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HMS Victory

~ HMS Victory ~

Anatomy of a ship of the line

~ Cutaways & Blueprints ~

Spanish ships of the line

~ Spanish Navy ~

Evolution of the ship of the line

~ The ship of the line ~

The art of transom

~ The art of transom ~

The HMS Sovereign of the Seas was the biggest and most decorated ship of its time. Its design was so ahead of its time that she was considered as the most modern ship built during the 17th century, albeit she was launched in a date so early as 1637. Being the best equipped warship of its time, she was known by the dutch as The Golden Devil.

HMS Sovereign of the Seas ship of the line

The keel was laid down in the beginning of 1636, using a timber piece of 39 meters lenght and 80 cm thickness, that needed the strenght of thirty-two draft animals to be transported. During one year and a half the hull was built, until the launching was possible during a midnight on the fall of 1637. The ship was so expensive that the king Charles I imposed a special tax to make possible the project. It was really a nonsense display of arrogance the construction of such a ship, which caused a financial crisis and contributed to the English Civil War. The golden (gilded) decorations supposed a tenth of the budget and that alone was equivalent to the cost of an average warship armed with forty guns.

HMS Sovereign of the Seas ship of the line

The HMS Sovereign of the Seas had a total lenght of 71 meters, a beam of 14.7 meters and a draught of 7.2 meters; displacement was around 1540 tonnes. Originally built as a 102-gun first-rate ship of the line, the armament was distributed in several ways during her operative life. According to the illustrations, the armament could be distributed this way: twenty-eight cannons on the lower gun deck (four of them shooting backwards and being the two foremost gun ports unused), twenty-eight cannons on the middle gun deck (four of them shooting backwards), twenty-eight cannons on the upper gun deck (four of them shooting forward and two shooting backwards), eight guns placed on the forecastle, twelve guns placed on the quarterdeck and four guns placed on the poop deck. The cannons were built in bronze, which was typical on that time.

HMS Sovereign of the Seas ship of the line

During two centuries the magnificent Sovereign of the Seas was a role model for the design of warships. She was the first ship that used royal sails, placed on the foremast and the mainmast. But she was not really perfect, and suffered important modifications during the six decades of her life. One of the three covered gun decks was removed to allow for better stability, most of the precious ornaments were removed as well and also her name was modified (firstly Sovereign in 1650, lately Royal Sovereign in 1685). The ship that was totally burnt by a mysterious fire in 1697 while in her retirement at Chatham, had really changed much from her original aspect. Perhaps the incoming 18th was not a century for her, after all.

HMS Sovereign of the Seas

HMS Sovereign Of The Seas Sails And Rigging Viewer

1 - Spritsail :: 2 - Spritsail topsail :: 3 - Foresail :: 4 - Fore topsail :: 5 - Fore topgallant sail :: 6 - Fore royal sail :: 7 - Mainsail :: 8 - Main topsail :: 9 - Main topgallant sail :: 10 - Main royal sail :: 11 - Mizzen topsail :: 12 - Mizzen topgallant sail :: 13 - Mizzensail :: 14 - Topmast of spritsail topsail :: 15 - Fore stay :: 16 - Fore topmast stay :: 17 - Fore topgallant stay :: 18 - Fore royal stay :: 19 - Main stay :: 20 - Main topmast stay :: 21 - Main topgallant stay :: 22 - Main royal stay :: 23 - Mizzen stay :: 24 - Mizzen topmast stay :: 25 - Mizzen topgallant stay :: 26 - Forepeak fairleads :: 27 - Bowsprit lashings :: 28 - Fore stay collar :: 29 - Clew garnet :: 30 - Buntline :: 31 - Bowlines :: 32 - Bridles :: 33 - Halyard :: 34 - Cargo rig :: 35 - Topping lift

HMS Sovereign of the Seas cutaway

The picture above is a representation of how the inner structure of the ship could have been. There were five full-lenght decks that were fully covered, except the waist deck. The forecastle was the traditional place for the kitchen, while the quarterdeck and poop housed the chambers of the commander and officers. On the uncovered waist deck is visible the bulwark, painted in strong red. It was common to paint in such color all the bulwarks on the upper, uncovered decks of the warships, or even in all of the gun decks, in an attempt to dissimulate the blood patches during combat, thus attenuating the panic caused by its vision. The waist deck is a part of the main deck, which is also referred as the upper gun deck.

On the waist deck emerges the head of a capstan used for maneuvers, which is settled on the deck below, the main (middle) gun deck, where another capstan, used for weighing the anchors, is installed in front of the bitts, where the cables of the anchors are hold. The cables of the anchors communicate with the orlop deck, where they are coiled, through the main hatch, located just before the mainmast. The main hatch, crossing all the decks, allowed to load the cargo on the stowage. An entry door allows to access the ship directly on the main gun deck; the mainmast chains ledge is extended in front of the door to ease access.

Below the gun decks were the orlop deck and the hold, which served as the storage for the goods of the ship. The base of the mainmast is enclosed within the cesspit's water box, from where the pumps absorb the water; the pumps were most of the time working to exhaust all the water that the wooden ships tend to leak. On the orlop deck, below the commander's and officer's chambers, runs the rudder's tiller, which in those times was attached to a simple lever to control the steering, since the steering wheel did not existed yet. Several protective gunwales run externally along the hull, reinforcing it.

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