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The Mary Rose was a carrack-type warship of the English Tudor navy of King Henry VIII. After serving for 33 years in several wars against France, Scotland and Brittany she saw her last action on 19 July 1545. While leading the attack on the galleys of a French invasion fleet, she sank in the Solent, the straits north of the Isle of Wight. The wreck of the Mary Rose was rediscovered in 1971 and salvaged in 1982 by the Mary Rose Trust in one of the most complex and expensive projects in the history of maritime archaeology. The surviving section of the ship and thousands of artefacts found while it was excavated and lifted have proved to be of immeasurable value as a Tudor era time capsule.
The excavation and salvage of the Mary Rose was a milestone in the field of maritime archaeology, comparable in complexity and cost only to the raising of the Swedish 17th-century warship Vasa in 1961. The finds from Mary Rose include weapons, sailing equipment, naval supplies, and a wide array of objects used by the crew in service and in their everyday lives. Many of the artifacts are unique to the Mary Rose, and have provided archaeologists and historians with insights into topics ranging from naval warfare to the history of musical instruments. The remains of the hull have been on display since the mid-1980s at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard while undergoing conservation, along with an extensive collection of well-preserved artefacts at the Mary Rose Museum.
As a vessel of war Mary Rose was armed with new types of heavy guns that could fire through the recently invented gunports, and was one of the largest ships in the English navy throughout four decades of intermittent war. Mary Rose is one of the earliest examples of a purpose-built warship, having had no known career as a merchant vessel. She was also one of the earliest ships able to fire a broadside, although the line of battle tactics that properly took advantage of the innovation had not yet been developed. Several theories have sought to explain her sinking, based on historical records, knowledge of 16th-century shipbuilding and modern experiments. The precise cause of the demise of the Mary Rose is still unclear due to conflicting testimonies and a lack of conclusive physical evidence.
By the late 15th century, England was a relatively small state on the periphery of Europe. The great victories against France in the Hundred Years' War were in the past; only the small enclave of Calais in north-eastern France remained as a remnant of the vast French holdings of the English kings. The War of the Roses - the civil war between the houses of York and Lancaster had ended with Henry VII's establishment of the House of Tudor, the new ruling dynasty of England. The ambitious naval policies of Henry V were not matched by his successors, and from 1422 to 1509 only six ships were built for the crown.The marriage alliance between Anne of Brittany and Charles VIII of France in 1491, and his successor Louis XII in 1499, confronted England with a worsened strategic position on its southern flank. Despite this, Henry managed to maintain a comparatively long period of peace and a small but powerful core of a royal navy.