New Mary Rose exhibition in Portsmouth showcases research that could change the way we look at Tudor England

The Many Faces of Tudor England exhibition
The Many Faces of Tudor England exhibition
Promoted by Mary Rose Museum

Just who crewed the Mary Rose? Were they white Englishmen, or did diversity reign on board Henry VIII’s favourite warship?

Discover a whole new view with an exciting new exhibition, using the latest scientific and genealogical research to show us who was on board the Mary Rose.

You’ll never look at Tudor England the same way again.

The Many Faces of Tudor England exhibition runs at the Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard until December 31 and uses interactive screens, documentary footage, print material and a reproduction of an intriguing crew member nicknamed Henry to help answer important questions about the crew.

What did they look like? Where were they born and what was their genetic heritage?

Before now, theories on the crew’s identity have been based on where they were found and what possessions surrounded them. Records preserve only a few names of those who worked on the Mary Rose over her 34 years of service and we will never know the identities of most of those who lost their lives on July 19, 1545, the day the Mary Rose sank fighting the French in the Battle of the Solent.

Dr Alexzandra Hildred, Head of Research and Curator of Ordnance and Human Remains at the Mary Rose, says: ‘The Many Faces of Tudor England delves not just into the crew’s physical appearance and roles on board the Mary Rose, but deeper into their lives.

'Based on new scientific evidence derived from isotope analysis as well as DNA testing of teeth and bones, the exhibition takes you on a journey of discovery, exploring the backgrounds of a number of the crew.  It also considers what the finds from the Mary Rose can tell us about diversity and globalisation in Tudor England, 500 years ago.’

The research that led to these remarkable findings was carried out by experts at Swansea University, Cardiff University and the University of Portsmouth.

Steven Perring, Story Producer at Avanti Media, the production company behind Skeletons of the Mary Rose: The New Evidence, a documentary about the research that was screened on Channel 4 last month, adds: ‘The recent scientific studies carried out on eight of the crew suggest that several were foreign-born, including Europeans, and even possibly two members of North African origin or heritage.

'These discoveries have the potential to reverse long-held assumptions about diversity in Tudor England. Once again, the Mary Rose is rewriting what we know about the 16th century world.’

Dr Richard Madgwick, Lecturer in Archaeological Science at Cardiff University, says: ‘It’s only with the integration of a range of biomolecular methods that we’re able to provide these new insights into the diverse crew of the Mary Rose, with some coming from southern Europe and perhaps beyond. It’s exceptionally rare to reconstruct past life histories in such detail, from earliest life to death’

Dr Sam Robson, Senior Research Fellow and lead bioinformatician on the project at the University of Portsmouth, adds: 'This has been an incredibly interesting story to be a part of, and we have learned a huge amount along the way.

‘Being able to take a snapshot of the past and uncover previously unknown information about these characters from centuries ago has been very insightful.'

For tickets, click here