Tudor ships were able to travel across oceans and seas, and they were used for trading, fighting and exploration. Most ships had 3 or 4 masts with triangular or square sails and they were quite easy to steer. The ships were constructed from timber.
King Henry VII started to develop England’s navy by building ships and King Henry VIII was responsible for increasing the size of the English fleet. In addition to being used for defense, the huge ships were used for exploration, with voyages of discovery often lasting years.
Tudor ships were powered by the wind, and were extremely slow moving. When cannons were added, the ships became even slower because of the extra weight of the guns.
There was not much room for sailors to sleep in the ships, and most of the time they were cramped or slept on the deck. Most sailors also wore the same clothes every day. Click here to learn more about the conditions on board a Tudor ship.
The food on most ships was not very good and consisted of bread, fish, biscuits, cheese and salted beef. The water was usually stale and the food often full of maggots.
Despite the dangerous and uncomfortable conditions, sea voyages were popular with many people. They were attracted by the sense of adventure and the prospect of finding great wealth.
The Mary Rose was one of the most famous Tudor ships. She sank in 1545, while attacking the French fleet and today, the remains of the ship, along with many artifacts (such as cooking utensils, games and clothing) can be seen in Portsmouth, England.
About 500 men died when the Mary Rose sank. The ages of the sailors ranged from as young as 12 to about 40, and most of them could not read or write. To discover more Mary Rose facts, click the link.
One of the greatest Tudor ships was called Henry Grace a Dieu. It weighed almost 1,000 tons and could carry almost 1,000 men.
In one of the great sea battles, the small English Navy defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588. The Spanish invading force was much larger than the English fleet. Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh were both involved in conflict.