A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Mary Rose & Taxus baccata
Tuesday, June 20, 2006

This English Rose, Rosa 'Mary Rose'and Taxus baccata are not too far from each other in my garden. Rebecca knows the story and would explain why I have scanned them together. David Austin, the Shropshire rosarian, introduced this myrrh scented rose in 1983. It is named after the 78 gun carrack which was built in Portsmouth in 1509-1510 and served in King Henry VIII's navy. She sank in the Solent Channel in a calm sea on July 18, 1545 on the second day of the Battle of the Solent. Speculation on its sinking suggests that undisciplined crew had neglected to close the lower gunports and after firing at the French galleys that she had engaged, she heeled in the evening breeze, filled with water and turned over. Recovery efforts have been underway since. In 1982 the wreck was lifted from the water and put upright in a dry dock. Many treasures were found including boxes full of longbows. These longbows which were in excellent state of preservation were carefully dried and strung. In tests, each bow took about a 100 pound pull in order to bend it so the string reached a man's eye. How could have 14th century Englishmen and Welshmen fired these bows? It is at this point that I tell Rebecca that the English fought and won two great battles, Crecy (1346) and Agincourt (1415) during the 100 Year's War in which Welsh bowmen wielded longbows made of English Yew (Taxus baccata). The might of the bows pierced the armour of the French knights and it doomed the age of chivalry. The English longbow was a precursor of other unique weapons that changed history. The Colt Peacemaker made men equal in the US West. And then came the machine gun...


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