She’s called the Holigost and was one of four famous ships known as the ‘great ships.’ The probable remains of the Holigost were found in the river Hamble in Hampshire. It was discovered near the Grace Dieu, the largest of Henry V’s fleet. The Grace Dieu was rediscovered in the 1930s and was the only one of the four massive ships found, until now.
The River Hamble. Credit: Historic England
The ‘great ships’ were completed between 1415 and 1420.
They were the Trinity Royal, the Jesus, the Grace Dieu and the Holigost. Each name ties to Henry’s devotion to his faith.
According to Historic England, the Holigost was a clinker-built carrack. Before the ship became the Holigost, it was known as the Santa Clara, a Spanish merchant ship. After being captured by the English, Henry V ordered the Santa Clara rebuilt. A year later, the Holigost joined his fleet.
How the Holigost fought
In the 1400s, guns were still in their infancy. In fact, the majority of ships in Henry V’s fleet didn’t carry any. Out of the more than 30 ships making up Henry V’s fleet, just 15 had guns aboard. And the Holigost was one of them. Armed with seven breech-loader guns, the Holigost was the most heavily armed ship in Henry’s fleet.
It took a crew of 200 to operate the Holigost. Besides the seven breech-loader guns, the crew was armed with an assortment of medieval weaponry including bows, spears and poleaxes.
Despite its guns, sea battles usually ended in one way – boarding the enemy vessel. To do this, crew used hooks called grapnels to secure their vessel to another.
There is evidence that the Holigost was boarded during the siege of Harfleur. The ship suffered significant damage during the siege and subsequent boarding. But, it wouldn’t be the Holigost’s only fight. The ship also took part in the fighting against a French fleet on July 25, 1417. This battle paved the way for a second English invasion of France under Henry V.
From fighting the French to the bottom of River Hamble
By 1420, the days of fighting for the Holigost were over. According to Historic England, all four of the great ships were anchored on the river Hamble for safe keeping. Three years after reaching the River Ramble, and the Holigost was taking on water. By 1430, efforts to keep the Holigost afloat were abandoned. The good parts of the ship were salvaged and by 1452, the Holigost was sunk.
More than 360 years after the Holigost went below the water, Historic England will study the wreckage to learn more about ships and naval warfare during this period.
“I am utterly delighted that Historic England is assessing the site for protection and undertaking further study,” said Dr Ian Friel, a historian and the man responsible for the find. “In my opinion, further research leading to the rediscovery of the Holigost would be even more important than the identification of the Grace Dieu in the 1930s. The Holigost fought in two of the most significant naval battles of the Hundred Years War, battles that opened the way for the English conquest of northern France.”
The Grace Dieu
She was the flagship of Henry V and was more than two hundred feet long. The Grace Dieu sailed just once under the command of William Payne. This ship along with the other ‘great ships’ never fulfilled the role they were built for. Henry V commissioned the ships to help combat Genoese carracks, where were allied to the French. But by 1420, Henry had routed the French navy and controlled the English Channel.
The Grace Dieu was moored with the other ships at River Hamble. Mother nature would eventually take Grace Dieu as the ship caught fire from a lightning strike in 1439.
Because of its size, early historians believed the ship had to be a mid-nineteenth century merchant ship or a Danish galley. Its true identity wouldn’t be known until 1933.