Sovereigns of the Sea
The Quest to Build the Perfect Renaissance Battleship
It was the age of the great humanist scholars,of poets, architects, painters, inventors,scientists, sculptors, and doctors-and of oneof the most ferocious and costly arms racesin history. Beginning with the first marriage of guns and ships in the early fifteenth century,the monarchs of Europe launched a desperate competition to rule the waves with ever larger, more powerful, and more seaworthy warships. Driven by continuous advances in gunfounding technology, this deadly contest gave rise, almost immediately, to national navies, led to greatleaps in shipbuilding and design, and produced revolutions in naval strategy and tactics. The price of these advances was always enormous and, in some cases, ruinous.
In Sovereigns of the Sea, historian Angus Konstamcharts the dramatic course of this all-outstruggle for maritime supremacy. He explainswhy the very notion of placing heavy artilleryaboard a sailing vessel posed dauntingchallenges to Renaissance shipbuilders, and why trial-and-error efforts to overcome these challenges could easily result in disaster. Citing shipbuilding efforts in England, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, and even Scotland, Konstam examines the two centuries of politics,technology, ambition, and savage sea battles that produced the ultimate military sailingvessel-the ship-of-the-line.
Beginning with Henry V's Grace à Dieu, a colossusof its day, Konstam tells the tales behind aseries of "super-ships," state-of-the-art behemoths designed to overpower any vessel that stood in their way. From Scotland's never-tested GreatMichael and Sweden's ill-fated Vasa to Henry VIII's fearsome Regent and Charles I's Sovereign ofthe Seas, their stories follow the path of shipbuilding, politics, and technological innovation during this crucial period of world history.
Also key to this evolution was the experience ofships' captains and crews who, with no formalinstruction in the use of these powerful newweapons, had to learn under the worst possible conditions-in the heat of battle at sea. Konstam'saccounts of this perilous on-the-job trainingbring the thrill, horror, and confusion of seabattle to life.
Complete with a fascinating description of the raising of Henry VIII's flagship Mary Rose, whose amazingly well-preserved hull and interior have changed modern understanding of Renaissance ship building, Sovereigns of the Sea is compelling reading for anyone interested in the Renaissance, naval and military history, and the age of fighting sail.