The 1682 wreck of a ship that carried then Duke of York and Albany and future king of England, Ireland and Scotland, James Stuart, has been located and its identity authenticated, a new study has reported.
Titled "The Last Voyage of the Gloucester (1682): The Politics of a Royal Shipwreck," the study, published in the peer-reviewed English Historical Review on June 10, revealed that the ship had already been discovered by divers in 2007, but the authentication process, along with the need for secrecy in order to safeguard the discovery, led to it only being published this month.
"Because the ship sank so quickly, nobody would have rescued anything. So you've got both rich and poor, working people and nobility. It's a fantastic time capsule. "Professor Claire Jowitt, maritime history expert at the University of East Anglia (UEA)
The discovery came after brothers Julian and Lincoln Barnwell searched for the ship for four years over 5,000 nautical miles. In 2012, a bell found on the ship was used to confirm that it indeed was the Gloucester, but this fact was not published until now so as to protect the site and finalize its governance, as it was found in international waters.
Other than the bell, finds included clothes and shoes, naval equipment including navigation tools, personal possessions and even some unopened wine bottles.
The Gloucester disaster occurred in 1682 as James was sailing from Portsmouth to Edinburgh in order to conduct royal business at the Scottish Parliament and bring his family back to London. But the ship hit a sandbank at an undisclosed location off the shore of Norfolk and sank within an hour. Shortly before the ship sank, James escaped into one of its small boats and was rescued, but between 130 and 150 people are estimated to have died.
The historical context
The incident occurred at a crucial point in the history of England, as it came after nearly a century of political and civil strife. James became King James II of England and Ireland and King James VII of Scotland after the death of his brother Charles II in 1685, but was removed in the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688, which established the principle that Parliament, and not birth, was the basis for the monarch's power and paving the way to modern democracy.
James was the last Catholic king of England, but besides his Catholicism he was also ousted due to absolutist and negligent behavior. Some of these were visible during the sinking of the Gloucester, since James himself had argued with the ship's captain the night before it sank and eventually led to it changing its route. After the incident, however, James refused to take responsibility and blamed the captain, at one point even calling for his execution.
"Because the ship sank so quickly, nobody would have rescued anything," said study author Prof. Claire Jowitt, maritime history expert at the University of East Anglia (UEA). "So you've got both rich and poor, working people and nobility. It's a fantastic time capsule. "
The findings from the ship will be displayed between February and July 2023 at Norwich Castle Museum.