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A later document from January by an anonymous author states that the Mary Rose and other ships were "new made", and dating of timbers from the ship confirms some type of repair being done in or This would have coincided with the controversial dissolution of the monasteries that resulted in a major influx of funds into the royal treasury. Many experts, including Margaret Rule , the project leader for the raising of the Mary Rose , have assumed that it meant a complete rebuilding from clinker planking to carvel planking, and that it was only after that the ship took on the form that it had when it sank and that was eventually recovered in the 20th century.
Marsden has speculated that it could even mean that the Mary Rose was originally built in a style that was closer to 15th-century ships, with a rounded, rather than square, stern and without the main deck gunports. Henry's complicated marital situation and his high-handed dissolution of the monasteries angered the Pope and Catholic rulers throughout Europe, which increased England's diplomatic isolation.
In May , the French had assembled a large fleet in the estuary of the Seine with the intent to land troops on English soil. The estimates of the size of the fleet varied considerably; between and vessels according to French sources; and up to sailing ships and galleys according to the chronicler Edward Hall.
An English force of ships and 12, troops under Viscount Lisle was ready at Portsmouth by early June, before the French were ready to set sail, and an ineffective pre-emptive strike was made in the middle of the month.
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In early July the huge French force under the command of Admiral Claude d'Annebault set sail for England and entered the Solent unopposed with ships on 16 July. The English had around 80 ships with which to oppose the French, including the flagship Mary Rose. But since they had virtually no heavy galleys, the vessels that were at their best in sheltered waters like the Solent, the English fleet promptly retreated into Portsmouth harbour. The English were becalmed in port and unable to manoeuvre.
On 19 July , the French galleys advanced on the immobilised English fleet, and initially threatened to destroy a force of 13 small galleys, or "rowbarges", the only ships that were able to move against them without a wind. The wind picked up and the sailing ships were able to go on the offensive before the oared vessels were overwhelmed. Early in the battle something went wrong. While engaging the French galleys the Mary Rose suddenly heeled leaned heavily over to her starboard right side and water rushed in through the open gunports. As she leaned over, equipment, ammunition, supplies and storage containers shifted and came loose, adding to the general chaos.
The massive port side brick oven in the galley collapsed completely and the huge litre 90 gallon copper cauldron was thrown onto the orlop deck above. For those who were not injured or killed outright by moving objects, there was little time to reach safety, especially for the men who were manning the guns on the main deck or fetching ammunition and supplies in the hold. The companionways that connected the decks with one another would have become bottlenecks for fleeing men, something indicated by the positioning of many of the skeletons recovered from the wreck.
What turned the sinking into a major tragedy was the anti-boarding netting that covered the upper decks in the waist the midsection of the ship and the sterncastle. With the exception of the men who were stationed in the tops in the masts, most of those who managed to get up from below deck were trapped under the netting; they would have been in view of the surface, and their colleagues above, but with little or no chance to break through, and were dragged down with the ship.
According to the unnamed Fleming, the ship had fired all of its guns on one side and was turning to present the guns on the other side to the enemy ship, when she was caught in a strong gust of wind, heeled and took in water through the open gunports. Later accounts repeat the explanation that the ship heeled over while going about and that the ship was brought down because of the open gunports. A biography of Peter Carew , brother of George Carew, written by John Hooker sometime after , gives the same reason for the sinking, but adds that insubordination among the crew was to blame.
The biography claims that George Carew noted that the Mary Rose showed signs of instability as soon as her sails were raised. George's uncle Gawen Carew had passed by with his own ship the Matthew Gonson during the battle to inquire about the situation of his nephew's ship.
In reply he was told "that he had a sorte of knaves whom he could not rule". The most common explanation for the sinking among modern historians is that the ship was unstable for a number of reasons. When a strong gust of wind hit the sails at a critical moment, the open gunports proved fatal, the ship flooded and quickly foundered.
This has been interpreted to mean that something else could have gone wrong since it is assumed that an experienced crew would not have failed to secure the gunports before making a potentially risky turn.
