A 340-year-old shipwreck could change our understanding of 17th-century maritime history

(ORDO NEWS) — A British warship that sank in 1682 while transporting the future king has been discovered off the coast of eastern England. The find has been called “the most significant historic marine discovery since the 1982 Mary Rose.”

This announcement comes after 15 years of secret verification work to protect the wreck.

Gloucester lay half-submerged on the seabed until brothers Julian and Lincoln Barnwell and their friend James Little discovered it in 2007 after a four-year search off the coast of Norfolk.

A Royal Navy vessel was carrying the future King of England, James Stuart, then Duke of York, when she ran aground on a sandbar on May 6, 1682.

It sank after a dispute between the future King James II of England, a former Lord High Admiral, and a pilot over control of the ship’s course as it navigated the treacherous Norfolk sandbars.

University of East Anglia maritime history expert Claire Jowitt noted that the age and prestige of the ship, the condition of the wreck, the finds already salvaged and the political context of the accident all contributed to the find’s importance.

“The find promises to radically change the understanding of the social, maritime and political history of the 17th century.”

Hundreds of crew and passengers died, but Stewart barely survived, delaying leaving the ship until the last minute.

“Because of the circumstances of her sinking, this could be called the most significant historic marine discovery since the Mary Rose was raised in 1982,” Jowitt added.

The Mary Rose, one of Henry VIII’s warships that sank in 1545, was salvaged in 1982, a feat of maritime archeology that reveals many details about life during Tudor times.

After years of painstaking work, 40 years ago the ship was brought to the surface in an impressive operation that was watched by millions of people on television.

About a third of the wooden warship, which was almost completely buried under the sea floor, survived, while the exposed parts were eroded.

Wooden gun carriages, cooking pots, scalpels, leather book covers, syringes, violins, whistles, weapons, navigational instruments and furniture have all been recovered from the Mary Rose, providing historians with the largest collection of authentic Tudor artifacts in history.

The Gloucester represents an important ‘almost’ moment in British political history: the shipwreck of a royal ship that nearly killed the Catholic heir to the Protestant throne at a time of intense political and religious tension,” the university added.

An exhibition is planned for 2023 at the Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, which will display items found during the shipwreck, including the bell that helped identify the ship.


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