Iconic Ships 1: The Mary Rose

April 2021

This is the first of a new sub-series of podcast episodes: ‘Iconic Ships’. The series has been conceived as an opportunity for curators of famous historic vessels to make a case as to why their ship is iconic, but it is also open to historians to make a case for a historic vessel that no longer survives. Once we have sufficient entries we will open this up to the public and run a poll.

We start with the Mary Rose – a Tudor warship that served in Henry VIII’s navy for 34 years before sinking in battle with the French in 1545. She was then raised in 1982 and her hull, and tens of thousands or artefacts raised with her, are now on display in the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth. The Mary Rose is, without doubt, one of the most important historical artefacts in the world, let alone one of history’s most iconic ships.

The case for the Mary Rose is made by Chris Dobbs, head of interpretation at the Mary Rose museum and one of the Archaeological Supervisors in charge of excavating the contents of the shipwreck.


Need to Know

  1. Henry VIII and the Tudor Navy.

Henry VIII gained a reputation for extravagant spending and was proud of the Navy that he built. When he first came to the throne in 1509, the Navy only had five ships in its service; by the end of his reign, in 1547, it contained an impressive 58 ships. Part of the reason Henry VIII decided to increase the Navy was due to the military threats posed by Scotland and France. One of the most notable ships built during Henry VIII’s reign was the Mary Rose; whose life span almost coincides with his own reign.

  1. Mary Rose.

The first written reference to the Mary Rose is in January 1510 when there was an order regarding the construction of two new ships: the Mary Rose and Peter Pomegranate. There were rumours that the ship was named after either his sister, Mary Tudor, or his own daughter, who would later become Mary I. However, this is just speculation as there is no written evidence to support these rumours. The Mary Rose was 600 tons and carried six or eight large guns. She was considered a state-of-the-art design, possibly because of the introduction of gunports: this is largely considered the reason for Henry VIII being so proud of this ship.

Despite not being the largest ship in the navy, Edward Howard, the Admiral of the fleet, chose her as his flagship. In the early years of her career she saw several successful raids along the coast of Brittany, capturing roughly 40 ships. However, by the early 1530s Mary Rose was out of commission until Henry VIII’s break with Rome 1533 when he began to refit his navy, including the Mary Rose: new gunports were added, and the sides were strengthened in order to hold extra weight.

  1. The Sinking of the Mary Rose.

The Mary Rose sank during the Battle of the Solent 18-19 July 1545. One witness claimed that she sank after firing all her guns from one side while she was turning, and was caught in a strong wind. There are several reasons why this particular manoeuvre may have caused the Mary Rose to sink: Human error, poor design, weather, French gunfire.

  1. Recovering the Mary Rose.

Between 1965 and 1970, a team of archaeologists and divers began to search for the sunken Mary Rose. It was led by Alexander McKee who began ‘Project Solent Ships’ in order to find wrecks in the Solent: his real aim was to find the Mary Rose.  In 1971, Percy Ackland found port frames belonging to the Mary Rose and in 1982, the official process to raise her began. Once the Mary Rose was raised, the ship was placed in a controlled environment to preserve her timbers and she can now be visited in Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard alongside several other famous ships, including HMS Warrior and HMS Victory.

Alys Colins, Undergraduate, Plymouth University

  • View The Transcription

    Sam Willis

    From the Society for Nautical Research, in partnership with Lloyd’s Register Foundation, I’m Sam Willis, and this is the Mariner’s Mirror Podcast, the world’s number one podcast dedicated to all of maritime history.

