Famous English naval ship revealed to have multiracial crew

Famous English naval ship revealed to have multiracial crew
The Tudor ship sank in battle in 1545 and was raised from the Solent in 1982. (Mary Rose Trust)
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Updated 05 May 2021

Famous English naval ship revealed to have multiracial crew

Famous English naval ship revealed to have multiracial crew
  • Much of its crew had foreign origins, possibly including North Africa
  • Expert: ‘This study transforms our perceived ideas regarding composition of nascent English navy’

LONDON: Analysis of skeletons recovered from the 16th-century Mary Rose ship has revealed that much of its crew had foreign origins, possibly including North Africa.

Once a great battleship, the Tudor navy flagship was sunk in 1545. Research conducted on eight skeletons from the wreck suggests that three of them were born far beyond England’s shores.

A fourth person was revealed to have been raised in England, but was black, likely from a second-generation immigrant background.

Researchers said their results — published in Open Science — showed that Tudor England and its armed forces were more multi-ethnic than originally assumed. 

The chemical composition of an archer’s teeth show that he grew up in southern Europe or North Africa and was possibly a dark-skinned Iberian Moor. 

Previous research exposed another crew member’s DNA as being close to modern-day Moroccans or the Mozabite Berbers of Algeria. 

“The variety and number of personal artefacts recovered which were clearly not of English manufacture made us wonder whether some of the crew were foreign by birth. However, we never expected this diversity to be so rich,” said Dr. Alexzandra Hildred, head of research and curator of ordnance and human remains at the Mary Rose Trust.

“This study transforms our perceived ideas regarding the composition of the nascent English navy.”