Mary Rose

From Academic Kids

The Mary Rose depicted on the , a survey of 's navy, completed in 1546
The Mary Rose depicted on the Anthony Roll, a survey of Henry VIII's navy, completed in 1546

The Mary Rose was a carrack of 78 guns (91 guns after 1536), built in Portsmouth, England, in 15091510, thought to be named after King Henry VIII's sister Mary and the rose, the Tudor emblem. She was one of the earliest purpose-built warships to serve in the English navy: it is thought that she never served as a merchant ship. She displaced 500 tons (700 tons after 1536), was 38.5 m long and 11.7 m abeam and her crew consisted of 200 sailors, 185 soldiers, and 30 gunners.


She served as the flagship of Admiral Sir Edward Howard in the Italian Wars and was frequently engaged. On 10 August 1512 she was the flagship of an English fleet of fifty ships that attacked the French at Brest in Brittany. The Mary Rose attacked the Marie la Cordelčire, the flagship of Admiral Ren de Clermont; in the battle La Cordelire was crippled and the Mary Rose was damaged and ran aground. La Cordelire then came under fire from the Mary James, the Sovereign, and the Regent, eventually blowing up with the loss of more than a thousand men. Thirty-two French ships were taken or destroyed in the battle.

After the death of Edward Howard in 1513, the Mary Rose became the flagship of Lord High Admiral Sir Thomas Howard.

In 1528 and again in 1536 the Mary Rose was rebuilt, having her weight increased from 500 to 700 tons and mounting 91 guns. The refits are thought to have added an extra deck, making her top-heavy and liable to roll in heavy seas.

In 1545, King Francis I of France launched an invasion of England with 30,000 soldiers in more than 200 ships. Against this armada — larger than the Spanish Armada forty-three years later — the English had about 80 ships and 12,000 soldiers, with Mary Rose the flagship of Vice Admiral Sir George Carew. In early July the French entered the Solent channel, between Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. On July 18 1545 the English came out of Portsmouth and engaged the French at long range, little damage being done on either side. The next day was calm, and the French employed their galleys against the immobile English vessels. Toward evening a breeze sprang up and as the Mary Rose advanced to battle she capsized and sank with the loss of all but 35 of her crew. It is theorized that her undisciplined crew had neglected to close the lower gunports after firing at the galleys, so that when she heeled in the breeze she filled with water and turned over. (See battle of the Solent.)


Missing image
Mary Rose hull restoration

At attempt was made to raise her in August 1545 — even if she could not be refloated, her timbers and guns were immensely valuable — but with no success.

On 16 June 1836 the Mary Rose was found when a fishing net caught on the wreck, and diver John Deane recovered timbers, guns, longbows and other items. But the location was forgotten after Deane stopped work on the site in 1840.

Alexander McKee started a new search in 1965, and in 1967 Professor Harold Edgerton found an acoustic anomaly by using side-scan sonar. In 1971 a springtide, combined with a severe gale, uncovered a layer of sediment, leaving several structural timbers clearly visible. In the years that followed, it became clear that the wreck lay on her starboard side, at an angle of 60°.

In 1979 the Mary Rose Trust was formed to excavate the wreck. First, the wreck was lifted by means of a lifting frame. After that, the wreck, still under water, could be lifted onto a support cradle. On October 11 1982 the wreck was lifted from the water and put upright in a dry dock with a temperature of 2–6 °C and a relative humidity of 95%.

In 1994 work started on a three-stage conservation process using low-molecular-weight polyethylene glycol. The second stage consists of spraying the wreck with a high-molecular-weight polyethylene glycol; these first two stages will take at least twenty years to complete. In the third stage, the wreck will be slowly dried.

A great number of artifacts were found during excavation, including navigational equipment, guns, longbows, personal belongings, and human remains. These artifacts, and the wreck itself, are displayed at the Mary Rose museum located on the Royal Naval base in Portsmouth, England.

See HMS Mary Rose for other ships of this name.

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