    Welcome, everyone; welcome to the first of a new sub-series of podcast episodes. We already have a sub-series on great sea fights, and I urge you to go and listen to the episodes dedicated to the Battle of the River Plate of 1939 and the Battle of St. Vincent of 1797, just 142 years before. This new series is entitled ‘Iconic Ships’, it has been conceived as an opportunity for curators of famous historic vessels to make a case as to why their ship is iconic, but I’ve also opened it up to historians who can make a case for a historic vessel that no longer survives. Once we have sufficient entries, we will open this up to you our wonderful listeners and we will run a poll. Yes, we will have an international vote to see who we can crown as the Society for Nautical Research’s Iconic Ship for 2021. It will be as contentious as Brexit certainly, but I can promise that it will be a lot more fun. There are going to be entries from all over the world. But we are starting this week with a doubleheader we have one from the past and one from the present. So, without further ado, here is the excellent Chris Dobbs, who will be talking about the Mary Rose, the mighty Tudor warship which sailed in Henry VIII’s navy but sank off Portsmouth in the summer of 1545. Yes, that’s 476 years ago, but it was then found by archaeologists and raised to the surface in 1982, along with tens of thousands of artefacts that bring to life Tudor seafaring. She is now on display at the National Museum of the Royal Navy, in Portsmouth, and is, without doubt, one of the most important historical artefacts in the world, let alone one of the most iconic of ships. Chris Dobbs will be making the case for the Mary Rose. Chris is head of interpretation at the Mary Rose, who began his work there as one of the archaeological supervisors in charge of excavating the contents of the shipwreck. In 1982, he changed to the salvage diving team and was one of the divers working underwater as she came to the surface on October 11th, 1982. Chris then worked on other projects in a number of countries before returning to the Mary Rose Trust, as the archaeologist responsible for recording the hull and reinstating the deck timbers that had been removed underwater. For the last 10 years, Chris has been working on the interpretation, the ideas and content for the new museum that opened in July 2016. Chris also has an international reputation, having been chairman, and now vice president of the influential Nautical Archaeology Society. He is the UK representative on the International Committee on Underwater Cultural Heritage and chairman of the Maritime Archaeology Committee of the International Congress of Maritime Museums; in short, Chris is the most perfect person to be making a case that one of the world’s most iconic ships is indeed, the Mary Rose.

    Chris Dobbs

    My task in this podcast is to tell you why the Mary Rose is the most iconic ship that ever sailed. I’m Christopher Dobbs, and I’m head of interpretation at the Mary Rose Trust, and I’ve been involved with this ship for 42 years. So, I agree with you that I’m biased. But I know that by the end of this podcast, you will agree with me that the Mary Rose is deservedly the most iconic ship.

    So why is it iconic? I think it’s really because it’s iconic for so many different reasons, as we’ll see during the podcast, but let’s start with the boring bits, although perhaps I shouldn’t call them that – the history. So, it’s an iconic period of British history. Henry VIII ordered the building of the ship in 1510, January 1510, just after he came to the throne, and it served him extremely well for 34 years. It didn’t sink on its maiden voyage like many people seem to think it did; it’s just something that’s got into the history books and into the press, I suppose. But it was also his ship, he owned it and everything on it. Unlike modern ships that are owned by the Ministry of Défense or the Navy or the state, he owned it. It was an iconic ship of an iconic King. As part of its life, it fought in three French wars. And sadly it, yes, it did capsize and sink in 1545, in a battle against the French. It was a French invasion fleet, just off the coast of England – just at the Isle of Wight. They’d already landed troops on the Isle of Wight: they had 200 ships, 20,000 men, enormous number of people, it was a bigger armada than the Spanish Armada of 43 years later. And yet we seem to spend a lot of our history lessons at school, learning about the Spanish Armada, but not about the French Armada. And we won that battle; if we hadn’t won it, I think we’d all be speaking French now. It was such an important and pivotal part of our history.

    So, as well as being a central part of that important historical period, the ship herself was revolutionary. She was revolutionary in that she was one of the first ships to be built as a warship from the start. Previously, ships were often borrowed by the king from say traders, and they would have guns and extra pieces added to them so that they could go to war. But the Mary Rose was built as one from the start: it had high castles at the front and the back nowadays called the sterncastle and the forecastle, focsle, but in those days, it gave you an advantage over the enemy, because you could fire your guns and shoot your arrows down on the opposing ships. But critically, it also had gun ports fitted and gun ports with lids. And this meant that you could have much heavier guns in the ship because they could be mounted much lower in the ship. And you would only open the gun ports when you were going to battle or when you’re actually fighting. So that you were preserving your waterline, but you could have these heavy guns. So that was really quite revolutionary, and it did contribute to her sinking in the end because they failed to close the gunports when they were battling against the French and that caused the disaster. But she was very successful, up until that point. She was also built out of carvel planking, and carvel planking is a way of joining the planks together edge to edge, rather than having them overlapping in the previous clinker style. And this was particularly important because it meant it was then easier to fit the gunports that I told you about. So, she was a successful ship.

