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The Troublesome Mrs Kyme: John Bale’s Disorderly Virgin

  • Megan L. Hickerson

Abstract

When Foxe, in his Marian exile, began accumulating the materials for what would become the Acts and Monuments, he was confronted with the spectacle of Anne Askew, the first English, Protestant, female martyr, eulogized in print a decade earlier by his friend and colleague John Bale.1 In July 1546, at the age of 25, Askew was executed for denying the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar, one of the last victims of Henry VIII’s ‘whip with six strings’, the Act of Six Articles. She was a Lincolnshire gentlewoman, the daughter of Sir William Askew, and was married, apparently against her will, to Sir Thomas Kyme, who had previously been betrothed to her deceased older sister, Martha. Askew and Kyme had two children, but the couple became estranged due to her conversion to the evangelical faith, exemplified by her open reading of the English Bible at Lincoln Minster, which was illegal for her as a woman according to the 1543 Act for the Advancement of True Religion.2 After fruitlessly petitioning for a divorce in the ecclesiastical court in Lincoln, Askew travelled to London, where her sister Jane and brother Edward served at court. There she continued her unsuccessful pursuit of a divorce, this time in the Court of Chancery.

Keywords

False Confession Privy Council Henry VIII Real Presence False Recantation 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    John Bale, The First Examinacyon of the worthye servaunt of god Mastres Anne Askewe the yonger doughter of Sir Wyllyam Askewe knyght of Lyncolne shyre/latelye martyred in Smithfelde by the Romysh popes upholders (Marburg, 1546)Google Scholar
  2. John Bale, The Lattre Examinacyon of the worthye servaunt of God mastres Anne Askewe the yonger doughter of Sir Wyllyam Askewe knyght of Lyncolne shyre, latelye martyred in Smithfelde by the wycked synagoge of Antichrist (Marburg, 1547). Hereafter, First Examinacyon or Lattre Examinacyon. When jointly referred to, the Examinations.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Dr Edward Crome’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History 44, 2 [April 1993]: 236).Google Scholar
  4. John Guy suggests that Crome was Askew’s ‘teacher’ (John Guy, Tudor England [Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1988], 196).Google Scholar
  5. See Diarmaid MacCulloch, Thomas Cranmer: A Life (New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 1996), 353–4.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Robert Wisdom (who fled to the continent) and Dr Huick, one of Henry VIII’s physicians (Acts of the Privy Council of England, 1542–47, ed. J. R. Dasent [London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1890], I, 424, hereafter APC; Letters & Papers Foreign and Domestic, of the reign of Henry VIII, ed. James Gairdner and R.H. Brodie [London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1862–1932], XXI, i, 898; XXI, ii, 790, 810, 823, 835, 848.Google Scholar
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    For detailed information about the several early editions see Elaine Beilin, ed., The Examinations of Anne Askew (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), xlv–xlix.Google Scholar
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    John Leyland, as he was working on a history of the Carmelite order (Peter Happé, John Bale [New York: Twayne Publishers, 1996], 35). Fasciculi Zizaniorum magistri Johannis Wyclif cum tritico, ascribed to T. Netter of Walden, ed. W. W. Shirley (London: Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans and Roberts, 1858).Google Scholar
  9. 11.
    William Tyndale is credited with the editing and publication of this small book, which also contains the autobiographical examinations of William Thorpe (another Lollard examined and condemned by Arundel). William Tyndale, The examinacion of Master William Thorpe preste accused of heresye before Thomas Arundell/Archbishop of Canterbury … & The examinacion of the honorable knight syr Jhon Oldcastell Lorde Cobham/burnt bi the said Archbisshop/in the fyrste yere of Kynge Henry the fyfth (1530).Google Scholar
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    See Thomas Betteridge, ‘Anne Askewe, John Bale, and Protestant History’, Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, 27 (1997): 265–84Google Scholar
  11. and idem, Tudor Histories of the English Reformation, 1530–83 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1999).Google Scholar
  12. 20.
    This preoccupation with sexuality marks a striking difference between the legends of martyred men and those of women. See Karen A. Winstead, Virgin Martyrs: Legends of Sainthood in Late Medieval England (Ithaca, NY and London: Cornell University Press, 1999), 5.Google Scholar
  13. 23.
    In this, Elaine Beilin contrasts Bale’s portrayal of Askew to her own. Askew, she argues, sees her self-confidence, wisdom and strength as deriving from her reading of scripture, and justifies her assertive behaviour by constructing herself as benefiting, by her knowledge of the Bible, from an immediate path to God. Beilin sees Askew as subversive, defying biblical and social restrictions placed on women, and fashioning her autobiography as the creation of a Protestant hero, of ‘intellect, assurance, and strength’. According to this interpretation, Askew does not consider God’s grace bestowed upon her because of her sex (Elaine Beilin, ‘A Challenge to Authority: Anne Askew’, in Redeeming Eve: Women Writers of the English Renaissance [Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987], 29–34).Google Scholar
  14. (Diane Watt, Secretaries of God: Women Prophets in Late Medieval and Early Modern England [Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1997], 107).Google Scholar
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    Thomas J. Heffernan, Sacred Biography: Saints and their Biographers in the Middle Ages (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), 196–8.Google Scholar
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    See Peter Marshall, ‘Evangelical Conversion in the Reign of Henry VIII’, in The Beginnings of English Protestantism, ed. Peter Marshall and Alec Ryrie (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 29.Google Scholar
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    Paula McQuade, ‘“Except that they had offended the Lawe”: Gender and Jurisprudence in the Examinations of Anne Askew’, Literature & History 3, 2 (1994): 1–14.Google Scholar
  18. 47.
    See Perez Zagorin, Ways of Lying: Dissimulation, Persecution, and Conformity in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 1990), 67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    David Daniell, preface, The New Testament, trans. William Tyndale [The Text of the Worms edition of 1526 in original spelling], ed. W. R. Cooper [London: British Library, 2000], vii).Google Scholar
  21. 68.
    see Sherwin Bailey, ‘Robert Wisdom under Persecution, 1541–1543’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History 2 (1951): 184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Susan Brigden names Wisdom as among Askew’s supporters who, ‘for fear of death’, fled London at the time of her arrest (Susan Brigden, London and the Reformation [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989], 376).Google Scholar
  23. 89.
    As is often articulated in their abjuration records. See, for example, Heresy Trials in the Diocese of Norwich, 1428–31, ed. Norman P. Tanner, Camden Fourth Series, vol. 20 (London: Royal Historical Society, 1977), 57, 148, 160, 166.Google Scholar
  24. 105.
    Also Carole Levin and Patricia A. Sullivan, Political Rhetoric, Power, and Renaissance Women (New York: State University of New York Press, 1995), 6.Google Scholar

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© Megan L. Hickerson 2005

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  • Megan L. Hickerson

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