Sovereign of the Seas

An English three-decked 100-gun ship built by Phineas Pett in 1637. Dimensions: 127'×46.6'×19.4' and tonnage 1522 tons.

The Sovereign of the Seas, which was the most powerful ship of her time, was also the first true three-decked ship. Was orginally planned as a 90-gun ship. Two smaller vessels, the Greyhound of 120 tons and the Roebuch of 90 tons, were built of the chips or waste from the building of the Sovereign of the Seas.

The decoration of the ship was designed by the playwright Thomas Heywood and made by John and Matthias Christmas at a total cost of £ 6691.


Payne's engraving, which was made before the ship was actually rigged, indicates that she was equipped with royal sails. This is confirmed by a Ms formerly at Petworth House and now in the Science Museum:

Main course 49 13¾
Main bonnet 49
Fore course 40 11¾
Fore bonnet 40 3 1/8
Main topsaile 33 19
Main topgallant saile 17½ 10 ¾
Fore topsaile 28 16½
Fore topgallant saile 14½ 9
Spritsaile course 28
Spritsaile bonnet 28
Spritsaile topsaile 20½ 13
Mizon course 14½ 18
Mizon bonnet 32
Mizon topsaile 17½ 12½
Maintop royall 7
Foretop royall 6
Mizon topgallant 7


Equipped with three boats:

Length, Breadth, Depth.
Feet, Inch. feet, inch. feet, inch.
Long-boat 50 10 12 6 4 3
Pinnace 36 0 9 6 3 3
Skiff 27 0 7 0 3 0


Originally planned for 90 guns at a cost of £20.592, but this was changed to 102 when the King visited the ship on December 7, 1638. The estimated cost for the new armament was £24.447 8s 8d, to which should be added £ 1700 for the last four guns.

Lower deck
Broadside 20 cannon drakes
Stern chasers 4 demi-cannon drakes
Bow chasers 2 demi-cannon
Luffs 2 demi-cannon
Middle deck
Broadside 24 culverin drakes
Stern chasers 4 culverins
Bow chasers 2 culverins
Upper deck
Broadside 24 demi-culverin drakes
Stern chasers 2 demi-culverins
Bow chasers 2 demi-culverins
Quarter deck 6 demi-culverin drakes
Forecastle 8 demi-culverin drakes
2 culverin drakes
Poop 2 demi-culverin drakes


1634 December 21
The intial design in the form of a model was submitted by Phineas Pett to the King at Hampton Court. It called for a three-decked ship of 124 ft length of keel, 46 ft beam, and 22 ft draught.
1635 April 7
In discussions between Admiral Sir John Pennington, Vice-Admiral Sir Robert Mansell, the Storekeeper at Deptford John Wells, and Phineas Pett the proposed design was revised and the new dimensions to be length of keel of 127 ft, beam 46 ft 2 in.
1635 April 17
The designed was again modified and the keel was shortend one foot and the beam was increased by four inches.
1635 December 21
The keel laid at the Woolwich Dockyard.
1637 September 25
The first attempt to launch the ship failed.
1637 October 14
Launched at spring tide.
1638 July 12
Weighed anchor from Greenhithe to conduct her sea trials.
The superstructure was reduced in height and the topgallant poop was removed.
1652 September 28
Participated in the Battle of Kentish Knock and grounded at the end of the battle. Spent the rest of the First Dutch War in harbour.
Rebuilt at Chatham Dockyard by the Master Shipwright Captain John Taylor. Given a new head.
Renamed Royal Sovereign at the Restoration.
1666 June 1-4
Participated in the Four Days' Battle against a Dutch fleet.
1666 July 25
Participated in the Battle of St. James's Day.
Participated in the Battle of Texel agains a Dutch fleet.
1673 August 11
Participated in the Battle of Solebay agains the Dutch Navy.
Rebuilt at Chatham Dockyard by the Master Shipwright John Lee. The keel was increased to 131 ft and the beam to 48 ft 8 in. The orginal equestrian figurehead was replaced with a lion.
1690 June 30
Participated in the Battle of Beachy Head against a French fleet.
1692 May 19
Participated in the Battle of Barfleur against a French fleet.
1696 January 27
Accidently burnt while laid up at Chatham.
The usuable timbers of the Royal Sovereign were used to build the new 100 gun ship Royal Sovereign, 1701-1706.


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Updated 2006-09-07 by Lars Bruzelius

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Copyright © 1995 Lars Bruzelius.