    She was also a very fast ship. She had what’s called beautiful lines, but Admiral Howard, who was the admiral at the time, set up a race for all the ships in Henry VIII’s fleet, and the Mary Rose consistently won these races, finishing way ahead of the others. And the admiral wrote to Henry VIII at the time in this wonderful, flowery language, saying, “Sir, she is the noblest ship of sail of any great ship at this hour that I trow to be in Christendom”. So even the admiral at the time, thought she was a very iconic ship.

    She was also a very beautiful ship. The only certain image of her betrays her with flags and streamers and painted panels. And she had great character with this narrow waist and a large bow and stern; I’d better not get carried away here with comparisons of beauty. But she was an iconic shape, she has very fine lines, if, which means that she sailed really well. If you show her, especially the underside of the ship at the bow and the stern, you can see the beautiful curves of the hull as it tapers at the front and the back of the ship. And when you show the ship to naval architects, they’re always amazed by how fine the lines are compared with other ships at the period or even later periods. And she was really part of the birth of the modern Navy, you know before then Henry VIII was given by Henry VII about five ships, but when he died, he passed on over fifty-five ships to his offspring, meaning that they had a Navy by the end of Henry VIII’s reign. It meant they built it up so that they could win wars like the Battle of the Solent against the French in 1545, or the Armada against the Spanish in 1588. So, although it wasn’t called a Navy in those days, they were called the King’s ships because they – he owned them; they were his personal property. They didn’t belong to the Ministry of Defense or the Navy, they were actually his personal ships, he owned them and everything that was inside them. So absolutely an iconic ship in historical terms. She is also the only Tudor ship in the world ever recovered from underwater, but we’ll come on to the archaeology and stuff later. So absolutely an iconic ship.

    But the other thing is it’s the collection of objects inside her that are also iconic. So yes, you’ve got bronze guns and iron guns. And in fact, the bronze guns are beautifully embellished with crests and motifs like the Tudor rose, but they also have the Fleur de Lis, because Henry VIII is saying is King of France, as well as King of England. And the lifting lugs, that you would use to if you wanted to move the cannon around and put them on board and take them off the ship, they’re beautifully cast in bronze, but they’re of lion’s heads, merman and so on. So, yes, the guns are important, but to me, it’s the objects of everyday life that are particularly iconic that we have in the Mary Rose museum. We’ve got exceptional objects like a Shawm, which is a forerunner of an oboe, it’s a musical instrument. Now, who would have guessed when, before the Mary Rose was raised, that we’d find things like musical instruments on board – that nobody’s ever seen before. The Shawm you might have seen in pictures, but we’ve actually got a real example of one that survived from 1545; the only example in the world, I mean, absolutely amazing. And what we’ve done, for instance, in museum is we’ve created a replica of it, which has been played so you can actually hear it. And it’s just wonderful. Yes, an iconic collection.

    So, we’ve got tabors and pipes. A tabor pipe is like a drum and a pipe, like a one-man band that you played together, we’ve got two fiddles; so that we’ve got these exceptional objects. But to me particularly important are collections of objects that we have, collections of objects in chests, or found near to each other. So especially we’ve got professional equipment. We’ve got the barber-surgeons equipment, we found one cabin on board that was obviously dedicated to the barber-surgeon. And in his chest were jars of ointments, but also because he was called the barber-surgeon in those days, we’ve got the shaving bowl that he used: we’ve got his razors, we’ve got his ointments. Some of these moments, I even remember one when it came out of the water, and the lid was taken off to sample the contents, you could still smell the ointment – it was like a menthol smell. And to me, that is amazing that smells can survive from the past as well as just the objects. So, we got carpenters chest with tools. shipwright tools, like adzes and axes that they used to do a lot of their work with. We’ve got rulers marked in inches: we’ve got moulding planes, just like ones you’d find in amongst grandma, granddad’s carpentry tools. We’ve got another chest with items to do with pilotry, navigation. It had in it gimbaled compasses; these are the only known gimbal compasses from that period ever found in the West. Gimballing means that they’re sort of on a special pivot so that they stay flat, even when the ship goes, tilts from one side to another. We’ve got navigational dividers, we’ve got a log reel, which is a really clever instrument for telling the speed that the ship is going, we’ve got sounding leads that were dropped over the side to tell the depth of the water but also used for pilotage in shallow waters.

