Not What You Thought You Knew

Listen to The Mary Rose and the People of Tudor England

The Mary Rose
King Henry's famous battleship sank off the coast of Portsmouth in 1545

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In this episode, we're going back to the year 1545. Henry VIII is king, married to his sixth and final wife Catherine Parr, and off the coast of Portsmouth with July wind in their sails lies a gigantic french fleet 150 warships, 25 war galleys, and over 30,000 troops have been brought to the Solent their mission to capture Portsmouth and conquer England.

From the battlements of south sea castle, King Henry stands watching as his tiny naval defense force. Only 80 ships face down this invading fleet. Leading the defense of England is the huge imposing British warship the Mary Rose. With almost 100 guns over 200 sailors and nearly 200 soldiers on board, the Mary Rose was an incredibly imposing sight but this was to be her last fight and before the battle had even really got underway King Henry was brought terrible news. His famous warship had been sunk blown over by an unexpected gust of wind and pulled under by the water that flooded into her open gunports.

We may never know the circumstances that led to the sinking of this magnificent ship but rumours from the British sailors and battle commanders blamed an insubordinate crew, poor sailing negligence or just pure dumb luck. The French, of course, claimed it as a victory for their own guns but one thing is sure ever since her rediscovery and raising from the seafloor in 1982, the Mary Rose has captivated us.

In early 2020, analysis on the remains of eight sailors who drowned on the Mary Rose yielded some astonishing results on our perceptions of the people of Tudor England. In speaking to Dr. Alex Hildred and Dr. Onyeka Nubia, we’ll hear that while the study helps to paint a new picture of the historic population of southern port towns we now know that this wasn’t unique.

Hosted by historian, author, and broadcaster Dr. Fern Riddell, HISTORY's Not What You Thought You Knew explores some under-celebrated characters from history and reveals not just their incredible story but also why they’re so important for our view of what history looked like.

This episode of Not What You Thought You Knew was presented by Dr. Fern Riddell and produced by Kim Sergeant, Peter Ross, and Sam Pearson.