Anne Askew Poems

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Anne Askew
Anne Askew (1521 - 16 July 1546) was an English poet and member of the Reformed Church who was persecuted as a heretic. She is the only woman on record to have been tortured in the Tower of London, before being burned at the stake. Born at Stallingborough into a notable family of Lincolnshire, she was forced by her father, Sir William Ayscough (Askew) (1490-1541), to marry Thomas Kyme when she was just 15, as a substitute for her sister Martha who had recently died. Anne rebelled against her husband by refusing to adopt his surname. It is also speculated that Anne had two children, their sex and names unknown. Even the Dictionary of National Biography can tell us no more than that she left her children to go "gospelling". The marriage did not go well, not least because of her strong Protestant beliefs. When she returned from London, where she had gone to preach against the doctrine of transubstantiation, her husband turned her out of the house. She then went again to London to ask for a divorce, justifying it from scripture (1 Corinthians, 7.15), on the grounds that her husband was not a believer. Eventually Anne left her husband and went to London where she gave sermons and distributed Protestant books. These books had been banned and so she was arrested. Her husband was sent for and ordered to take her home to Lincolnshire. Anne soon escaped and it was not long before she was back preaching in London. Anne was arrested again. This time, Sir Anthony Kingston, the Constable of the Tower of London, was ordered to torture Anne in an attempt to force her to name other Protestants. Anne was put on the rack. However, Kingston refused to carry on torturing her on the grounds that it was illegal to torture women and especially one from a noble family, he could no longer partake in such an abominable act. Kingston ran away from the Tower and sought a meeting with the King at his earliest convenience to explain his position and also to seek his pardon for not continuing with the torture. Henry VIII listened, pardoned but did not put an end to the torture. Instead it was now left to Henry VIII's Lord Chancellor, Thomas Wriothesley, to take over. Askew enlisted her friends at court for support, in particular Catherine Parr, but Parr was not able to intervene at this time because a threat on her own life had just been made and it was untimely for her to defend anybody with devout Protestant beliefs. Askew was charged with heresy; in 1546. The young woman was imprisoned, interrogated, and tortured on the rack, in the hopes that she would implicate Parr. Askew did not break under the months of torture, although, as a result, she was too badly crippled to walk to the stake. However, it is noted that Anne still had the use of her wrists and wrote many letters to her friends during imprisonment because she wanted the truth to be known to the public about her ordeal, especially after her inevitable death. It is therefore probable that the racking experience had been lighter than usual, but it had still left Anne unable to walk. During the ordeal, she wrote a first-person account of her ordeal and her beliefs, which was published as the Examinations by Protestant bishop John Bale, and later in John Foxe's Acts and Monuments of 1563 which proclaims her as a Protestant martyr. Several ballads were written about her in the 17th century. She was burnt at Smithfield in the 25th year of her age, on 16th July 1546 or, as Fuller gracefully puts it "she went to heaven in a chariot of fire."

the ballad which anne askew made and sang when she was in newgate
Like as the armed knight
Appointed to the field,
With this world will I fight
And Fai... [read poem]
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