Mary Rose

The Mary Rose was a warship built in Portsmouth for King Henry VIII. She sank in 1545 and was recovered in 1981, with many artefacts still on board.

The Mary Rose was built between 1509 and 1511, and rebuilt in 1536. She was Henry's favourite ship and he named her after his sister, Mary. She famously sank in 1545 and was raised from the seabed in 1982, recovering many preserved artefacts.

What happened to the Mary Rose?

On 19th July 1545, while Henry VIII watched, the Mary Rose sank very quickly, in the Solent, between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. The Mary Rose was part of an English fleet trying to stop the French ships landing on the Isle of Wight, but sank before firing a single shot. Around 700 of her crew, including the captain, Sir George Carew, drowned, and only about 30 men were rescued.

Why did the Mary Rose sink?

No one is sure exactly why the Mary Rose capsized. We know that she was very overloaded, carrying 700 rather than the 400 crew she was built to carry. Once the ship began to tip to one side, after turning sharply, seawater poured in the gunports.

How do we know so much about the Mary Rose?

People living at the time wrote about the Mary Rose, and drew pictures of her, so we know what she looked like. Almost as soon as she sank, people tried to lift her, but they could only manage to raise the masts. She lay on the seabed for over 400 years. Then in 1971, archaeologists diving in the area where she sank discovered the wreck. In 1982 she was lifted up from the bottom of the sea.

What was recovered from the wreck?

The Solent mud that covered the Mary Rose helped to preserve many of the items on board – as many as 19,000 artefacts have since been recovered. After more than 400 years at the bottom of the sea, they are now on display in a special museum at Portsmouth, run by the Mary Rose Trust.

Discover more about Henry VIII and his navy

Find out more about the Mary Rose Trust