Tuesday, 5 February 2013

The Rise and Fall and Rise Again of The Mary Rose

After 34 years of service in war against the French the pride of the English Tudor Navy, fully equipped with cannons and guns of various make and construction and manned by over 500 men (and quite possibly up to 700 in 1545) many of whom were Longbowmen, met her ending when she sank in the Solent about a mile off the dock at Portsmouth on July, 19, 1545 with King Henry VIII watching from his vantage point in Southsea Castle.

And there she lay, an English Queen of the seas, taking most of the crew with her, given over to the salty embrace of her own Portsmouth Harbour, her guns silenced for an eternity.


 In the 1800's a pair of professional divers found the site and while some excavation and exploratory work was undertaken in the late 1970's it wasn't until the early 80's that serious excavation work began and in 1982 she was finally lifted from the sea bed. 437 years from the date of her unforeseen demise.

Of all the myriad of finds and artefacts the excavation has uncovered and brought back to the light, perhaps the most disquieting of finds are the skeletons of the young crew of the Mary Rose, most under 30 and averaging 5 foot 7 inches in height. Some as young as 13.
Over 500 had been on board that ship (although some say as many as 700 could have been crewing it when she went down), only 40 reported as surviving and 179 skeletons, part and full, found in varying locations amoungst her deteriorating timbers. Hauntingly, some were still located where they had been manning cannons in the galleys before she sank.

Yet here we are in the 21st century and what was an audio tour and the Mary Rose Exhibition has received a $35 million injection to become the 'new' Mary Rose Museum, opening late Spring 2013, where some of the 19,000 artefacts will be displayed and windows will allow visitors to view the hull as sprays are turned off and final conservation work begins.

 So if you are travelling to the U.K looking for things to see or a local passing by Portsmouth one day after Spring 2013, swing by the new Mary Rose museum and get lost in a time of a lavish, infamous and unforgettable history.

Photos courtesy of The Mary Rose Museum 

- MM


  1. How nice, a nautical theme... :)

    I'll be in Portsmouth in October but we'll probably only see the HMS Victory.

    Was this an article from somewhere? I can't imagine that you would be disquieted by the fact that everyone was under 30 and as young as 13. I mean the average life span in 1545 was 40 and it was pretty standard to join the navy at 8 or 9. We can't apply current age spans to the 16th century.

  2. No I wrote it all. My thoughts and words.
    I wasn't applying current age spans to the 16th century.
    For me it is disquieting because I can imagine the roll on effect of losing so many young folk from the same area, the West Country. They would have had a lot of family devastated. Young men with young wives, mothers, fathers, children. Young children with mothers, fathers and grandparents etc..
    The fact that it was young men and boys that crewed war ships doesn't make their deaths any less disquieting to me.
    Just like when War Ships or Subs go down in World Wars. When reports and documentaries etc say the ages of the young men it is always shocking to think of the young lives snuffed out and the families that mourned them.

  3. Ohh, that makes sense.
    I was reading it like it was odd that they were so young but it's not odd just very sad.

    The part of naval life I find so disturbing from that time was the amount of men lost to disease. Such as the reports of how many died in the actual battles when the Spanish Armada was sent, compared to the amount that died of disease, bad food and lack of water. It was a crazy amount that died after the battle was over and it seemed to just be an accepted part of life in the navy. Whether they wanted to be in the navy or not.

  4. I am trying to convince my travel partner that Portsmouth is somewhere we should visit, as well as Leicester, put so far, she hasn't bitten. I would love to see both the Mary Rose and the Victory since the fire a few years ago.

  5. I wish I could get to see either!
    The Victory sure would be amazing to see. I saw a doco on it recently and how it was built. Fascinating stuff. Especially the way they selected the timber for strength and shape.
    I should write a blog on it one day!! :D

  6. Indeed you should. Do you ever fear you might end up writing a dissertation? That's the reason I don't do a history blog; I can never stop writing about it.

    On another note, I see that I can subscribe to the comment via email. Are you able (in your admin area) set up to subscribe to the blog via email? I think you can add it as a sideboard thingy. At least one used to be able. I haven't used blogspot since I got my own website, so it may have changed.

  7. Dawn,
    On disease and such. It is amazing. The diseases they succumbed to that were nutrition based afflictions, such as beriberi. We know now, they were so easily avoided or cured.

  8. Hi D,
    I did see that in gadgets. I shall go add it.

  9. Huzzah! Now I am subscribed and there's no escaping it...hahah

    1. Oh my first stalker! But what a cute stalker to have.
      Nice to see the bookworm show up, D! :D

    2. It's the glasses...works every time :)

    3. No, I think its the eyebrows. ;)

  10. Email thingie Added! :D

    RE: Writing a dissertation.
    It is tempting to waffle. But I am trying to keep myself under control. lol (not easy)
    I looked around at other history blogs and so many have long, long posts that one has to commit brain power to or commit too much time to.
    That's when I decided that my non book related posts would be around this Mary Rose size. That way, it is quick and to the point which makes it quicker to read. Oh, and not too technical. So your average Joe doesn't get lost in the facts and details. :)

  11. Make sure if you guys catch me making a stuff up. Tell me.
    eg..I am still thinking I should have said cannon gallery not galley.
    I should google and fix and I may do. But if you see any errors like that let me know. :)