500 Year Anniversary Of Mary Rose Coin

Posted by admin on Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

Yesterday, this blog discussed coins that have been found as part of sunken treasure. Of course, treasure doesn’t always come in the form of gold and silver. Sometimes it is because of the historical importance of the find itself that gives treasure its value. And sometimes these historically important finds are commemorated in the form of new coinage.

Last week, a strange sight greeted seafarers on the Solent, the channel of water between the north west of the Isle of Wight and the southern English mainland. For there, above the spot where the Tudor War Ship, The Mary Rose, sank in 1545, passers by were treated to a floating three meter diameter replica of the Mary Rose Coin which is being issued by the Royal Mint to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the ship’s maiden voyage.

The Mary Rose was commissioned by Henry VIII, and first set sail in 1511. It was built as the flagship of Henry’s Royal Navy, and served as a warning of Britain’s prowess in sea warfare to any would be invaders. The ship was, at the time, one of the largest and most heavily armed battleships in the world, and its strength was increased when a refit in 1536 saw its weight increase to 700 tons from its original 500 tons.

During this period of Britain’s supremacy at sea, others tried to challenge the Royal Navy’s fighting capacity. The best known of these, of course, is the Spanish Armada, which failed in its mission during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Forty years earlier, a far larger fleet set sail from France to challenge England and her Navy.

In the summer of 1545, the French fleet anchored off the Isle of Wight in sight of the English battle fleet at Portsmouth, and King Henry VIII who was commanding his army on the nearby Southsea Common.

With good weather, and a stiffening wind to push them on, Henry ordered his fleet, led by the daunting Mary Rose, to meet the French challenge head on. They weighed anchor, and set sail toward the enemy on the afternoon of 19th July. As they approached firing range, the Mary Rose manoeuvred away from opposing galleys. As she did so, the ship heeled too fast, and too far, and seawater entered through the open gun ports.

The ship listed badly, and more water entered. The sorry tragedy was completed within minutes, the ship’s sinking costing the lives of 475 of the 500 crew. The battle was not joined by either of the opposing fleets, and the following day the French returned to their own waters.

The Mary Rose might still be rotting on the seabed now, had it not been for the determination and resilience of its finder Alexander McKee. The ship had been left for so many years, that even its location had been lost. McKee’s project to discover and raise the Mary Rose began in the late 1960’s, but it wasn’t until 1982 that the bow finally broke water again.

The ship is now housed in a dedicated museum in Portsmouth, along with nearly twenty thousand artefacts from its four decks.

The £2 coin will come into general circulation later this year, but the pride of the commemorative coins has been issued now, in limited numbers.

Collectors, and investors alike, can purchase gold and silver proof coins that have been minted in memory of the Mary Rose. There are just 1511 22 karat Gold Proofs available, and a maximum of 4000 Silver Piedfort Coins.

The coins have a reverse design that features the Mary Rose in dramatic detail, with traditional Tudor banners prominent. The edge description reads YOUR NOBLEST SHIPPE 1511. The ship stands out in frosted relief against the high polished table of the coin. It has a gold plated outer ring, which includes the name of the ship inscribed in Tudor script. The 20,000 limited edition Mary Rose Silver Proofs have the same design as the Gold Proofs and the Silver Piedforts.

The coin is a modern, beautiful edition to any collection, especially those concentrated on commemorating historical events or life at sea. More details are available from www.royalmint.com.

Share your thoughts

You must be logged in to post a comment.