Extraordinary Women of the Medieval and Renaissance World: A Biographical Dictionary

By Carole Levin; Debra Barrett-Graves et al. | Go to book overview

ANNE ASKEW
(1521-1546)

Britain
Protestant Martyr

Anne Askew, burned as a heretic in the reign of the English king Henry VIII, was a woman of exceptional bravery. She was also forthright and articulate and had the foresight to keep a record of her travails as a testament to her faith, although today we do not know how much of what was posthumously published were Anne's actual words. Anne was well born and well educated; she was the daughter of Sir William Askew of Stallingborough, near Grimsby in Lincolnshire. Anne had two sisters as well as several brothers. Sir William insisted that his daughters be educated as well as his sons. He possibly brought a tutor into the house for his daughters, and they could read and write English and perhaps also Latin. Anne spent her early years studying the Bible, particularly William Tyndale's translation of the New Testament, and she had clearly defined Protestant beliefs.

Henry had been a conventional Catholic and England a Catholic realm until the Pope had refused to grant Henry a divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. In 1533 Parliament had declared the English Church separate and Henry the Supreme Head of the Church. By the late 1530s there had been a redistribution of Church land and the printing of 8,500 English Bibles so that every parish church could be so equipped. But the resistance of many of the English people to the Protestant Reformation, and Henry VIII's natural religious conservatism, led to the Act of the Six Articles in 1539, which halted the legal spread of Protestant teachings. Although the Church of England was independent from the Catholic Church with Henry VIII as Supreme Head, the 1539 act made Roman Catholic doctrine, such as transubstantiation, the legal law of the land. But by 1539 Anne Askew was already a committed Protestant who passionately believed that one took the Eucharist as a remembrance of Christ's death, that the bread remained bread, a denial of transubstantiation. Anne was also convinced as a good Protestant that Scrip

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