Anne Askew: Martyr and Poet

Anne Askew is one of the earliest female poets to write in the English language and she was the first women to ever demand a divorce. But she is remembered even more as the only women to ever be tortured in the Tower of London and burnt at the stake.

Anne Askew

Anne Askew

Anne was born at Stallingborough, England in either 1520 or 1521. Not much is known about Anne’s early life except that Anne was a strong Protestant.  When Anne was about 15 her sister Martha died so her father instead forced Anne to marry Thomas Kyme, a man who was suppose to marry Martha.

Anne’s marriage was not a happy one; a marriage that was doomed from the outset. Anne immediately refused to take up her husband’s name. When Anne moved to London to speak out about her beliefs Thomas threw her out. Anne then asked for a divorce on the grounds that Thomas was not a believer. Anne eventually left her husband and went preaching about her beliefs in London using books that were banned.

Anne was arrested twice as heretic. The first time was in 1545 were they could find nothing to incriminate Anne with. The second time was in 1546 as a heretic. The constable of the tower was ordered to torture Anne to get her to name others. But throughout the process Anne named no one. King Henry VIII then sent Chancellor Wriothesley and Chancellor Rich to torture Anne until she named others. This second torture was even more brutal. It was said that many of Anne’s bones were dislocated and that her cries could be heared in the gardens next to the Tower Anne was in. Yet Anne refused to name anyone.

On the 16th July 1546 Anne was taken to Smithfield in London to be burnt at the stake. Anne had to be carried to her execution in a chair after the torture left her in so much pain that she couldn’t walk. Just before her death Anne was offered a pardon but refused. She was remarked as being brave as they burnt her. Anne died a martyr on the 16th July 1546 aged 26.

Anne Askew played by Emma Stansfield in season 4 of The Tudors




Lady Jane Grey: The Nine Day Queen

In his dying days King Edward VI is persuaded by his advisors to name his cousin, Lady Jane, as his heiress. The young Jane is thrust from her normal life to go from on top of the world to the first victim of Mary I’s reign. Lady Jane becomes the forgotten Queen of the Tudor era.  

Lady Jane Grey

Lady Jane Grey

In early 1937 Henry Grey the Duke of Suffolk and Lady Frances Brandon have a daughter.  Their daughter Jane was the great niece of Henry VIII and first cousin once removed to Edward VI. Lady Jane received a high education learning Italian, Hebrew, Latin and Greek. But a thing that proved to be crucial in Jane’s downfall was the fact that she was brought up a committed protestant. Jane was said to have enjoyed reading books rather than going out on hunting parties.

You Lady Jane at her home

In February 1547 Jane was sent to the house of the brother of the former Queen Jane Seymour, Thomas. Thomas was now married to Henry VIII’s last wife Catherine Parr. But Jane left in September 1548 when Catherine died in child birth.

Thomas Seymour was still interested in Jane and it was thought he wanted to marry Jane to his nephew Edward VI. Thomas was arrested and executed as he was feared to have too much control over the young King.

Jane was then married to Lord Guilford Dudley, a great match for Jane as her new father-in-law was the richest man in the country. It was a triple wedding were Jane’s to younger sisters were also married off.

Henry VIII brought in the Third Succession Act in 1544. This reinstated his daughters, Mary and Elizabeth as heirs to the throne after Edward. If Henry’s children all died childless then the throne would pass to his sister Mary Tudor and her descendants. One of the descendants was Lady Jane. Another part of the act meant that the law of succession could be changed by the King.

In 1553 the young King was dying childless meaning the throne would go to his half sister the catholic Mary. No one wanted a Catholic to rule Protestant England, so they searched for a Protestant Tudor to take the throne. Edward VI named Lady Jane as his heir.

On the 6th July 1553 Edward died, Jane was informed three days later that she was Queen. Although she was reluctant to accept the title she was officially announced Queen on the 10th July. Jane was then taken to the Tower of London to be kept in secure residence.

Mary was not happy about losing her inheritance and saw herself as rightful Queen of England. Mary travelled across the country gaining support along the way. The Privy Council changed their alligance from Jane to Mary. On 19th July Mary entered London and was received as Queen by the people, she then had Jane imprisoned in the Tower along with her husband, Lord Guilford Dudley.

Jane and Guilford were tried for high treason, both were found guilt and both were sentenced to death. But for Jane her sentence was to “be burned alive on Tower Hill or beheaded as the Queen pleases”. Jane’s execution was originally set for 9th February 1554, but it ended up being delayed for 3 days so that Jane could change to the Catholic faith.

On the morning of 12th February, Guilford was executed. Jane was executed later that day, she was 16 years old. Jane was buried in the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula along with her husband.

Execution of Lady Jane

Jane is often forgotten about and most people do not count her as Queen of England as she was never crowned. After researching her I believe she should be remembered as a Queen. Most websites, books, films etc call her the Nine Day Queen, implying that although her reign was short she was Queen. On the government’s page about the royals Jane is listed under “English Monarchs (400 AD – 1603)” however she is listed as Lady Jane Grey rather than a Queen. To me Jane will be remembered as Queen of England, even f it was a short reign.