18 June 1546 – The Trial of Anne Askew

Jun18,2015 #Anne Askew

Emma Stansfield as Anne Askew in "The Tudors".
Emma Stansfield as Anne Askew in “The Tudors”.
On 18 June 1546, twenty-five year-old Anne Askew was arraigned at London’s Guildhall for heresy, along with Nicholas Shaxton, Nicholas White and John Hadlam (Adlams or Adams). They were all found guilty and condemned to death.

Chronicler and Windsor Herald Charles Wriothesley recorded the results of the hearing:

“The eigh tenth daie of June, 1546, were arraigned at the Guilde Certaine Hall, for heresee, Doctor Nicholas Shaxston, sometyme bishop of arraigned for Salisburie; Nicholas White, of London, gentleman; Anne Kerne[Kyme], alias Anne Askewe, gentlewoman, and wiffe of Thomas Kerne [Kyme], gentleman, of Lyncolneshire; and John Hadlam, of Essex, taylor; and were this daie first indited of heresie and after arraygned on the same, and their confessed their heresies against the sacrament of the alter without any triall of a jurie, and so had judgment to be brent[burnt].”

Martyrologist John Foxe shares Anne Askew’s own account of her condemnation at Guildhall:

“They said to me there, that I was a heretic, and condemned by the law, if I would stand in my opinion. I answered, that I was no heretic, neither yet deserved I any death by the law of God. But, as concerning the faith which I uttered and wrote to the council, I would not, I said, deny it, because I knew it true. Then would they needs know, if I would deny the sacrament to be Christ’s body and blood. I said, ‘Yea: for the same Son of God that was born of the Virgin Mary, is now glorious in heaven, and will come again from thence at the latter day like as he went up. And as for that ye call your God, it is a piece of bread. For a more proof thereof, (mark it when you list,) let it but lie in the box three months, and it will be mouldy, and so turn to nothing that is good. Whereupon I am persuaded that it cannot be God.’

“After that, they willed me to have a priest; and then I smiled. Then they asked me, if it were not good; I said, I would confess my faults unto God, for I was sure that he would hear with favour. And so we were condemned by a quest.”

“My belief which I wrote to the council was this: ‘That the sacramental bread was left us to be received with thanksgiving, in remembrance of Christ’s death, the only remedy of our soul’s recovery; and that thereby we also receive the whole benefits and fruits of his most glorious passion.’ Then would they needs know, whether the bread in the box were God or no: I said, ‘God is a Spirit, and will be worshipped in spirit and truth.’ Then they demanded, ‘Will you plainly deny Christ to be in the sacrament?’ I answered, that I believe faithfully the eternal Son of God not to dwell there; in witness whereof I recited again the history of Bel, Dan. xix., Acts vii. and xvii., and Matt. xxiv., concluding thus: ‘I neither wish death, nor yet fear his might; God have the praise thereof with thanks.'”

Anne goes on to describe how she was then racked at the Tower of London by Sir Richard Rich and Sir Thomas Wriothesley:

“Then they did put me on the rack, because I confessed no ladies or gentlewomen 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.

“Then the lieutenant caused me to be loosed from the rack. Incontinently I swooned, and then they recovered me again. After that I sat two long hours reasoning with my lord chancellor upon the bare floor; where he, with many flattering words, persuaded me to leave my opinion. But my Lord God (I thank his everlasting goodness) gave me grace to persevere, and will do, I hope, to the very end.”

Anne Askew was burned at the stake on 16th July 1546. She had been so badly racked that she had to be carried to the stake on a chair the stake had a seat to support her body. She died for her faith and deserves to be remembered.

Click here to read more about her life and the events that led to her death. You can also read more of Anne’s own words in John Foxe’s Acts and Monuments Volume 5 page 537 onwards.

Also on this day in history…

  • 1529 – Catherine of Aragon makes her first appearance at the Legatine Court at Blackfriars. Click here to read more about it.

Notes and Sources

  • Wriothesley, Charles. A Chronicle of England during the reigns of the Tudors, from A.D. 1485 to 1559, p167.
  • The Acts and Monuments of John Foxe: A New and Complete Edition with a preliminary dissertation by Rev. George Townsend, Volume 5, p546-547.

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19 thoughts on “18 June 1546 – The Trial of Anne Askew”
  1. I think Ann Asone of her symathizers kew was given some gunpowder by one of her symathizers …many said it was from Catherine parr …or someone close to her as giving somone gunpowder will help them to die quicker and avoid the suffering of falmes …..yes it was a cruel time .

