English ship Ark Royal (1587)

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The Ark Royal, engraving by Claes Jansz. Visscher
English FlagEngland
Name: Ark Raleigh
Ordered: 1586
Launched: 1587
Commissioned: 1587
  • Ark Royal, 1587
  • Anne Royal, 1608
Fate: Sunk in April 1636, raised and broken up in 1638[1]
General characteristics as built
Tons burthen: 555 bm
Complement: 268 sailors, 32 gunners, 100 soldiers
  • 1599 – 55 guns:
  • 4 × 60-pounders
  • 4 × 30-pounders
  • 12 × 18-pounders
  • 12 × 9-pounders
  • 6 × 6-pounders
  • 17 × small guns
General characteristics after 1608 rebuild[1]
Class and type: 42-gun royal ship
Tons burthen: 694 bm
Length: 103 ft (31 m) (keel)
Beam: 37 ft (11 m)
Depth of hold: 16 ft (4.9 m)
Sail plan: Full-rigged ship
Armament: 42 guns of various weights of shot

Ark Royal[Note 1] was an English galleon, originally ordered for Sir Walter Raleigh and later purchased by the crown for service in the Tudor navy. She was used as the English flagship in a number of engagements, including the battles that resulted in the defeat of the Spanish Armada, and had a long career spanning over 50 years. Her fame led to a number of later warships of the Royal Navy being named Ark Royal in her honour, including a number of flagships of the fleet.

Construction and early year[edit]

Ark Royal was originally built to order by the shipbuilder R. Chapman, of Deptford, for Sir Walter Raleigh, who was approximately 32 years of age at the time. The ship was to be called Ark, which became Ark Raleigh, following the convention at the time where the ship bore the name of her owner. The Crown, in the person of Queen Elizabeth I, purchased the ship from Raleigh in January 1587 for the sum of £5,000 (although this took the form of a reduction in the sum Sir Walter owed the queen: he received Exchequer tallies, but no money).[2] Her new commander, Lord High Admiral of England Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Nottingham, known as Lord Howard of Effingham, described the sum as "money well given".[3] She was henceforth to be known as Ark Royal. As built, she had two gun decks, a double forecastle, a quarter deck, and a poop deck right aft. She was an effective warship, but tended to roll heavily, to the discomfort of the embarked soldiers unused to the motion.


Her first action came in 1588 during the attack of the Spanish Armada, when Ark Royal, as one of the largest vessels in the English fleet, was the flagship of Lord High Admiral Howard. After the initial defeat of the Armada, Ark Royal led the chase of the fleeing ships into the North Sea and beyond the Firth of Forth. She was also used as Howard's flagship during the 1596 raid on Cádiz, which resulted in the destruction of much of the Spanish fleet at harbour. Ark Royal was the flagship once more during 1599 when a Spanish invasion again threatened.

On the accession of James VI and I to the English throne, Ark Royal was renamed Anne Royal, after his consort, Anne of Denmark. She was then rebuilt at Woolwich Dockyard in 1608 by Phineas Pett I as a 42-gun royal ship.[1] Under her new name, she was the flagship of Lord Wimbledon in the 1625 raid on Cádiz which ended in disaster due to inadequate preparation.


She remained in service until April 1636, when she was being moved from the River Medway to serve as the flagship of Sir John Penington. While anchored in shallow water, she struck her own anchor[4] and stove in her timbers, sinking in the river. She was raised at a cost greater than her original purchase price, but was found to be damaged beyond repair, and subsequently broken up in 1638.[1]


  1. ^ The HMS prefix was not used until the middle of the eighteenth century, but is sometimes applied retrospectively.



  1. ^ a b c d Lavery, Ships of the Line, vol. 1, p. 158.
  2. ^ Archaeologia, p. 151.
  3. ^ Scott, Arthur. The Tudor Age: commentaries of an era. Every One a Witness. London: White Lion. p. 254. ISBN 978-0-7274-0045-1.
  4. ^ State Papers, p. 376 and elsewhere


Preceded by
HMS Ark Royal
Succeeded by