(later HMS Sovereign, HMS Royal Sovereign)
1st rate 102 (3masts)
Daught/Beam/Daught: - 232? loa (125? keel) x 48? (70.7m (39.8m) x 14.6m)
TONS: - 1,141 bm
HULL: - wood
Armament: - 102 guns
Designer: - Phineas Pett
BUILT: - Peter Pett, Woolwich Dockyard, Eng.; 1637
In 1634, the ill-fated monarch Charles I informed the great English shipbuilder Phineas Pett of his ?princely resolution for the building of a great new ship? as part of his overall effort to improve and expand England?s nave, whose enemies and concerns included the Dutch ? her most serious rival in overseas trade. Built at a cost of ?65,586 ? about ten 40-gun ships could have been built for the same amount ? Sovereign of the Seas was intended as an instrument of propaganda as well as war. The Royal Navy?s most lavishly ornamented vessel, her decorations were carved by the brothers John and Mathias Christmas and described in a booklet prepared by Thomas Heywood, who also managed to include a description of the ship itself:
?She hath three flush Deckes, and a Fore-Castle, an halfe Decke, a quarter Decke, and a round-house. Her lower Tyre [tier] hath thirty ports, which are to be furnished with Demy-Cannon [30-pdr.] and whole Cannon through out, [being able to beare them]. Her middle Tyre hath also thirty ports for Demi-Culverin [10-pdr.], and whole Culverin: Her third Tyre hath Twentie sixe Ports for other Ordnance, her fore ?Castle hath twelve ports, and her halfe Decke hath foureteene ports; She hath thirteene or fourteene ports more within Board for murdering peeces, besides a great many Loope holes out of the Cabins for Musket shot. She carrieth moreover ten peeces of chase Ordnance in her, right forward; and ten right aff, that is according to Land-service in the front and the reare. She carrieth eleaven Anchors, one of them weighing foure thousand foure hundred, &c. and according to these are her Calbes, Mastes, Sayles, Cordage; which considered together, seeing his Majesty is at this infinite charge, both for the honor of this Nation, and the security of his Kingdome, is should bee a great spur and incouragement to all his faithfull and loving Subjects to bee liberall and willing Contributaries the Ship-money.?
In 1660 she was rebuilt and renamed Royal Sovereign. Despite her vast size, the ship was slow and of limited value in actual combat as she could not keep company with other ships. Nonetheless during the three Anglo-Dutch Wars, she saw action at the Battle of Ketish Knock in 1652, Orfordness (1666), Solebay (1672), Schoonveld (1673), and the Texel (1673. Following another rebuild in 1685, in the War of the League of Augsburg, she was at Beachy Head (1690) and Barfleur (1692). Eleven years later a misplaced candle set the ship on fire and she burned at Chatham.
Izak J H Hough
Member of The Nautical Research Guild