    1. I think you meant Anne Askew but at any rate, I have also read that she was given gun powder but not to consume. Some times apparently, it was permitted for the victim to be given gunpowder in a little pouch on a cord and put around their neck like a necklace. When the flames got high and hot enough the gunpowder would explode thus ending the victim’s life and suffering as well. It was not necessarily a swift death as the flames would have had to creep up from beneath the victim’s feet to produce enough heat at the neck area to explode, but it was certainly more merciful than being burned to death. I suppose it would be dependent upon the dryness of the wood and kindling or if an accelerant was used. Poor Miss Askew! I have forgotten her married name. 🙁

      1. Anne didn’t use her married name, so to remember her as Anne Askew is how she would have wanted it. 🙂

  2. Hi Claire, you quote AA as saying she refuted all accusations with “history of Bel, Dan xix, Acts vii and xvii and Matt xxiv. Later on, Protestants don’t seem too enamoured with history of Bel and the Dragon, considered apocryphal, so I wondered about these other quotes, which are vague. She “seems’ to have thought that the ‘Bread”, in traditional catholic ritual, was used as an idol. What else was she saying to us? She refutes transubstantiation.
    But what else? Do you know?

  3. Terrible brutality.

    Jane Grey made similar comments about the Host. Gutsy women.

    It takes a lot of sheer nerve to stand up and disagree like this, but it has always struck me a bit stupid as well. If one can believe in the Resurrection how can one call transubstantiation silly? How can one be a given and the other laughable? I don’t mean to open a debate on the issue. Just always thought this argument was a waste of life. But they did not, of course and I respect their sincerity,

    1. It sounds silly from the modern POV, but the crux of the matter went deeper that different interpretation of words.

      The mass was central in the Catholic Church. The priest “changed” Eucharist and was thus a mediator between God and ordinary Christians. They were told what to believe and what was sin. A man was a Christian only if he participated in Mass and, after shrift, got Eucharist. Faith was collective.

      What Anne Askew was in fact saying was she did not need none of this. She claimed that she had direct contact with God through Bible and prayer. Her faith was personal.

      Thus she challenged the *power* of the Catholic Church.

      1. I agree with what Anne Askew meant, you don’t need to hear mass to be in touch with God, if you want Him to hear you than surely a simple prayer is all that’s needed, people are diverse and we all have different opinions and feelings, it’s a shame that in those days just because you had a different belief you were persecuted, it’s awful to burn a young woman because she stood up for what she believed in, she was incredibly brave.

      2. Hannele, You misunderstand me. I am quite well versed in the religious issues of the time as my posts show.

        ALL Christian Churches believe in the truth of the Resurrection, right?. The argument over transubstantiation is about some people saying it is ludicrous and is merely a symbol, not a sacrament. The thinking among us say if you believe in the Resurrection as FACT, you have zero business calling anything else stupid as they mean the same thing; you believe in the mystery or you don’t. Queen Elizabeth I is in my corner on this one. She said it was debates about trifles.

        Anne Askew stood up to Henry, not to the Catholic Church. He was made head of the Church of England by the cowards around him and it is remarkable that she thought her public rants against his beliefs were not going to get him angry. She was killed because she thought she had a right to not just a private opinion, but one she made sure everyone knew she had. In Henry’s England that is just amazing.

        1. You mean like black people in Kennedy’s America having the audacity to believe they were entitled to equality?

        2. I do not think that Anne Askew could not be aware that she risked death.

          As for Henry, he succeeded to chose the line that neither the Catholics nor the Lutherans could not accept. The Englishmen had to “believe” (or rather pretend to believe) whatever the king happened to believe at the moment.

          On the other hand, one cannot deny that the reformation was one of the keys to England’s future success.

        3. FAO JUDITHREX

          Transubstantiation dates actually from Thomas Aquinas in the twelfth century when the doctrine was first defined. It is more than the declaration of the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament of the Alter; it means that when the priest blessed the Host and Wine that the substance of the bread and the substance of the wine do not remain but that the Body of Christ; all that entails as the real body and blood of Christ takes its place; it is transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit into these. The belief became so strong that in the 16th century in England we also became convinced that the presence was so real and sacred that communion became available to the laity under one kind; the bread. Today both kinds are again offered to both laiety and religious but this was a hot debate in the reign of Henry VIII. Although a belief that when Jesus said that the bread and wine are His body and blood he was being literal and that the bread and wine became the body and blood had existed from earliest church records; this deeper doctrine was a step forward in understanding what this meant and a defining moment in church history. Unfortunately it was also harder to understand.

          Anne Askewe and others of the reformed churches believed that the communion was a symbol of the body and blood of Christ, that the bread and wine remained thus in substance and it was a spititual memorial of the death of Christ only. Some churches believe a variety of variations on this, the Presence is real but that it was not the Substance, others it is only a memorial, others it is a spiritual act, others a sacrifice and so on. The 16th century was a minefield of heretical and reform churches and groups who did not accept the old beliefs of the true Catholic Church. The early reformers in France and Germany did not agree amongst themselves what the actual Eucharist was and what to believe. They fell out because of this. Lutherans and Calvanists fell out over the Communion and issue of the Real Presence. These debates were serious and to call the argument ludicrious is nonsense. People may not have believed in the real presence, but they did not believe the argument ludicrious either. This was not a debate about triffles, no matter what Elizabeth I believed.

