9 Of History’s Most Famous Shipwrecks — And How These Doomed Vessels Met Their Ends

Published March 13, 2022
Updated May 25, 2022

The Mysterious Sinking Of Henry VIII’s Mary Rose

Mary Rose Ship

Public DomainKing Henry VIII’s ship Mary Rose, as depicted circa 1546.

King Henry VIII is probably best known for having six wives, two of whom he had beheaded. But the English king had perhaps the longest relationship with his favorite ship, the famous vessel Mary Rose.

Built between 1509 and 1511 — and likely named for Henry’s sister or the Virgin Mary — the king’s flagship sailed triumphantly for 34 years. Its seafaring days came to a shocking halt on July 19, 1545, when the Mary Rose sank during the Battle of the Solent between the English and the French.

To date, no one is entirely sure what caused one of England’s most famous shipwrecks. The only confirmed eyewitness, a Flemish sailor, suggested that a gust of wind had caught in the ship’s sails shortly after it had fired its guns, according to MaryRose.org. Water then rushed into the open gun ports.

Mary Rose Shipwreck

Geni/Wikimedia CommonsThe Mary Rose was raised in 1982. It’s now on display at the Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth, England.

Other theories suggest that the ship was overloaded, poorly designed, or manned by a foreign crew that couldn’t communicate with each other. But the Mary Rose had successfully sailed in similar conditions before, so most of these theories are questionable. It is possible, however, that the French managed to sink the ship with a well-aimed cannonball.

Regardless of how it sank, the sinking of the Mary Rose was absolutely devastating. Not only did Henry VIII lose his flagship, but nearly 500 crew members drowned in the disaster. Just 25 managed to survive. From that point, this famous shipwreck seemed irrevocably lost.

In fact, it wasn’t until the 20th century that the wreck was definitively identified, according to History Extra. In 1982, the Mary Rose was raised from the depths alongside many Tudor-era artifacts, including wooden plates, game pieces, and even the skeleton of a small dog, nicknamed Hatch.

Today, this famous shipwreck is on display at the Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth, England, a priceless relic of the country’s past.

After reading about some of the most famous shipwrecks of all time, learn about Unsinkable Sam, the cat who survived three World War II shipwrecks. Then, look through this list of sunken ships from around the world.

Kaleena Fraga
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Kaleena Fraga has also had her work featured in The Washington Post and Gastro Obscura, and she published a book on the Seattle food scene for the Eat Like A Local series. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she earned a dual degree in American History and French.
Jaclyn Anglis
Jaclyn is the senior managing editor at All That's Interesting. She holds a Master's degree in journalism from the City University of New York and a Bachelor's degree in English writing and history (double major) from DePauw University. She is interested in American history, true crime, modern history, pop culture, and science.
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Fraga, Kaleena. "9 Of History’s Most Famous Shipwrecks — And How These Doomed Vessels Met Their Ends." AllThatsInteresting.com, March 13, 2022, https://allthatsinteresting.com/famous-shipwrecks. Accessed June 22, 2024.