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1560 portrait by Hans Eworth
Wikimedia Commons

Anne Askew (sometimes spelled Ayscough or Ascue), married name Kyme (1521 – 16 July 1546),[1] was an English writer and Protestant martyr, executed for heresy during the reign of King Henry VIII. She was burnt at the stake in Smithfield, together with John Lascels, John Hadlam and John Hemley.[2]

Anne was probably born at her family home in Stallingborough, near Grimsby in Lincolnshire, the second daughter of Sir William Askew (1489–1541) and his first wife, Elizabeth Wrottesley. Sir William was knighted in 1513, and in 1521 he was appointed high sheriff of Lincolnshire; he also sat as MP for Grimsby in 1529,[2] and was a juror in the trial of Anne Boleyn’s co-accused in 1536.[3]

Anne’s father had arranged that his eldest daughter, Martha, be married to Thomas Kyme. When Martha died, Sir William decided that to avoid any financial loss he would offer Anne, who was 15 years old at the time, as a replacement, “so that in the ende she was compelled agaynst her wyll or fre consent to marrye with hym”.[2]

Religious controversy

A devout Protestant, Anne’s enthusiasm for her religion caused some controversy in Lincoln. After hearing from friends that if she appeared in the city, the feeling against her was so strong that she would be attacked by priests, she travelled to Lincoln, where she spent six days quietly reading her Bible in the cathedral. Her Catholic husband was so incensed by this episode that he threw her out of their family home. Anne arrived in London in 1544, perhaps hoping to obtain a legal separation in chancery. During her stay in the city she associated with other Protestants, including the Anabaptist Joan Bocher,[2][a]Joan Bocher was executed in 1550.[2] and continued her preaching and study of the Bible.[4]

First examination

On 10 March 1545 the aldermen of London ordered that Anne should be detained under the Six Articles ActAct of Parliament introduced to curb excessive Protestant reform and to impose religious conformity., on the testimony of an unnamed woman. She appeared before an official heresy hearing at Sadler’s Hall, before being cross-examined by the lord mayor of London and the chancellor of the bishop of London, Edmund Bonner. She was questioned about a book she was found to be carrying, written by John Frith, who was burnt for heresy in 1533, and accused of subscribing to reformist beliefs concerning transubstantiation and the other sacraments. Whether she recanted her beliefs or not is uncertain, but after twelve days of imprisonment she was released.[2]

Second examination and execution

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Martyrdom of Anne Askew
Wikimedia Commons

On 24 May 1546 Thomas Kyme was requested to appear before the privy council with his wife within fourteen days, which he did on 19 June. But after Anne denied that he was her husband, Kyme returned home. Anne, on the other hand, was incarcerated and subjected to a two-day interrogation by the king’s council at Greenwich. Despite being tortured, she refused to recant, and was transferred to Newgate Prison in “extremyte of syckenesse”, to await her execution.[2]

On 16 July 1546 Anne was burned to death along with three others: John Lassells, Nicholas Belenian, also known as John Hemsley, and John Adams,[5] in Smithfield, London; owing to the torture to which she had been subjected, she had to be carried to the stake on a chair.[2]

Anne’s writings were published posthumously by the reformist scholar John Bale.[2]

See also

  • Burning of women in EnglandBurning was a legal punishment imposed on women found guilty of high treason, petty treason or heresy. Over a period of several centuries, female convicts were publicly burnt at the stake, sometimes alive, for a range of activities including coining and mariticide.


a Joan Bocher was executed in 1550.[2]



Beilin, Elaine V. “Introduction.” The Examinations of Anne Askew, Oxford University Press, 1996, pp. xv–xlii.
Ives, Eric. The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn. Blackwell Publishing, 2005.
Lindsey, Karen. Divorced, Beheaded, Survived. Da Capo Press, 1995.
Porter, Linda. Katherine the Queen: The Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr. Pan Books, 2011.
Watt, Diane. “Askew [Married Name Kyme], Anne (c. 1521 – 1546.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Online, Oxford University Press, 2004,

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