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The most recent surveys of the ship indicate that the ship was modified late in her career and have lent support to the idea that the Mary Rose was altered too much to be properly seaworthy. Marsden has suggested that the weight of additional heavy guns would have increased her draught so much that the waterline was less than one metre c. Peter Carew's claim of insubordination has been given support by James Watt, former Medical Director-General of the Royal Navy, based on records of an epidemic of dysentery in Portsmouth which could have rendered the crew incapable of handling the ship properly,  while historian Richard Barker has suggested that the crew actually knew that the ship was an accident waiting to happen, at which they balked and refused to follow orders.
It also reports that there were men on board, an unusually high number. The distance in time to the event it describes may mean that it was embellished to add a dramatic touch. English sources, even if biased, would have nothing to gain from portraying the sinking as the result of crew incompetence rather than conceding a victory to the much-feared gun galleys. Dominic Fontana, a geographer at the University of Portsmouth, has voiced support for du Bellay's version of the sinking based on the battle as it is depicted in the Cowdray Engraving, and modern GIS analysis of the modern scene of the battle.
By plotting the fleets and calculating the conjectured final manoeuvres of the Mary Rose , Fontana reached the conclusion that the ship had been hit low in the hull by the galleys and was destabilised after taking in water. He has interpreted the final heading of the ship straight due north as a failed attempt to reach the shallows at Spitbank only a few hundred metres away. This theory has been given partial support by Alexzandra Hildred, one of the experts who has worked with the Mary Rose , though she has suggested that the close proximity to Spitbank could also indicate that the sinking occurred while trying to make a hard turn to avoid running aground.
Initial tests showed that the ship was able to make the turn described by eyewitnesses without capsizing. In later tests, a fan was used to create a breeze similar to the one reported to have suddenly sprung up on the day of the sinking as the Mary Rose went to make the turn.
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As the model made the turn, the breeze in the upper works forced it to heel more than at calm, forcing the main deck gun ports below the waterline and foundering the model within a few seconds. The sequence of events closely followed what eyewitnesses had reported, particularly the suddenness with which the ship sank. A salvage attempt was ordered by Secretary of State William Paget only days after the sinking, and Charles Brandon , the king's brother-in-law, took charge of practical details. The operation followed the standard procedure for raising ships in shallow waters: strong cables were attached to the sunken ship and fastened to two empty ships, or hulks.
At low tide, the ropes were pulled taut with capstans. When the high tide came in, the hulks rose and with them the wreck. It would then be towed into shallower water and the procedure repeated until the whole ship could be raised completely. A list of necessary equipment was compiled by 1 August and included, among other things, massive cables, capstans, pulleys , and 40 pounds of tallow for lubrication. The proposed salvage team comprised 30 Venetian mariners and a Venetian carpenter with 60 English sailors to serve them. Brandon was so confident of success that he reassured the king that it would only be a matter of days before they could raise the Mary Rose.
The optimism proved unfounded. Since the ship had settled at a degree angle to starboard much of it was stuck deep into the clay of the seabed. This made it virtually impossible to pass cables under the hull and required far more lifting power than if the ship had settled on a hard seabed. An attempt to secure cables to the main mast appears only to have resulted in its being snapped off.
The project was only successful in raising rigging, some guns and other items.
At least two other salvage teams in and received payment for raising more guns from the wreck. When all hope of raising the complete ship was finally abandoned is not known. It could have been after Henry VIII's death in January or even as late as , when the last guns were brought up. After the sinking, the partially buried wreck created a barrier at a right angle against the currents of the Solent.
Two scour pits, large underwater ditches, formed on either side of the wreck while silt and seaweed was deposited inside the ship. A deep but narrow pit formed on the upward tilting port side, while a shallower, broader pit formed on the starboard side, which had mostly been buried by the force of the impact. The abrasive actions of sand and silt carried by the currents and the activity of fungi, bacteria and wood-boring crustaceans and molluscs, such as the teredo "shipworm", began to break down the structure of the ship.
Eventually the exposed wooden structure was weakened and gradually collapsed. The timbers and contents of the port side were either deposited in the scour pits and remaining ship structure, or carried off by the currents.