London, Nov 18 : Academics have found that the ship known as Mary Rose may have been sunk by a cannonball shot by a French warship in 1545.
The Mary Rose, which was raised from the seabed in 1982 and remains on public display in Portsmouth, was sunk in 1545, during the Battle of The Solent, a clash between the English fleet and a French invasion force.
Traditionally, historians have blamed the sinking, not on the intervention of the French, but on a recklessly sharp turn and the failure to close gun ports, allowing water to flood in.
Now, according to a report in the Telegraph, the pride of Henry VIII's fleet, was actually sunk by a French warship - a fact covered up by the Tudors to save face.
The new research, carried out by academics at the University of Portsmouth, suggests that the ship was fatally holed by a cannonball fired from a much smaller French galley.
They have analyzed a remarkably detailed engraving of the battle, created shortly after the event, and used modern mapping techniques to create a virtual 3D account of the battle.
Calculating the tides on the day, and using primary sources about the prevailing wind patterns and movement of the ships, they have been able to establish the limited manoeuvres that each ship could have taken.
It shows how the Mary Rose would have found herself directly in the firing line of the French galleys.
"The trigger that made the whole situation uncontrollable was the French getting a cannonball through the side of the ship," according to Dr Dominic Fontana, who led the research.
"Those watching onshore would not have known anything about flooding in the hull and it would have appeared as though she had been caught by a freak gust of wind and blown over," he added.
"It would have been embarrassing enough for Henry that the ship sunk in front of him, but it is not unreasonable that if he discovered what had happened he would not have wanted to have it credited to the French," he explained.
Dr Fontana believes the ship was holed close to the water line by a cannonball fired from a group of fast, oar-powered French galleys, which mounted a series of raids on the becalmed English fleet.