16 July 1546 – Anne Askew

Anne didn\'t find the offer of a toasted muffin amusing

Anne didn't find the offer of a toasted muffin amusing

Old habits die hard. OK, so Henry VIII may have turned his back on the Pope in the 16th century, in order to divorce his first wife, but, intrinsically, he was still a Catholic at heart.

So, when a lady at court started publically spouting her Protestant beliefs and dissing the Catholic mass, Henry felt compelled to put an immediate kibosh on her outspoken views, despite the fact that he was meant to be Protestant too and more importantly heading up the church she was busily bigging up.

First she was jailed at Newgate, but then they hatched a cunning plan – in a bid to take others down with her, they had the unwitting female tortured to make her confess.

Stretching the truth

Off they scooted her to the Tower of London, when Askew was promptly put on the rack. Apparently the torturer refused to operate the equipment, so it was left to the dignitaries to carry out Henry’s command.

The rack was a gruesome bit of kit – your hands and feet were attached with ropes to rollers and when the equipment turned you were stretched out agonisingly. Yet Askew never whimpered according to a book entitled ‘Prisoners of the Tower’ – here are some detail of the session in her own words.

‘They did put me on the rack because I confessed no ladies or gentlewomen to be of my opinion, and thereon they kept me a long time. And because I did lay still and did not cry, my Lord Chancellor and Master Rich took pains to rack me with their own hands till I was nigh dead…Then the Lieutenant caused me to be loosed from the rack; incontinently, I swooned and they recovered me again…’

The heat is on

Unable to extract any other names from Askew, she was eventually taken from her jail in Newgate to Smithfields where a nice little pyre had been put together. She was tied to a stake in its midst and slowly spit roasted for her heretical views, aged just 25.

Also on this day

16 July 1907 – William Slack

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One Response to “16 July 1546 – Anne Askew”

  1. Jestyr Says:

    Actually, not exactly true. She was burned at the stake, yes, but she had a bag of gunpowder placed around her neck – whether one of the ladies of court bribed the executioner (as depicted in the series “the tudors”) or as more widely historically known, on orders of the king himself. The reports state that it exploded almost instantly. At most 5 minutes after the fire was lit. Still horrid, but with a quicker, and rather sudden end.

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