    So those are chests full of professional equipment, but we’ve also got personal chests, which had things like shoes in them, and the very ends of laces, lovely brass ends of laces, you and I might have little plastic ends of our laces (they’re called aglets), but we’ve got these lovely brass ones. We even got pocket sundials which were the latest must-have accessory, perhaps like an i-watch nowadays; it was a sundial that you could fold down the gnomon that triangular thing that the sun hits to tell the time and put it in your pocket. We’ve got book covers, we’ve got rosaries, we’ve got these (rosaries are paternosters), they’re like a set of beads that you would have that you use to tell your prayers. So, you would say ten Ave Maria’s and then you do a paternoster, you’d say you do Hail Mary and then you’d say the Lord’s Prayer. And these are a very Catholic way of praying, and yet we found them on board the King’s ship several years after they’d been banned in England for saying your prayers with, by rote. So, I mean, we’ve got this incredible selection of iconic objects.

    But as well as – I mean, some objects, you might not feel are iconic, because they’re so every day, we’ve got a simple stool that you would just walk past in the museum because it’s just like something your father or grandfather would have made in carpentry lessons in the 50s and 60s. And yet, it’s the only surviving stool that we know of from that period, and in incredible condition as well. There’s a shovel, in fact, I haven’t told you about my background, but I was one of the archaeologists who had the privilege of supervising the work from 79 to 81. And on one of my dives, I saw a piece of wood in the silt; we’d been excavating, we’d been digging archaeologically in the silt and I saw this piece of wood and I uncovered a bit more of it, and I uncovered a handle. And then I uncovered the whole wooden piece attached to this handle, and at the far end was the end of the shovel. But what was amazing about this shovel, it’s carved out of one piece of wood, so it doesn’t have a separate handle, and shaft, and blade. It’s all carved from one piece of wood. And very cleverly made from an oak tree, it’s cleft, which means it’s very strong because all the grain goes straight down the shaft and without breaking, it’s not been held together with joints, it’s not been sawn, it has been carved out of one piece of wood. And I remember this object, particularly because after I’d excavated it, uncovered it underwater, and done all the archaeological measuring and so on, I literally held it up while I was on the seabed and looked at it, and it struck me that the last person that touched this was a Tudor sailor. And that was just so powerful. And it’s an everyday object.

    What I think about the Mary Rose collection is that it’s extraordinarily ordinary. And it’s these ordinary things that haven’t survived in other collections. When you go to other museums or stately homes around Britain, you see things mostly that were owned by the rich and famous, and the posh people, on the Mary Rose we have a collection of objects used by normal people, everyday objects that you don’t see in palaces and so on. We even found all the cooking equipment; you know that will interest many people. This museum is not about a ship even though it’s iconic. To me, it’s these pots and bowls and ladles that are iconic. We even found the two cauldrons, enormous cauldrons that could cook three or four hundred litres of broth each that were found. We found their brick; they were cauldrons laid on brick ovens. And we even found seven hundred or so logs that were used to burn beneath these cauldrons. These are, it’s odd for me to say that there’s seven hundred they’re unique but there’s seven hundred of them, but nobody else in the world has to firewood. Everybody else has burnt it. We’ve got a collection of Tudor firewood; it’s unique; it’s iconic.

