One of the most famous shipwrecks in English history was the sinking of the Mary Rose. An important vessel in Henry VIII's navy, the Mary Rosehad a long career spanning three decades of warfare before she finally sank during an attack on French forces on 19 July 1545, near the Isle of Wight.
More than four centuries later, the Mary Rose was raised and recovered in an extraordinary feat of maritime archaeology. Not only was much of the ship itself recovered, but a wealth of Tudor-era artifacts – over 19,000 in all – were salvaged, ranging from weapons and navigational tools to the personal belongings of the lower-deck crewmen.
But perhaps the single most engaging discovery was the skeleton of the ship's dog. Nicknamed Hatch by the archeologists (because the remains were discovered near the hatch door of the ship's carpenter's cabin), the skeleton is believed to have belonged to a young female mongrel terrier. Sixteenth century sailors, a superstitious lot, were convinced that cats brought bad luck to ships at sea. Rat-catching dogs became an important member of the shipboard company, and Hatch was likely not only a working dog, but a favorite with the rest of the crew.
Certainly Hatch is continuing to serve her ship in the twenty-first century. A new museum to house the Mary Rose is being constructed as part of the Historic Dockyard, Portsmouth, UK, and to help raise awareness and funds for the project, Hatch recently made an appearance at the 2010 Crufts dog show in Birmingham as the special guest of the sponsoring Kennel Club. While Hatch might not have claimed a ribbon, she was, in her own way, Best in Show.
Above left: Skeleton of Ship's Dog, The Mary Rose Trust. Above right: The Carrack Mary Rose, illustration by Anthony Roll, c. 1546
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.