The Sinking of the Mary Rose Haiku

Like a fat basset

Begging for tum rub, so tipped

King Henry’s pride.

The English warship Mary Rose sank 473 years ago today, in the middle of battling the French while Henry VIII watched. But it wasn’t sunk by French cannons. Or English cannons. What?

The Mary Rose was a carrack launched in 1511, as part of the young Henry VIII’s plans to dramatically expand the navy. During his father’s time, the navy was decidedly tiny, due to his ‘Don’t Get Involved in Shit’ peace plan. But young Henry, filled with youthful vigor, testosterone, and Englishness, wanted to fight the French. Thus, the Mary Rose and all her sisters, representing an exciting new era in naval warfare – one which ships fired at each other with cannons, rather than soldiers just clambering aboard to stab each other.

Over the years, the Mary Rose (named either after Henry’s sister or the Virgin Mary) bothered the French, Scots, and Bretons. It also saw an overhaul in 1536, increasing its tonnage from 500 to 700 tons.

Then in 1545, Henry VIII and Francis I were at each other’s throats again. This led to the Battle of the Solent, off of the Isle of Wight, with 200 French ships and 80 English, most of the latter becalmed. The Mary Rose sailed into the fray, fired her cannons, and… tipped over. The gunports weren’t closed after firing, allowing water to slosh in. (They were very close to the waterline due to the ship’s weight.) As the ship’s contents tore free, the ship’s sinking accelerated. Most of the 400~ crew drowned, trapped by the anti-boarding nets, including Vice-Admiral George Carew on his first damned day on the job. Henry got to watch all this from the shore. Around 25 men survived.

Soon after the sinking, Henry tried and failed to salvage it. Due to deterioration and sediment, the ship was eventually lost. It was eventually rediscovered (a few times), raised and conserved, and made into a museum. You can go see it in Portsmouth!

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