    We’ve got all the eating and drinking vessels. We’ve got wooden bowls, wooden tankers, leather flasks, pewter tankards. There’s a whole hierarchy of tankards and ways of drinking, that we found all on one ship on use on one particular day in history. And we’ve got the remains of the food that they didn’t eat because the ship sank. We’ve got the pork, the fish, the beef, and even venison, which would have only been used by the captain or the officers. And not just the food, but the sort of supplements: we’ve got peppercorns and plum stones, plums didn’t survive, but we’ve got the actual plump stones that would have been plums, back in 1545, or prunes, perhaps. We’ve even got the seeds of plants and weeds that were growing ashore at the time. I mean, it’s absolutely incredible really. There’s a cliche, which is applied to many archaeological collections saying it’s, you know, they bring history to life, but it’s absolutely true at the Mary Rose.

    So, it’s iconic for all these objects we’ve got on board, but then it’s iconic for education, for educational purposes, you know, to be able to live up to that cliche of bringing history to life is absolutely amazing. History, you know, is the study of written remains from the past. So, the study of writing, and everything that’s written, but archaeology is the study of the physical remains – what’s actually remained of past people and cultures. And what is so great about the Mary Rose is that we’ve got all these physical objects which can illustrate history and tell their own stories. And that’s what we try to do in the Mary Rose Museum; it’s iconic, for all these reasons.

    It’s also iconic for the development of maritime archaeology; it was an absolutely pioneering project. There was this really visionary man called Alexander McKee, who started a project looking for ships in the Solent (it’s an area off the south coast of England between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight); he was looking there from 1965 or so. But the final first major objects and pieces of the ship were seen in 1971. But it was not until 1979, when the project was changed from a fairly small operation, just outlining what there might be underwater to being the most enormous excavation. And it was an iconic excavation; it’s still the largest underwater archaeological excavation that has ever been done, and that’s 40 years later, it’s still not been surpassed. For instance, some of the amazing things that we did is we used amateur divers, or unpaid divers, to do much of the work very much in the tradition of archaeology in Britain over the last hundred years. So over five hundred volunteer divers were trained in how to work archaeologically underwater. And this, I think, really changed divers’ attitudes from being finding things underwater was, you know, a’ finders keepers’ mentality to actually doing things for the benefit of all. And that’s what was so amazing about Alexander McKee and Margaret Rule who ran the project in the 70s, and 80s, is that they did this not for profit – a charitable trust was set up – they didn’t do it for profit, but they did it for the common good, I suppose you would say nowadays. And it was absolutely iconic excavation.

    And as well as changing divers’ attitudes, it changed the attitudes of academics and archaeologists. Because prior to this, I think they thought that underwater archaeology was strange madmen going around with flippers and snorkels, masks, finding things underwater. But what we proved is that archaeology could be done underwater, as well as it could be done on land. And it changed public awareness as well, it put, I suppose the long word is underwater archaeology on the map, but it made people aware that the seas around our coasts are full of riches that belong to everybody. And that previous attitudes of treasure hunting, and that that was romantic, should be adjusted to understanding that all of these things belong to us as a nation, and we should care about them because they’re iconic. So, I mean, really amazing. And some of the archaeology we did that I was involved with is that dendrochronology – the tree ring dating. We were able to tell what parts of the ship were from the original build in 1509-1510-1511, and what parts of the ship date to reconstructions and rebuilds of the ship in the 1530s. And that is quite amazing. And it was possible because the wood was in such good condition. It was in such good condition that you could even see the tool marks made by those carpenters in 1510 when they made the ship. You could even see the shavings of some of the wood made by their tools. I mean, just amazing.

    So, that’s quite a few reasons that it’s so iconic, but it’s also iconic for the science of conservation. You can imagine that trying to conserve trying to preserve for future generations, something as large as a whole ship. We raised the ship in 1982, and that was an iconic moment that many people will remember. But then there was all the work in preserving this forever. And it was sprayed with this chemical compound – it’s a water-soluble wax called polyethylene glycol – and that work spraying the ship really developed techniques used on other shipwrecks like the Vasa, in Sweden. But I think the Mary Rose is more iconic than that ship. And also developing a technique called ‘freeze drying’ of some of the objects the wooden and leather objects. Freeze drying, you may have – you will have heard of freeze-dried coffee, well, it’s the same process but just applied to archaeological wood and leather; very clever. So, it was iconic for the development of conservation.

