A story in 100 objects
This painting of The Great Harry can be seen in the dining room of Mount Edgcumbe House. It was painted in the late 17th century by Isaac Sailmaker, a Dutch artist who settled in England and is known for his paintings of ships and lighthouses. It has probably been in the Mount Edgcumbe collection since that time. Sir Richard Edgcumbe who inherited the estate in 1667 is known to have commissioned paintings by Dutch artists resident in England to decorate the newly refurbished house following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660.
Although known as The Great Harry the full name of the ship was the Harry Grace a Dieu. Launched in 1514 it was the flagship of Henry VIII and was one of the first ships to feature open gun ports. It was the first English two decker ship and the largest and most powerful warship in Europe when it was launched. It was 50 metres long and carried between 700 and 1000 men. When originally built the forecastle was 4 decks high and the stern castle 2 decks high. The ship proved to be top heavy and was remodelled in 1530 when the height of the hull was reduced. It was also given an improved and innovative sailing arrangement with 4 masts.
The Great Harry was contemporary with The Mary Rose but was a larger ship. It saw little action but was present in the Battle of the Solent when the Mary Rose sank. The Great Harry was essentially a diplomatic vessel. It carried Henry VIII and his court to the famous Cloth of Gold summit with Francis I of France.
The ship was renamed for Edward VI when he succeeded his father in 1547. Its fate is uncertain but it was probably destroyed by fire in the Woolwich dockyard in 1553.
“The ship was renamed for Edward VI when he succeeded his father in 1547.”