Sovereign of the Seas: Thomas Heywood’s Description of the Launch

The designer of the Sovereign of the Seas’ ornamentation Thomas Heywood produced a second edition of his A True Description of His Majesties Royall Ship, which he called a true Description of his Majesties royal and most stately Ship called the Sovereign of the Seas, in 1638, adding a description of the launch of the ship. This addendum was modestly entitled: “A Brief Addition to the first Copy, worthy your observation, &c.” In it he says:

“Some things in the premises have been omitted, which upon better information and recollection are necessarily to be considered of in the setting out of this great Ship, neither can any justly blame the first Copy of error or in defective, in regard those places belonging unto Her, were not then disposed of, which were since, by his Majesties carefully conferred upon such prime Officers, as are the most expert and absolute to take the charge of this unparalleled and incomparable Vessel: Namely, first Captain William Cooke Master, secondly, Master Rabnet Boatswaine, thirdly, Captain Taylor Maister Gunner, fourthly, Maister Phil. Ward Purser, fifthly, Joseph Pet Maister Carpenter, with divers others not here mentioned, because they would seem tedious to the Reader, And though there appeared some difficulty in the first attempt of her launching, by reason of the breaking of so many Cables, and of a contrary Wind, which hindered the coming in of the Tide to its full height: yet in the second attempt, she so freely offered herself to the River, as if weary of being so long imprisoned in the Dock, she voluntarily exposed herself to the Channel, of which (next under God,) she (according to her name) is the sole Sovereign and Commander, of which there is the greater hope, in regard that no great ship or smaller Bark which ever floated upon the river of Thames that hath, or can with more dexterity or pleasure play with the Tide: She, though of that vast burden, yet dancing upon the River as nimbly as a small Catch or Hoy, which indeed hath proved somewhat above expectation, bearing the weight of one thousand six hundred thirty seven Tun, besides her other tackling.

A second thing of which some especial notice may bee taken, is, that young Mr. Peter Pet the Maister Builder, hath to his great expense and charge, to show that this excellent Fabric is not to be equaled in the World again: and to give a president to all Foreign Ship-architectures, how they shall dare to undertake the like, hath lately published her true Effigies or portraiture in Sculpture, grav’d by the excellent Artist Mr. John Paine, dwelling by the postern gate near unto Tower-hill, of whose exquisite skill, as well in drawing and painting, as his Art in graving, I am not able to give a Character answerable unto his merit.

And though some too apish and new fangle of our own Nation thinks nothing rare, or indeed scarce worthy approbation, which is not wrought by strangers: yet let this Sovereign of the Seas, in it’s own ability, decrement, and all sufficiently, proclaim to the World (being both beguine and finish by our own Natives and Country-men) that for Timber, Tackles, Cables, Cordage, Anchors and Ordnance, &c. For the Surveyor, Builder, Carvers, Painters, Founders, Smiths, Carpenters, Graver, and other prime Officers belonging unto her, never was any Vessel so well accommodated.