Analytical science: Secrets of the Mary Rose
Analytical science: Secrets of the Mary Rose

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Analytical science: Secrets of the Mary Rose

1 The Mary Rose

The Mary Rose was a 16th-century battleship built at the request of King Henry VIII of England. It was built from elm and oak timbers and launched from Portsmouth Docks in 1511, representing the first big ship of the Tudor naval fleet, the forerunner to the UK's Royal Navy. It is estimated that over 600 trees (or 16 hectares of forest) were needed for the construction! (A hectare is 10 000 m2.)

For the time, the Mary Rose was the pinnacle of fighting prowess; she was purpose-built to hold a fully integrated weapons system, carry troops and fight in a range of naval environments. The hull was equipped with gun-ports from which bronze and iron cannons could be fired, and their positioning maintained the ship's stability in the water. Each gun was designed for its position in the ship and they were held on wooden gun carriages so they could be pulled into the hull for cleaning and loading. During combat, the crew of over 400 men also carried longbows, handguns and knives.

The first battle engagement was in 1512 where the French fleet was defeated with ease and the Mary Rose became the flagship of King Henry VIII's fleet. She was refitted twice with new timbers, in order to remain in the service of the King for over 33 years. However, on 19 July 1545 the ship sank in the Solent, off the north coast of the Isle of Wight.

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