    So, it’s all very well for me to say how iconic the Mary Rose is, but perhaps the proof of her iconic status comes from how the Mary Rose has been absorbed into popular culture. The streets and bakeries and cafes and beers and wines have been named after the Mary Rose. Even the local hospital maternity unit, is called the Mary Rose maternity unit. So, to me, that shows that people care about it enough that they want to name things after it. It’s also been on stamps and coin designs: it’s been the subject of operas and symphonies even. And perhaps the best example of it being brought into popular culture is when it’s part of jokes and cartoons like in national newspapers. There are often cartoons- quite often they’re wrong. They sort of say every time the UK gets involved with any naval decisions and battles, they say, “oh, perhaps they’ll even get the Mary Rose out of retirement. But that wouldn’t be very good because she sank on her maiden voyage”, but as I said she didn’t sink on her maiden voyage she was actually a successful ship. So, sometimes the jokes actually get it wrong. But if you’re gardening, if you’re keen on gardening, you’ll know that there are roses and clementine and sweet peas named after the Mary Rose because you know, everyone wants to get in on the act because the ship is so iconic. It’s even the part of the answer or the question in quiz shows, like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire or Pointless or University Challenge or Mastermind or whatever. And to me, it’s when you get into these popular culture things that it shows that the Mary Rose is really iconic.

    There have been lots of television documentaries about the ship, which has helped her to gain this iconic status in the UK. But in fact, when we raised the ship in October 1982, the raising was seen by 60 million people around the world. So, it was actually the world’s (during that broadcast on the Sunday, the day before the Mary Rose came up) the world’s first ever TV broadcast from underwater was made. I know because I was part of the salvage diving team that raised the Mary Rose after working on the excavation, and I operated the camera for this. And the images from this camera were sent up to the ship above on a wire (it was a camera on a cable), and then from there, they were transmitted to South Sea Castle, ashore, with a microwave link, and from there straight on to the outside broadcast BBC trucks that were on South Sea Common. And there it went out to around the UK and the world. So even that act of the raising and the television broadcast was iconic.

    In fact, the Mary Rose has even been the subject of feature films. Some of you may have seen and if not, you’re going to have to watch it now, a very odd film called Sahara, which is a bit sort of like an Indiana Jones tale of maritime archaeology. And it’s with Matthew McConaughey who’s the sort of lead person in it; it has a very strange plot. But what I need to tell you about is just that during the opening credits, it was a bit like a Bond film, there’s an opening sequence and then the opening credits and then the main film. But in the opening credits, the camera is panning around the salvage vessel that this maritime explorer is using. And they borrowed from me a load of knickknacks to just sort of populate his cabin because they wanted to show objects that might be in a maritime archaeologist cabin. And as it pans round, you can even see a photograph taken underwater on the Mary Rose, although the visibility is so bad. So, there’s this picture at the start of that film, which flashes past the screen rather quickly. But in their publicity, they also had a photograph of Matthew McConaughey with his sidekick, and what they did is they actually took a photograph that we already had of myself and my colleague, Alex Hildred, and they actually photoshopped out our faces and put in the faces of Matthew McConaughey and Steve Zahn. So, I claim I’m the stunt body stills double for Matthew McConaughey. So anyway, the point is to say it’s iconic, so iconic, that it even has a very minor part in Hollywood feature films.

    In fact, Oh, another American link, which I think yet again, proves it’s iconic, is that one of the parrel balls, a wooden object that’s part of the ship’s rigging was actually taken up in one of the space shuttles, I think it was Endeavour and went around the world a hundred times – it’s covered millions of miles. And you might think, well, what were they doing? Why did a piece of the Mary Rose go round space? But to me, the interesting thing is that even NASA thinks that the Mary Rose is so iconic, that they wanted a piece of the Mary Rose, illustrating the forefront of 16th-century ship technology, or the technology of transport, to be in a 20th-century icon of transport, namely a space shuttle. So, even, as far as I’m concerned, even NASA thinks the Mary Rose is iconic. So how could you possibly think any other ship is more iconic than the Mary Rose.

