Why did the Mary Rose sink?
The only confirmed eyewitness account of the Mary Rose’s sinking says that she had fired all of her guns on one side and was turning when she was caught in a strong gust of wind.
Other accounts agree that she was turning, but there could be a number of reasons why she sank during the manoeuvre.
The most likely reason for the loss of the Mary Rose is probably the most straightforward. In the heat of battle with the French galleys, perhaps the captain or the crew made a mistake.
It is claimed that the admiral called out that he had “the sort of men” that he “could not rule”, but this claim comes from his family, possibly trying to protect the family name?
Did a gust of wind hit the sails at a crucial moment, making the ship unstable? Eye-witness accounts described a sudden breeze as the Mary Rose went to make the turn to the north.
With the gunports opened for battle, the ship could have flooded and quickly foundered. So why had she never foundered before? Perhaps she had simply become too heavy after a recent refit, which had added extra guns to her firepower.
Although there is no archaeological evidence to confirm this, a French cavalry officer present at the battle stated that the Mary Rose had been sunk by French guns. A cannonball low in the hull would enable water to flood in, making the ship unstable and leading to her sinking.
Perhaps that was why the ship turned north so suddenly. Was she aiming to reach the shallows at Spitbank only a few hundred metres away?