burnings was Nicholas Shaxton, former Bishop of Salisbury, who had been found guilty of heresy with Anne in June 1546 but who had saved himself by recanting. I wonder how he felt preaching at their burnings.

2 thoughts on “16 July – The burning of Anne Askew, Protestant martyr”

  1. Nassim Boussaadia says:

    The treatment Anne Askew suffered is horrible and inhumane, Henry VIII was a terrible person.

  2. Christine says:

    It was unfortunately the punishment meted out to heretics, the burning was meant to purify their souls of their wickedness, I agree it was an horrendous way to die, so was boiling alive, the punishment for those found guilty of poison, Anne was executed along with several other so called heretics, one of them was John Lascelles the brother of Mary, who had lived in the household of the young Queen Catherine Howard as a child, it was he who had informed Archbishop Cranmer of the queens immoral living, Anne Askew is surely one of the most famous of those condemned to the flames for heresy, she was offered a pardon along with her fellow sufferers, but their bravery was second to none and they did not recant their beliefs, in 1555 more would follow Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley, known as the Oxford Martyrs they were condemned in the reign of Queen Mary, Latimer was seventy but the elderly did not escape the law, her father Henry V111 had condemned his own kinswoman and child’s governess Lady Salisbury a lady of sixty seven years to the block years before, young and old it made no difference to the Tudors, they were chained to their stakes long rough pieces of wood and more wood was piled around them, faggots were piled on and the pyres were lit, mercifully some died more from smoke inhalation before the flames reached their tormented bodies, some victims would have little bags of gunpowder tied to them so when the flames were lit the gunpowder would ignite and carry them to a much swifter end, it was said Anne Askew’s bones were sticking out through her skin and her poor broken body was carried on a chair to the stake, she must have looked a pitiable dreadful sight, RIP all those who suffered that day the 16th of July 1546, and likewise all those others before and after who suffered that terrible fate due to their differing religious beliefs.

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