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The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall visit the new Mary Rose Museum

26th February 2014

The Prince of Wales with a replica longbow in the Mary Rose Museum

The Prince of Wales with a replica longbow in the Mary Rose Museum

The Prince of Wales recalled his experiences of diving in the 'lentil soup' of the Solent 40 years ago as he visited a new museum in Portsmouth housing the remains of the Mary Rose.

His Royal Highness, who is President of the Mary Rose Trust, was accompanied by The Duchess of Cornwall during his visit to the museum at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard in Hampshire.

The centre opened last year, re-uniting the hull of the warship with the thousands of artefacts found in the wreck for the first time since they were lifted from the seabed in 1982.

The Prince of Wales has been actively involved with the flagship of Henry VIII's navy since his first dive on the wreck in 1974, and has supported the project ever since.

His Royal Highness was one of the last people to dive down to the Mary Rose wreck in 1982, before watching the hull being raised from the site just outside Portsmouth Harbour where it was sunk in battle in 1545.

During his visit, The Prince had the opportunity  to handle some of the artefacts, as well as a replica longbow.

His Royal Highness also met pupils from St John's Cathedral Primary School and St Swithun's Catholic Primary School in Portsmouth who were learning about the use of ballast to prevent ships from keeling over as the Mary Rose did.

The Prince of Wales surfaces from his last dive to the wreck of the Mary Rose before it was lifted from the seabed in 1982

The Prince of Wales surfaces from his last dive to the wreck of the Mary Rose before it was lifted from the seabed in 1982

In a speech to fundraisers and volunteers, The Prince of Wales spoke of his time diving with archaeologists on the wreck site just outside Portsmouth Harbour. He said: 'I remember my days of diving on the ship out in the Solent in the most impossible conditions, it was like swimming in a kind of lentil soup, you couldn't see anything, or so I thought, until it was under your nose.

'What I could never get over was the sheer expertise of the archaeologists operating under water.'

He also described the day when the wreck was lifted from the seabed using a crane that was on loan for only the one day.

He explained that he encouraged the crew to get on with the job despite technical difficulties including poor weather.

He continued: 'I will never forget the almighty crash as the chains came down and I thought it was all my fault.'

He added: 'I think it was worth taking the risk as we have this truly remarkable example of a Tudor warship which is unique.'

As they left the museum, The Duchess of Cornwall bought a cuddly toy of the ship's dog Hatch in the gift shop, a skeleton of which is on display in the museum, and some children's colouring books.

Outside the museum, Their Royal Highnesses greeted schoolchildren who had gathered outside and along the deck of HMS Victory and The Prince spoke to some of the pupils in French asking them if they had enjoyed visiting the ships.

Following Their Royal Highnesses' visit to the Mary Rose Museum, The Prince of Wales, who holds the title of Admiral in the Royal Navy, went on to visit HMS DRAGON. He toured the ship, including the Operations Room and the Ward Room, where met members of the Ship's crew during a reception. Meanwhile, The Duchess of Cornwall, who is Commodore-in-Chief of the Royal Naval Medical Services, visited HMS ILLUSTRIOUS where she viewed a demonstration by the Ship's medical team and met crew members.

Finally, Their Royal Highnesses attended a reception on-board HMS ILLUSTRIOUS for personnel who have recently returned from helping with the Typhoon Haiyan relief effort and their families.

A speech by HRH The Prince of Wales during a visit to the Mary Rose Museum, Portsmouth

Published on 26th February 2014

Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you realise that as President of the Mary Rose Trust for gracious me - 35 years I hate to say, it is a marvellous opportunity, at last, to come and see what in those days we never quite imagined would be possible. 

When I think back to the days of diving on the ship out in the Solent in the most impossible conditions; it was like - I remember trying to describe it it was like swimming in a kind of lentil soup.  You couldn’t see anything, I think anyway, until it was practically in front of your nose.  It was very difficult to orientate yourself to where anything was in relation to the ship and the artefacts that were there.  But what I could never get over is the sheer expertise of the archaeologists operating under water able to map everything and record everything and actually photograph everything so that when you like at it now, these days, it is truly extraordinary that they have managed to rearrange everything where is should be and how it should be placed.

And then of course I remember and perhaps others may have forgotten that the day came to try and raise the Mary Rose and the only way you could do it was by borrowing an enormous floating crane on a barge and this crane was in huge demand around the world as you can imagine and I think it cost about £250,000 a day to use this machine so we just had a very, very short moment and you can imagine that with the Solent tide, the tidal widow is very short.  And I remember sitting on the boat while the crane was in position over the wreck and pe ...

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