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Disaster in the Solent

Henry VIII's favourite ship emerged from her watery grave in the Solent on October 11, 1982.

She had left Portsmouth Harbour for battle 437 years earlier with disastrous results.

Contemporary painting of the Mary Rose
But why was she there in the first place and how did the King's magnificent warship end up on the seabed with the loss of more than 500 men?

Henry VIII is one of our most famous and controversial monarchs.

'It was a very calm day which allowed the French to bring their galleys together within range of the English fleet and to start firing'

When the Mary Rose sank in 1545, he had engaged England in two wars - one with the Scots and one with the French.

A curator at The Mary Rose Trust explained: `The French planned a three-pronged attack - to aid Scotland, retake Boulogne, which Henry had captured, and hopefully destroy the English navy by capturing the Isle of Wight and using it as a base.'

The French built up a huge armada of 235 vessels in Le Havre. The English tried to attack, but did little damage and in July 1545 the French fleet sailed for England.

They were met by only 80 English ships which had grouped at Portsmouth, with another 60 on their way from the west country.

But the sides had difficulty engaging in battle because of the wind direction and because the deepest part of the channel could only take one ship at a time.

`It was a very calm day which allowed the French to bring their galleys together within range of the English fleet and to start firing,' explained the curator.

'The French were firing at England's fastest ships at the front- the Mary Rose and the Henry Grace A Dieu, when suddenly the Mary Rose sank'

`The English couldn't do much about it because there was no wind for them to sail in. Then the breeze picked up and the English started to sail towards them.'

The French were firing at England's fastest ships at the front - the Mary Rose and the Henry Grace A Dieu - when suddenly the Mary Rose sank.

Understandably the French thought they had sunk her, but in fact evidence suggests it was probably down to bad seamanship and indiscipline or confusion among the crew.

The 700-ton Portsmouth-built carrack lurched to the starboard while apparently turning back towards Portsmouth.

Water flooded into the open gunports and she sank in front of the King's eyes - he was watching the proceedings about a mile away at Southsea.

`Henry is meant to have wailed and cried out things,' said a curator.


Southsea castle, where Henry VIII watched the Mary Rose sink

But the King had been in several battles himself and the loss of the odd ship was not going to ruin the day, particularly as the French eventually went away.'

'Landings by the French at Nettlestone, Sandown, Shanklin and Bonchurch three days after the Mary Rose sank generated heavy casualties for the invaders'

Unable to draw the English fleet into battle, the French turned on the Isle of Wight.

They hoped its residents would side with them, rise in rebellion again London and provide a handy off-shore base from where they could challenge the English.

But it was a vain hope.

Landings by the French at Nettlestone, Sandown, Shanklin and Bonchurch three days after the Mary Rose sank generated heavy casualties for the invaders.

Finally the French withdrew, stopping only to attack at Shoreham on their way back to France.

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