          The Church of England accepts Communion as a Sacrament although they say that the presence at the moment of consecration is a spiritual symbol, not a reinactment of the sacrifice of Christ. It was very complex at the time of the debates and people became passionate about this. Anne Askewe believed it was just bread and wine and took Christianity back to basics. She also had poweful friends at court, Lady Suffolk, Lady Sussex, the wife of Sir Edward Seymour and the Queen, all of whom were patrons and passionate about the reformed religion. Askewe had been arrested before and released after she recanted. As a relapsed heretic she invited attention yet again. Henry may not have ordered the torture of this poor woman, but he did not stop it and consented to her being illegally racked. She died because she had previously recanted and because she declared her faith loud and clear, because she broke the 6 articles and because they could not get the other ladies who she refused to betray. She was brave and valient and while not my favourite heroine, she is up there with those who stood there ground. She was a religious martyr and she did not think the debate ludicious. She was passionate about her faith and she shouted it from the rooftops. Askewe was seen as dangerous as were any women who had difficult opinions of their own or anyone who wanted to believe something different to the state. In England the Church was married to the Crown; that meant that the Catholic Church no longer decided what was correct belief but the King and his courts did. The situation on the continent was vastly different as in most cases it was still the Catholic church which decided these thing. But in Germany and Switzaland it was far more complex with individual cities more or less deciding for one side or the other and taking a stand on doctine, Here it broke out into civil wars for several decades. As you are such an expert on religious matters, I am surprised that you don’t already know this, but perhaps JudithhRex you are not the expert you claim.

    2. The Resurrection has nothing to do with Transubstantiation: this is the Real Presence in the Sacrament of the Alter, not the Resurrected Person of Christ.

  4. I made a mistake.

    I meant of course that Anne Askew could not have helped to be aware that she risked death. Everyone was,

    1. I agree with you, Hannele, the Six Articles in particular made it death to deny the real presence, people during the entire reformation period or inquisition knew if you have a belief that was different from the state or official church, you certainly risked the death penalty. People were warned first but if arrested again, yep scary times.

  5. Anne may have counted on protection from the Queen. Unfortunately, the Queen barely managed to save herself and her ladies. John Lascelles was the brother of Joan Bulmer, involved in the fall of Katherine Howard.

    1. It was not done in God’s name. Jesus in the Book of John warns His Disciples that men will do terrible things to believers and claim it is in God’s name, but they know not God. In other words it was in the name of man…in this case Henry Viii. However, I agree such terrible things done by one side or another and it dishonored the Father.

  6. Anne Askewe risked everything for her convictions and she knew that she risked all because she had left her husband back in Lincolnshire a few years earlier and come to London to be independent and found a group of reformers who didn’t accept the Presence of Jesus in the Bread and Wine or Holy Communion after these elements had been blessed. She accepted this new belief and also believed in the Gospel as all that was needed for salvation and she was active in spreading message. She was even called a Gospeller because she was so active and she must have been known to the authorities because in 1544 and 1545 she was arrested. She was interrogated and she recanted. Anne was then released, but she would now have been closely watched. In the middle of a purge at Court, involving the Queens ladies, her meetings and heretical books, the direct attack on Queen Katherine which almost lead to her arrest for heresy, the trial of the Windsor heretics, who were actually set up and later found to be innocent ( after they had burnt of course), fatally Anne Askew drew attention to herself again.

    This time she was arrested and taken to be interrogated in the Tower of London because the authorities wanted more information about those at Court who were involved in heretical groups. They believed Anne had wealthy patrons and they believed she was even being supported by the Queen. Anne answered honestly with regards to her beliefs and didn’t waver. She would not give them information about anyone else. Audley and Wriothsley questioned her and then tortured her. The Lieutenant of the Tower protested that they were illegally racking a woman and he went to the King who put a stop to it but in his absence these two horrible men had racked her themselves to the extent that her arms and legs were torn out of their sockets. So badly wrecked was the body of this poor holy woman that she was carried to her execution in a chair and this held her body upwards while she perished in the terrible ordeal of the flames.

    The Six Articles had been passed to make England conform to one unified belief, but they notoriously made the death penalty for any deviance from these six narrow expressions of Orthodoxy. Anne Askew was burnt with three others, including John Lassells, who notoriously came with his sister, Mary to Archbishop Cramner in 1541 to reveal the truth about Queen Katherine Howard’s past as a young adolescent.

    RIP Anne Askew and those who died with you. You were a very brave lady. YNWA

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