Cowdray Engravings of Portsmouth

What are the Cowdray Engravings?

The Cowdray Engravings are a series of engravings relating to the events of King Henry VIII’s campaign in France and the Battle of the Solent. The battle between the French and English fleet, took place in July 1545. The Cowdray Engravings were commissioned by the Master of the King’s Horse Sir Anthony Browne and probably painted sometime in the year following the battle.

The engraving of the battle is a remarkable picture, it portrays details of the battle and of the town of Portsmouth itself. It hung along with the other Cowdray Engravings, on the walls of Cowdray House in Midhurst Sussex, the home of Sir Anthony.

Cowdray House Engravings
Cowdray Engraving of the Battle of the Solent 1545 – 1546

The depiction of the colourful tents in which the King’s army were mustered is quite wonderful. If you visit Southsea now, you would have to imagine them pitched to the rear of Southsea Castle.

Also shown in the engraving, is Sir Anthony himself, seated on a white horse. Next to him is seated the King’s friend, Charles Brandon, first Duke of Suffolk and husband to King Henry VIII’s sister Mary, after whom the ship the Mary Rose was named.

It is not just a depiction of the battle itself that is so interesting though. The town of Portsmouth and it’s social history is also revealed and has been brought to life by work done in the University of Portsmouth.

Find out more about the Cowdray Engravings

The engraving has been extensively studied by a team led by Dr Dominic Fontana from the Department of Geography at the University. Using all manner of digital mapping tools, including tidal flow data, they have begun to unravel the sequence of events during the battle which led to the sinking of the Mary Rose. Their work can be viewed online and is a brilliant resource particularly for those with an interest in the history of Portsmouth.

The work is a fascinating collaborative project of history, geography, archaeology and science and will be used as a focal point in the new Mary Rose Museum, where an interactive projection of the engraving will allow visitors to explore many facets of C16th Portsmouth.

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