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The Mary Rose in Popular Culture

The raising of the Mary Rose has become a standard by which all other large scale archaeological excavations is compared, due to its impact in the public eye, something that hadn’t really happened since the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922. From the media circus around the identification of the skeleton of Richard III to the recovery of the Costa Concordia, the Mary Rose has never been far away from the minds of the public.


This was certainly true in the early eighties when the raising of the Mary Rose was still fresh in people’s minds. Bob Monkhouse was making jokes about his material being found on it on Family Fortunes, Del Boy was comparing his friends’ ropey dates to the recently excavated shipwreck (and another episode filmed at Dreamland Margate featured their popular Mary Rose swinging ship, and even Doctor Who’s ‘Planet of Fire’ did a spot of name dropping, comparing the treasure trove of the Mary Rose to that of a sunken Greek merchant vessel carrying alien artefacts (none of the markings found on the Mary Rose appear to be the Misos Triangle). Sadly, while we would love to think that the episode of Murder, She Wrote  where Jessica Fletcher pretends to be her friend Mary Rose, who is nearly killed by CJ Dobbs, is inspired by our ship and salvage diver and head of interpretation Christopher Dobbs, we can’t prove that is anything other than a coincidence.


Sadly, some mentions are related to the old myth that the Mary Rose sank on her maiden voyage (we’re still trying to work out how that started, by the way). One of the most recent was on the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing, when judge Bruno Tonioli described Julien McDonald’s Tango as being ‘like the Mary Rose, it went down straight out of the harbour’.  We did get in contact via twitter to let him know, and even invited him to visit, but he never got in touch.


Appearances by the Mary Rose herself in fiction are somewhat rarer. There have been a few books dedicated to the sinking, most famously CJ Samson’s ‘Heartstone’, which although not solely about the loss of the Mary Rose it is part of one of the books more dramatic chapters. However, the TV Show The Tudors managed to feature the Mary Rose in a short scene where the ship is shown off by a rather slender, clean-shaven Henry VIII (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) to Charles VIII, the Holy Roman Emperor (Sebastian Armesto). Pity she appears to be missing a mast…


Star Trek : The Next Generation – Ship of the Line.
Image from Memory Alpha

Appearances by the Mary Rose post-raising are even rarer, one of the earliest being a mention in ‘The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole’, in which the titular hero watches the raising with his mother. She wasn’t impressed, but young Adrian, after  ‘…the commentator told us it was an historic occasion … tried to feel a bit overawed‘.


Finally, it appears that in the year 2371 the Mary Rose Museum has started loaning out artefacts to Starfleet, as in Diane Carey’s Star Trek – The Next Generation novel ‘Ship of the Line’ there are ‘artifacts (sic) from the Titanic, the Lusitania and King Henry the Eighth’s warship Mary Rose are currently on display on decks 4, 5 and 9 of the U.S.S. Bozeman.’ Of course, this wasn’t the first time any part of the Mary Rose went into space


Do you know of any others? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter!

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