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either purchased or hired from merchants or private builders, or contributed by individuals for the occasion. Thus it is said that he sent five-and-forty ships to the coast of Bretagne, which fell in with a French fleet coming out of Brest; that an action ensued, which ended in the destruction of the two largest ships, one in each of the hostile fleets—the English Regent and the French Cordilier, being nearly of the same size (say, about a thousand tons): they grappled together, took fire, were blown up, and all on board, seven or eight hundred in each ship, perished. This was in the year 1512. The Regent and the Sovereign are said to have been procured by Henry VII. from some private builders in the northern parts of England. The Sovereign of the Seas, built in the reign of Charles I., was the first three-decked ship in the British fleet. Historians, however, refer to certain large ships built in the time of Henry VI. The curious old poem in Hakluyt, called • English Policie, exhorting all England to keep the Sea,' &c., speaks of Henry V's “Great Dromons,” built at Hampton-such as the
Trinité, the Grace de Dieu, and the Holy Ghost. But what they were, no record appears to be left.
The Commissioners of Naval Revision say, that Henry VIII. laid the foundation of the navy of England—that he instituted an Admiralty and a Navy Board : if so, how happened it that there was no vestige of either of them when Queen Elizabeth
came to the throne? Henry, no doubt, founded a Trinity House at Deptford, and set apart ground for dock-yards at Deptford, Woolwich, and Portsmouth; but we hear nothing of docks for the repairing of ships. The few large ships he left were mostly worn out or destroyed in the two succeeding reigns. The number of all kinds, mostly small, that fell to the share of Elizabeth, cannot be estimated at more than 24. In fact, had Mary lived a few years longer, the navy of England would have ceased to exist. “At the death of Mary,” says Burnet, “ the naval power of England was so much diminished that 14,0001. only was allowed for its repairs and victuals for one year; and but 10,0001. a-year would afterwards support all its charges.”
In the fleet against the Armada, Elizabeth had 32 ships-of-war. She left at her death 42,* having increased the naval force during her reign by 18 * They consisted of
2 of 1000 tons
} 5 of 40 guns.
to 12 from
ships; and those built by her were durable. The Lord Admiral Howard says, in one of his letters, that the Elizabeth Bonaventura in 1588 was twenty-seven years old (and must therefore have been launched in 1561); she had been, he says, employed on every voyage, and was good for twelve years more; and that the Triumph, the Elizabeth Jonas, the Bear, and the Victory were all ships of the first class, and built in the early part of Elizabeth's reign; and, being on the list of the navy at her death, they were then about forty years of age. Without docks to repair these ships—without their bottoms being protected by copper or other metallic sheathing to preserve them from the ravages of the worm (Teredo navalis), it is difficult to conceive what were the means made use of for their protection. Captain Richard Hawkins, in his well-written Voyage, describes the different processes, and particularly that practised by his father, Sir John Hawkins, one of the ablest navigators of the time; but they appear to be merely inadequate expedients.
In the year 1545, a large French fleet stood over to the Isle of Wight to attack the English fleet assembled at that anchorage. A fight ensued, and the Mary Rose was sunk, and, as the French say, the Great Harry had a narrow escape; but the English accounts affirm that the Mary Rose was upset by a roll of the sea, and, the ports being only sixteen inches from the water, she foundered..
King Henry, by Monson's account, dined on board that day, and witnessed the disaster from the shore. The Great Harry also, in the first year of Queen Mary, 1553, took fire, as is said, from the carelessness of the mariners, and was wholly consumed. The Sovereign now only remained of the four large ships, and Monson says that she too was burnt : one thing is certain, that none of the four large ships of Henry are found in the list of those, which were employed against the Spanish Armada, nor in any other list during the reign of Queen Elizabeth.
The manning of ships, whether of the navy or hired, was necessarily imperfect, and frequently required forcible means: the science of gunnery was then but little known, archery being a part of it. By the experience however acquired in the numerous expeditions, chiefly against the Spaniards, the greatest naval power then existing, British seamanship and gunnery were greatly advanced, and the determined bravery of our seamen then, as now, led them, on every occasion when it could be done, to the practice of boarding the enemy, in which they rarely failed. The happy result of the encouragement given by Elizabeth, to the improvement of her navy, acquired for her, as Camden tells us, the glorious title of the “Restorer of Naval Power and Sovereign of the Northern Seas.”
From her time down to the present, and throughout every reign, the naval service has regularly
improved in all its branches, and the skill in seamanship was eminently displayed in the many brilliant examples of it, exhibited in the long-continued revolutionary war.
Fears, however, it would seem, are now occasionally apprehended by some persons, that the enormous and rapidly increasing extent of steam navigation will materially interfere with the employment of our old seamen, and put a stop to the growth of young ones. In a noted periodical journal this has been strongly put. “ Alas! for the mutability of human affairs,” says the writer, “ and the wonderful changes effected by human invention! A boiler of water converted into steam impels a ship through the sea with a greater and more constant velocity than the winds can do, and the ship so impelled requires but few or no seamen. She is navigated by engineers, gunners, blacksmiths, and coalstokers, who usurp the place of seamen. What, then, is to become of our brave sailors ? and what is to become of our superiority of seamanship, of the glorious result of which we have just given so splendid an instance?* It may be said we too can steam equally with others; true, but the naval superiority of England, which has been asserted and maintained for the last three hundred years, admits not of equality.” † This is quite true-insulated as this * That of Faulkner in the Blanche against La Pique.
† Edinburgh Review.