At the time of her construction, THE SOVEREIGN OF THE SEAS was considered to be a masterpiece. With a keel length of 127 feet, a midship section of 46 feet, a mean draft of 23 feet, a height of 75 feet, and an overall length of 215 feet, she was far and away the largest and most powerful ship in the world. Ten men could stand upright in her cresset (stern lantern).
Charles I of England gave the order to build her in 1634. Her completion required the labors of over a thousand craftsmen for three years. Her elaborate ornamentation included many heraldic coats of arms, sculptures, and portraits. Even today, she is renowned as one of the most beautiful vessels ever to sail the oceans, and, despite her military prowess, she is considered to have been a true work of art.
Her firepower was extraordinary for that time in history. In 1637, she sailed with a crew of 800 men, and her 104 guns could fire a broadside of almost two tons of metal. In her first naval engagement in 1652, the SOVEREIGN OF THE SEAS sank a Dutch warship with a single broadside. For sixty years, no enemy could match or sink her. She was given the popular name of the "Golden Devil" by the Dutch, as a reflection of both her devastating fighting power and remarkable beauty.
Sadly, the end of the SOVEREIGN OF THE SEAS, pride of a nation, was not due to war action or obsolescence. During the night of January 27, 1696, while anchored in the port of Chatham, the cook forgot to blow out the candle burning in his quarters. The candle fell over and fire ensued. A short time later, the SOVEREIGN OF THE SEAS was engulfed in flame from stem to stern. Fire raged for hours until the hull had burned down to the water line and the dying ship finally sunk to the harbor floor.