Shipwreck hailed most important since the Mary Rose

    The Mary Rose. Credit © Christopher Ison for the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN).

    The Gloucester, a shipwrecked warship from the 17th century, has now been called the most important maritime discovery since that of the Mary Rose

    The Mary Rose Shipwreck

    The Mary Rose was Henry VIII’s favourite warship, serving for a total of 33 years in several wars against France and Scotland. In 1545, during an attack from a French armada on the Isle of Wight, for reasons unknown, the Mary Rose capsized, and took her crew of 500 men to the bottom of the sea, just a few miles from the coast of Portsmouth. 

    In 1982, there was an enormous operation to salvage the shipwreck and the Mary Rose was returned to the surface, after over 400 years under water, live on television, watched by around 60 million people worldwide.

    mary rose
    The Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth. Credit:

    Today, visitors can see the remains of the boat, and the 19,000 objects that were salvaged from the shipwreck on the seabed at the Mary Rose museum in Portsmouth.

    The Gloucester Shipwreck

    Until now, the recovery of the Mary Rose was the most important maritime discovery in British history. However, the newly announced discovery of The Gloucester shipwreck now rivals it.

    In 1682, the Royal Navy warship, The Gloucester, ran aground off the coast of Great Yarmouth, almost killing the then Duke of York, who later became King James II of England.

    Although the shipwreck was actually discovered in 2007, when divers spotted a canon on the seabed, it has only just been revealed due to security reasons. Until 2007 when it was discovered half-buried in the seabed 28 miles out to sea, the whereabouts of the shipwreck had been a mystery.

    The sinking of the ship killed hundreds of passengers and crew on board, and, if the Duke of York hadn’t managed to flee with moments of spare, would have changed the course of history forever. James went onto become the Catholic heir to the Protestant throne, in an era which will forever be associated with religious and political instability.

    It is these by-the-skin-of-his-teeth circumstances that have caused The Gloucester shipwreck discovery to be hailed the most important since the Mary Rose. If the future king had not managed to escape and had drowned with the ship, we may be living in a very different Britain to the one we live in today…

    Read more about the discovery here. 

    A major exhibition on The Gloucester is being planned from February to July 2023, at Norwich Castle Museum.

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