In March of 1545, Anne Askew, an educated lady of good descent, was arrested and brought to trial in England. She answered all her interrogator’s questions so astutely that he was astonished and silenced. After further interrogation from others, including her cousin, her faith remained unshaken. When asked about her faith and belief in regards to the sacrament, she replied, “I believe as the Scripture teaches me.”
The interrogator asked again, “what if the Scripture says that it is the body of Christ?”
She merely replied, “I believe as the Scriptures teach.”
So he asked again, “what if the Scripture says that it is not the body of Christ?”
She still replied, “I believe all that the Scripture informs me.”
No matter what, she could not be swayed. She ended by saying, “I believe therein, and in all other things, as Christ and His apostles did leave them.”
More priests came to interrogate her with little success, until finally the bishop asked her to interpret her understanding of the verse by Paul which mentions women in church not making themselves wise in the interpretation of Scripture (1 Corinthians 14:34-40). He hoped to catch her in this regard, and followed by saying, “I am informed that one has asked you if you would receive the sacrament at Easter, and you made a mockery of it.”
To this she calmly and meekly replied, “I desire that my accuser might come forward.”
This the bishop did not allow. Next, the bishop accused her saying, “I sent someone to you to give you good counsel, and you called him a papist as soon as he began.”
Anne replied, “I don’t deny it, for I perceived he was no less than that, but I didn’t say anything else to him.”
The bishop continued his haranguing, until he said, “there are many that read and know the Scripture, and yet follow it not, nor live thereafter.”
She answered “my lord, I would wish that all men knew my conversation and living in all points; for I am sure myself this hour that here are none able to prove any dishonesty against me.”
Despite her answer, Anne Askew was branded a heretic. A few days later, she went through further interrogation to persuade her from God, but she ignored the glossy pretences. Several came to her privately urging her to recant as others had done, but she only answered, “it had been good for you never to have been born.”
She was then sent to the Tower of London where she was visited by one of the council demanding she disclose any man or woman she knew that belonged to her sect. She refused to implicate anyone. To get her to talk, they tortured her. but because she laid still and did not cry, they tortured her until she was nearly dead. When she was loosened, she fainted. After recovering, she was brought to a house and laid on a bed to mend. She was then informed that if she renounced her faith, she could have anything she wanted, and if she would not, she would be burned. She replied that she would rather die than break her faith, praying that God would open their eyes.
To give proof of their power over the rich and renowned, Anne’s enemies would not let her die in secret. On the day of her execution, she was brought to the stake in a chair—not being able to walk because of the cruel effects of the torture. Just before the fires were lighted, a priest gave a sermon, and Anne Askew openly answered his every statement. If he spoke truth, she approved, and if he spoke error, she firmly announced, “he speaketh without the Book.” As the fires were being prepared, the lord chancellor sent a message to Anne Askew, offering her the king’s pardon if she would recant. She refused, saying, “I came not hither to deny my Lord and Master.” The letter was then offered to three others, who were also at the stake, but they all refused in like manner, continuing to cheer and exhort each other. Thus were this noble lady and her companions encompassed with flames, as holy sacrifices to God and His truth.
Adapted from John Foxe, The Book of Martyrs (London: Pickering & Inglis, no date): 140-144.