    So she was, I mean, the other thing is how important she is for the local region. She was built in Portsmouth: she operated from Portsmouth, she fought there, she sank there, she was rediscovered there, she was excavated and raised there. And the museum has been built just nearby. So, she’s very much a local ship. And the building of the Mary Rose and the world’s first dry dock, which was built in Portsmouth just 10 years earlier, it really started the development of the city of Portsmouth as a naval base that would be supplied from the local area. Henry VIII started this with, well it was Henry VII who started it with building the dockyard, but Henry VIII had to order the building of two new breweries, and four or five bakeries just to supply his ships – the King’s ships. So, it’s very important for the local region, but also for the local area, but also for the region, with that supply chain, with the protection of Portsmouth during the Battle of the Solent. It’s got national importance as this iconic ship of an iconic King. And it has international importance with its effect on perhaps European history, in that it was part of the build-up of a navy by an English King, that ensured that we weren’t invaded since 1066; we kept away future armadas. And internationally, as I said, 60 million people saw this iconic raising of the ship in 1982.

    Then finally, it’s, you know, it remains iconic because we built this new museum. It’s a brand-new museum, which you’ve got to come and see now. But this presents and interprets history, in what I think is a completely new way. We’ve actually done it for non-museum goers. So, it’s really unlike any other museum because it’s about people. It’s not about a ship; it’s not about this iconic ship, it’s actually about people; it’s about the people who lived and worked and enjoyed their time off perhaps, but also who died on this ship five hundred years ago. It’s about – perhaps this is most illustrated by one of the shoes that we found that you can see in the museum, and it’s so worn away that it’s got a hole in the bottom. And when you look at some of these objects, like the shoes, and the combs, and a completely worn away shoe and something that’s mended, you can empathise with these people from five hundred years ago. And that is why the whole story, the whole project, the whole ship, the whole collection, is iconic.

    So, in summary, perhaps, it’s iconic for that history; an iconic ship of an iconic King. It’s iconic for the ship design; for the naval architecture; it’s a thing of beauty. It’s iconic for the collection of objects discovered inside, inside this time capsule. It’s iconic, in terms of education: it’s iconic for the development of maritime archaeology, and the techniques of conservation; the museum is for a 21st-century audience, not just stuffy, old, middle-aged people like me; it’s iconic and worth seeing for everybody. And this has been proved by how it’s entered into popular culture. It’s iconic at local, regional, national and international levels. In fact, a quote from a recent famous English historian, said, “The Mary Rose is one of the most important objects in English history. It’s up there with the doomsday book, the Magna Carta, and Hampton Court. And it’s a jolly sight more interesting than any of those three”. He was saying that it’s the most important object, not just the most important ship, not just the most iconic ship, but the most important thing in English history. So, come and visit and if I can misquote the admiral who I quoted earlier, “do remember Sir, Madam, that she is the most iconic ship of any great ship at this hour that I trow to be in Christendom”. Thank you.

    Sam Willis

    Well, I hope very much you enjoyed that as much as I enjoyed listening to it and your understanding of Tudor seafaring has now suitably increased. There will be more coming your way very soon, not least the second episode in our Iconic Ship series, which will be on a vessel from the past, but which no longer survives. Next up we have Catherine Gray from the University of Plymouth making the very strong case for the Mayflower. That’s it for now, do please follow us on social media; you can find the Society for Nautical Research on Twitter and Facebook, and the Mariner’s Mirror Podcast has its own Instagram and YouTube channel – with some fabulous stuff on it for you to watch. Check out the Society for Nautical Research’s page @snr.org.uk for the archives of the Mariner’s Mirror Journal, which the SNR has been publishing for over a century. Please leave us a review on iTunes, but best of all, please, please join the Society for Nautical Research @snr.org.uk. your subscription will go towards publishing the most important articles in maritime history and towards preserving our maritime heritage.

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