In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Anne Askew

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Renaissance and Reformation Anne Askew
Jason Cohen
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 May 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 May 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0422


Anne Askew was born of a notable Lincolnshire family and became a Protestant voice of radical reformation at the end of the reign of Henry VIII. According to Bale, Askew was compelled to marry Thomas Kyme as a substitute for her sister’s prior betrothal upon her untimely death. Askew sought a divorce after Kyme drove her from their home for her unorthodox beliefs. It is likely that her vocal criticisms of church policy regarding demonstrations of faith brought her to the attention of the bishops. She was first interrogated by Bishop Bonner and subsequently released before being re-captured. During her second imprisonment, Bishop Gardiner and Chancellor Wriothesley conducted the interrogation and torture, which historians generally attribute to the effort to prove the Protestant leanings of Henry VIII’s last queen. The unusual torture Askew endured as a gentlewoman has been understood to suggest her direct affiliation with the circle of Katherine Parr. In 1546, at age twenty-five, she was burned at the stake as a heretic. She became a significant martyr when John Bale and John Foxe published accounts of her interrogation, imprisonment, and torture. Askew is known almost exclusively from the two narratives she wrote of her interrogations: The first examinacyon (1546) discusses her beliefs and her efforts to frustrate her interrogators; The lattre examinacyon (1547) describes her re-arrest and the judicial torture she endured along with interrogation leading to her execution. John Bale first published her works along with commentary and framing, which supply much of the biographical information about Askew that remains available.

Primary Sources

Askew’s account quickly rose in popularity. First published in Askew 1546 and less than a year later followed by Askew 1547, her tale was also incorporated into the Catholic counternarrative of Crowley 1548 and then compiled with female martyrs in Bentley 1582 and Foxe 1563 (with the important addition in 1583 of a woodcut copied from Crowley 1548 not present in the earlier editions). The “Ballad of Anne Askew” had been incorporated into these other texts, but appeared for the first time as a broadside in Anonymous 1624, revealing the lasting power of her story for the early modern imagination.

  • Anonymous. An[ne] Askew, Intituled, I am a woman poor and blind. London: Printed for T.P., 1624.

    The first broadside edition of the ballad of Anne Askew.

  • Askew, Anne. The First Examinacyon of Anne Askewe. Wesel, Germany: Printed by D. van der Straten, 1546.

    The first edition of John Bale’s text of Askew’s initial Examination. The title page includes one of the key woodcut images of Askew.

  • Askew, Anne. The Lattre Examinacyon of Anne Askewe. Wesel, Germany: Printed by D. van der Straten, 1547.

    The first edition of John Bale’s text of Askew’s second and final Examination.

  • Bentley, Thomas. The Monument of Matrones: Conteining Seuen Seuerall Lamps of Virginitie, or Distinct Treatises. London: Printed by H. Denham, 1582.

    An early modern Protestant treatment of Askew that represents her using a virginity topos common to female hagiographic works.

  • Crowley, Robert. The confutations of Nicholas Shaxton. London: Printed for John Day, 1548.

    While Askew was executed, Shaxton recanted his unorthodox faith and then delivered the sermon at Askew’s execution. Crowley’s refutation serves as the principle source of and rebuttal to Shaxton’s sermon. Includes an important woodcut image of Askew’s execution.

  • Foxe, John. Actes and Monuments. London: Printed for John Day, 1563.

    This first edition of Foxe’s martyrology includes his popular account of Askew, stripped of Bale’s scriptural “elucidations.” Subsequent editions elaborated on the account, and in the 1583 edition, woodcuts included representations of Askew’s martyrdom.

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