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The Great Harry warship

The Great Harry

  • A View of The Great Harry built in the Reign of King Henry the 8th
  • Published by The London Magazine
  • 229 x 191mm (9 x 7½in)
  • Engraving mid-18th century

Laid down by order of Henry Vlll in 1512, the Great Harry, or as the great ship was at first called, Henry Grâce à Dieu (Henry Grace of God), was launched in 1514 from the Royal Dockyard in Woolwich, located on the River Thames in London.

Henry Grâce à Dieu was an English four-masted carrack (large merchant ship) of the King's Fleet in the 16th century, and was purpose built to be the largest warship in Europe. This heavily armed sailing ship was said to have been manned by 349 soldiers, 50 gunners, and 301 sailors, and was approximately 165 feet in length with a tonnage of over 1000.

An innovation for this new type of warship was the introduction of gunports enabling cannons to be located on the lower decks. When the watertight flaps opened the barrels of the deadly cannons protruded from the gunports and when fired simultaneously along the length of the ship, a thundering great "broadside" would be delivered with devastating effect to the enemy.

Henry VII, had formed the Royal Navy and on his death his son, the newly crowned king Henry VIII, was left with a handful of ships. Henry VIII(1491–1547) was really the founder of the British navy having considerably enhanced the fleet during his rule as monarch and became known as the “Father of the English Navy”.

Henry Grâce à Dieu was refitted and modified in the 1530s to make her more efficient and continued in service for a further twenty years until 1553, when the glorious ship that served its country and king honorably, was completely destroyed by a fire that ravaged through Woolwich docks.



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