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Great Harry 1488

The reign of Henry VII is considered an important era, in the naval history of England. The ships belonging to that monarch, which have been mentioned by historical writers, are, the Great Harry, the Regent, and the Sovereign: but the accounts of their origin are very unsatisfactory ; and, with respect to the first of them, it is doubtful whether it ought to be classed with the ships of that reign. The Great-Harry, built at a reported cost of 14,000 in the third year of the reign of Henry VII (1488), was, properly speaking, the first ship of the royal navy. The Great-Harry had three masts, and, as late as the year 1545, was the only ship of that description in the British fleet. She is represented to have been accidentally burnt at Woolwich in 1553. If so, she had run 65 years; which, according to the mean of modern terms of duration, was a very long period.

Three ships that are often confounded are the Great Harry, the Regent, and the Henry Grace de Dieu. The GREAT HARRY was built in the third year of Henry VII (1488). It was a two-decker with three masts. There is reason to suppose that the "Great Harry" was renamed the "Regent" on the accession of Henry VIII. The HENRY GRACE DE DIEU, also called the GREAT HARRY, appears to have been begun at Erith, in August or September 1512, to replace the "Regent". Completed in 1515, it had three decks and four masts. It was later named Edward, after the death of Henry VIII in 1547, and was accidentally burnt at Woolwich in 1553.

Charnock's History of Marine Architecture not only does not give a clear account of the origin of the Great Harry, but he actually increases the difficulty of the investigation concerning that ship. He suggests that it was not launched until a short time after the death of Henry VII, and that it was this ship that was represented in a drawing preserved in the Pepysian Library, at Magdalen College, Cambridge. The drawing preserved in the Pepsian collection at Cambridge, England, shows her at anchor profusely decorated with twenty-five flags and standards. The ship has four masts and the high poop and forecastle of those times. Each of the round and top mast heads, and the bowsprit end (nine in all), are furnished with a streamer or standard bearing a cross of St. George at the luff, with the ends divided longitudinally by a red and white stripe, the red in chief. At three of the mastheads are St. George ensigns, and on the principal mast a flag or standard blazoned with the royal arms, and having a St. George cross in the fly. The poop, waist, and forecastle show a line of flags or banners, two of which are St. George flags with a blue fly bearing a fleur-de-lis, and one bearing a rose, also two plain blue flags charged with a fleur-de-lis and rose. Four are striped horizontally red and white, and four striped horizontally yellow and white. A drawing of the same ship under sail, given by Allen, exhibits a banner with the royal arms at the main masthead, a blue banner bearing a rose on the mast next abaft it, and St. George flags, white with a red cross, at both the fore and mizzen mastheads. A large royal standard on the ensign staff at the poop, and seven streamers or standards of various colors and devices are scattered about the rigging Other writers consider this drawing to represent the Harry Grace-a-Dieu, built by Henry VIII. However, the name appears to have been afterwards changed to the Sovereign, as it is called by Grafton, but by other Chroniclers, the Regent. No account, therefore, of this third ship of magnitude, that can be relied on, has been produced ; the number of such ships of that reign, is reduced to two only - the Regent and the Sovereign. These two ships are separately and satisfactorily identified, as belonging to the period of Henry VII, in an account of the privy purse expenses of that King. Tho first appearance of portholes (invented, with some other improvements, by Descharges, a French builder at Brest) occurs in the representation of the Henri-Grace-a-Dieu, built in 1515, and said to have measured 1000 tons. The invention of portholes gave the power of adding a second tier of guns; and, accordingly, the Henri-Grace-a-Dieu appears with two whole battery-decks, besides additional short decks, or platforms, both ahead and astern. The Great Harry cannot with propriety be added to these, as belonging to the reign of Henry VII. There is no proof of the time when, or of the place where, that ship was built; and as the name does not appear in the service, after the Sovereign and Regent are recognized, Charnock may be presumed to be correct in his assertion, that the Great Harry was not launched until the next reign, and that it was then called the Regent. There were, therefore, not three ships of that superior class, that may be termed first rates of the time; but two only, the Regent and the Sovereign, the former being of the burthen of 1000 tons, and the latter of 800 tons. This ship, the better-known "Great Harry," as burned in August 1512, in action with the French fleet, when carrying the flag of the lord high admiral. Some sources accord the Great Harry, built in 1504, having been the first ship of war in the English navy; for, until that time, only merchant vessels had been occasionally used in warlike affairs. But King's ships are spoken of in earlier documents; and even before the reign of Edward III, certain ships appear to have been built and employed solely in the public service.

The art of shipbuilding in mediaeval times culminated in the Great Harry, built in 1488, at the cost of 14,000, by Henry VII. Her size was her special feature, as it was that of the Harry's Scottish contemporary, the Great Michael, a ship 240 feet long and 36 feet broad, mounting 8 great guns a side, besides lighter ordnance. Neither the Harry nor the Michael, however, had portholes, which were only first invented in the year 1500, by Descharges, a shipwright of Brest.

"http://mkpix.org/gallery2/main.php/v/transport/ships/hermajestysnavy1890/">Her Majesty's Navy in 1890 the English publisher J. S. Virtue issued a six-volume set of books by Lieutenant Charles Rathbone Low, FRGS, entitled Her Majesty's Navy / Including Its Deeds and Battles. It included 46 color plates, some painted by noted British naval and marine artist W. Fred Mitchell.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 02:59:35 ZULU