'The structure of the great ships and the depiction of the crew making a warship ready for sea are minutely and perfectly rendered. Add to that the detail regarding the working of the guns within the forts, and even Henry VIII himself, and you have a breathtaking document of 16th-century life.'
Alexzandra Hildred chooses The Embarkation of Henry VIII at Dover
‘I love this painting, not only because it’s a beautiful work of art, but for the huge amount of detail within, from the clothing of the Royal Bodyguards to the individual facial expressions in the small tenders and the huge variety of activities being undertaken.
‘The structure of the great ships and the depiction of the crew making a warship ready for sea are minutely and perfectly rendered. Add to that the detail regarding the working of the guns within the forts, and even Henry VIII himself, and you have a breathtaking document of 16th-century life.
‘The view that it may have been contrived to show off the splendour and force of Henry’s Army by Sea, painted some time later, only adds to the depth of the artefact’
The maritime archaeologist Alexzandra Hildred is head of research at the Mary Rose Trust. She was one of the divers who explored the shipwreck when it was discovered on the seabed in 1971.
John Mcewen on The Embarkation of Henry VIII at Dover
This panoramic view of the fleet of the Royal Navy’s founder, Henry VIII, shows the King embarking for Calais on May 31, 1520, on his way to his ‘summit’ meeting with Francis I of France on the Field of the Cloth of Gold near the town. At Hampton Court, it is paired with a picture of the latter event, both boasting of Henry’s power on sea and land.
Threatened by Scotland and her ally France, Henry instigated the building of an ‘Army by Sea’, a militant Royal Navy. One of the two founding warships in this fleet was Mary Rose – of particular fascination today thanks to the Mary Rose Trust (president The Prince of Wales), whose unique salvage of the ship’s hull and contents are displayed in the Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth.In the picture, Mary Rose may be the central foreground ship – the royal coat of arms on the stern and flags
suggests it is—because she was the flagship of the Lord High Admiral, Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk. Soon after her launching, James IV of Scotland launched Michael (also known as The Great Michael), a significantly larger ship, to which Henry responded with the slightly larger Henry Grace à Dieu (or Great Harry). Here, Harry has the golden sails and a distant Henry bestrides her deck.
The crowded decks show the surprisingly large scale of these first warships. The aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, docked at Portsmouth, is currently our biggest-ever warship. Her 1,500 complement is only twice that of Mary Rose and one-third more than Great Harry’s.
'The picture reminds me of her: I swear she is an angel.'
'Its typically powerful brushstrokes and juxtaposed gorgeous colours give a heart warming and evocative sense of fun and nostalgia'
'This picture both reminds me of her and throws into sharp relief the extraordinary advances made in military medicine and
David Starkey shares the one painting he would own, if he could
'I looked at this painting and decided to write about a Victorian circus girl one day'
Patrick Gale chooses his favourite painting for Country Life.