And so many more!
On the 16th July 1546 the Protestant martyrs Anne Askew, John Lascelles, John Adams and Nicholas Belenian were burned at the stake at Smithfield in London for heresy.
Those of you who read my article “18 June 1546 – Anne Askew Sentenced to Death” will know that Anne was illegally racked in the Tower of London by Thomas Wriothesley and Richard Rich in an attempt to make her implicate Queen Catherine Parr or influential people like Anne Seymour (née Stanhope) and her husband, Edward Seymour. Anne refused even though the men racked her “till her bones and joints were almost plucked asunder, in such sort as she was carried away in a chair”. So badly was this young woman racked that a few weeks later, on the day of her execution, she had to be carried to the stake on a chair and “was tied by the middle with a chain, that held up her body”.
The famous martyrologist, John Foxe, recorded the burning of Anne Askew and the men in his book “Actes and Monuments”, also known as “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs”. Here is what he says of Anne’s death:
“Hitherto we have entreated of this good woman: now it remaineth that we touch somewhat as touching her end and martyrdom. She being born of such stock and kindred that she might have lived in great wealth and prosperity, if she would rather have followed the world than Christ, but now she was so tormented, that she could neither live long in so great distress, neither yet by the adversaries be suffered to die in secret. Wherefore the day of her execution was appointed, and she brought into Smithfield in a chair, because she could not go on her feet, by means of her great torments. When she was brought unto the stake she was tied by the middle with a chain that held up her body. When all things were thus prepared to the fire, Dr Shaxton, who was then appointed to preach, began his sermon. Anne Askew, hearing and answering again unto him, where he said well, confirmed the same; where he said amiss, “There,” said she, “he misseth, and speaketh without the book.”
The sermon being finished, the martyrs standing there tied at three several stakes ready to their martyrdom, began their prayers. The multitude and concourse of people of the people was exceeding; the place where they stood being railed about to keep out the press. Upon the bench under St Bartholomew’s Church sat Wriothesley, chancellor of England; the old Duke of Norfolk, the old earl of Bedford, the lord mayor, with divers others. Before the fire should be set unto them, one of the bench, hearing that they had gunpowder about them, and being alarmed lest the faggots, by strength of the gunpowder, would come flying about their ears, began to be afraid: but the earl of Bedford, declaring unto him how the gunpowder was not laid under the faggots, but only about their bodies, to rid them out of their pain; which having vent, there was no danger to them of the faggots, so diminished that fear.
Then Wriothesley, lord chancellor, sent to Anne Askew letters offering to her the King’s pardon if she would recant ; who. refusing once to look upon them, made this answer again, that she came not thither to deny her Lord and Master. Then were the letters like-wise offered unto the others, who, in like manner, following the constancy of the woman, denied not only to receive them, but also to look upon them. Whereupon the lord mayor, commanding fire to be put unto them, cried with a loud voice, “Fiat justicia.”
And thus the good Anne Askew, with these blessed martyrs being troubled so many manner of ways, and having passed through so many torments, having now ended the long course of her agonies, being compassed in with flames of fire, as a blessed sacrifice unto God, she slept in the Lord A.D. 1546, leaving behind her a singular example of christian constancy for all men to follow.”
John Foxe’s “Actes and Monuments” includes Anne Askew’s full story, including the examinations of her in 1545 and 1546, her confession of faith, her condemnation, her letter to Wriothesley, an account of her torture and her death. The book can be read online for free at the Google ebookstore – see https://books.google.com/ebooks?id=axUXAAAAIAAJ and read pages 537-551.
Trivia: John Lascelles was involved in the fall of Catherine Howard, Henry VIII’s fifth wife. His sister, Mary, had been a member of the household of the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk at Lambeth, along with Catherine, and spoke to John of Catherine’s behaviour there with Henry Manox and Francis Dereham. Lascelles told Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and the rest is history!
The Actes and Monuments of John Foxe, a new and complete edition, John Foxe