French warship

Plain sailing ?

By Dominic Fontana

That the Mary Rose sank during the battle in the Solent on July 19 1545 there is no doubt. But why did it sink ? It had sailed and fought successfully for 34 years without toppling over. There must be a reason. 

Traditional thinking goes that it was blown over by a freak gust of wind, or that the crew were incompetent, and more recently it has been suggested that the crew were Spanish and could not understand English instructions.

To me, these seem very unsatisfying reasons for loss of Tudor England's best ship.

As I see it the scenario goes like this:

There was a very large French invasion fleet of 230 ships assembled off the eastern end of the Isle of Wight, and the English fleet of just 60 were becalmed and at anchor within the Solent blocking French progress into Portsmouth Harbour, where they could have landed their army of around 30,000 men.

This potential invasion was a very serious national crisis and the kingdom was at stake.