Home » Tudor Ships

Tudor Ships

Tudor ships were extremely sturdy and huge. The main purpose was to make them durable enough to survive the rough conditions in the oceans. The ships were primarily used for two reasons, namely, for defending the kingdom and secondly for carrying out expeditions. Merchants were also motivated to use ships for trade purposes. The movement of the wind controlled the mobility of the ships.

Tudor Ships


Henry VII was the only king to have made efforts to have a strong fleet of ships for defence. It is said that King Henry VIII allocated a generous amount of money to help in building large quantities of ships. It is believed that he had inherited around 15 ships and he pursued his mission of expanding the fleet of ships.

Tudor Ships
Tudor galleons

Tudor ships were called galleons and were high. Also, they were narrow in breadth. The ships were believed to be 20 feet in width and 75 feet in length. The size of the ships made them slow while sailing. It was for the first time during the reign of King Henry VIII that special arrangements were made to fit the cannons which were placed in the sides of the ships.

What were Tudor ships made out of?

The Ships in Tudor era were constructed of timber and were long and broad in shape. They were made in a way so that they could travel in the oceans and had three-four masts so that they would be easy to steer.

However, they were slow in speed and became even slower when guns and canons were added to them. There was very little room for the sailors to sleep and most of the time, they would have to sleep on the deck.

Dreadnought (1573)

The Dreadnought was a part of the Tudor navy and fought under Sir Francis Drake with the Spanish armada. It served from 1573 to 1648 and was the longest-serving dreadnought.

Tudor battleship
Tudor battleship

There are, however, many more dreadnoughts in history that continued their lineage till the age of nuclear war.

Mary Rose

Mary Rose was the favourite warship of Henry VIII among his fleet of 58 ships that he built during his reign. The life span of Mary Rose matches with the life of Henry VIII. Mary Rose also had a sister ship called Peter Pomegranate.

The place where both these ships were built in was Portsmouth. The museum dedicated to Mary Rose is therefore located in Portsmouth as well. Some historians even believed that the ship was named after Henry’s sister, Mary Tudor but no evidence can be found to support this. It was, in fact, a trend to name ships after prophets and saints, so the pair of Mary and Peter, therefore, made sense.

Rose was also the symbol of the King and pomegranate symbolised Katherine of Aragon, his wife. Another feature that made Mary Rose a favourite was that it was a 600-ton ship and was built to carry heavy guns. It required a different design feature, the gunport. It was another reason why Henry was so proud of Mary Rose.

Mary Rose
Mary Rose

Mary Rose sank in the Battle of Solent in July 1545.

Tudor Ship names

Ships during the Tudor era were made for exploration and battles. IT was a trend to name the ships after saints, members of the royal family and sometimes after animals.

Hence there were ships called Jesus, Peter, Christopher, Christian, Helen, Elizabeth, Katherine, James, and also Greyhound, Falcon etc.

Spanish and Portuguese ships

The Spanish and Portuguese ships inspired the British to have a mechanism to place the cannons in the ship. Guns were also stored on the ships during the Tudor era. During the rule of King Henry VIII, cannons made from bronze were used. These were very durable but also expensive. These cannons were heavy and were also responsible for slowing down the ship.

Queen Elizabeth I carried forward her father’s passion for building a strong navy. One of the significant events in the history of Tudors was the Anglo-Spanish war fought during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. It was during this war that the actual strength of the English ships was put to test. In the end, English ships over-powered the Spanish with the result that only 60 ships returned to Spain out of the several hundred’s that had set sail to invade England.

Queen Elizabeth I
Queen Elizabeth I

English ships captured and took away huge quantities of gold and silver from other ships. Cast iron cannons were introduced during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. These were cheap and thus could be made in larger quantities to suffice the need of the navy during war-time.

Under the Tudor rule, there were around 45 ships in the navy by 1540. The Royal Navy was thus founded and strengthened during the Tudor rule.

Facts About Tudor Ships

Tudor monarchs also supported expeditions to discovery new sea-routes for trade. Here again, ships played a pivotal role. Although the ships looked bulky in size, living on the ship for several months at a stretch was not an easy task. The main problem was that there was very little space available for the men or sailors to accommodate themselves.

The reason is that thousands of men would be called in to defend the country. All had to survive in the compact space of the ship. Normally before going on sailing, the troops would stock up the food supply, even carry live animals. Thus, living on a ship was not easy.

More Info On- Tudor Trade Items, King Henry VIII Accomplishments, King Henry VIII Religion

Found info useful?