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A look inside the Mary Rose

In Military History

The Mary Rose 


To celebrate the opening of the new museum in Portsmouth, here's a look inside the Mary Rose with Tony Byran's fantastic cut-away, and his version of Henry VIII's prize warship sinking in the Solent.



The Mary Rose, 1545

Mary Rose cut-away

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'The first of Henry VIII's purpose-built warships, the Mary Rose - named after Henry's sister - was built in Portsmouth in 1500. She was designed to carry heavy ordinance, and was therefore carvel-built, which permitted her hull to be pierced with gunports. The effectiveness of her firepower was demonstrated in her first battle, fought off brest in 1513. She demasted the French flagship and sent her scurrying back into port, followed by the bulk of the enemy fleet. She then saw service in the war against Scotland (1514). She was also known as a fast sailing ship - Admiral Sir Edward Howard once claimed that no 100-ton ship in the fleet could outsail the Mary Rose. The vessel underwent a major refit in 1536, when even more heavy guns were added, and her decks strengthened to take the extra weight. Inset is a bronze 'bastard' culverin reconstructed from one found on the wreck. The Mary Rose formed part of the Tudor fleet that opposed the French at the battle off Portsmouth; on 18 July 1545 she sailed out to give battle. However, a sudden gust of wind caused her to heel over, and water poured into her lower gunports, which her undisciplined crew had failed to close. She sank within minutes, taking most of her 700-man crew down with her. The wreck of the Mary Rose was rediscovered in 1970, and a major underwater archaeological operation was launched to investigate it, and to recover the ship's contents. In 1982 this operation culminated in the raising of the remains of her hull, and she now forms part of a purpose-built display at the Mary Rose Trust's museum in Portsmouth.'


Combined with this fascinating BBC article on the remains of the crew members (even featuring a forensic scientist's idea of what they may have looked like) you can start to get a real sense of life on the ship.


The sinking of the Mary Rose off Portsmouth, 1545


the sinking of the mary rose

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'This scene is based on the well-known Cowdray House engraving showing the French attack on Portsmouth on 19 July 1545. In the original a squadron of four French galleys is shown firing on the English fleet as it closes with them to give battle. These galleys fired their guns then retired to reload - a tactic similar to the caracole manoeuvre used by contemporary pistol-armed cavalrymen. Our two deviations from the engraving involve the Matthew Gonson and the Mary Rose. In the original only the masts of the Mary Rose can be seen above the water, while small boats race to pick up the pitifully small number of survivors.

Our version shows the moment when the Mary Rose began to sink, the water filling her gundeck ports. Sir Gawain Carew on board the Matthew Gonson was close enough to hail his uncle on board the Mary Rose, when Sir George Carew reportedly called out that 'I have the sort of knaves I cannot rule'. We have therefore brought the nephew's ship a little farther forward. In the background, the Henri Grace à Dieu can be seen firing her bow guns at the French galleys.'


Both pictures are taken from NVG 142: Tudor Warships, written by Angus Konstam and with artwork from Tony Bryan.

Maybe we should arrange a 'Osprey Team Building trip' to take a look at the new museum...


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