16 July 1546 – Anne Askew
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.