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