The Surprising Story Behind The Battle of the Solent

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Note: This is a show notes page accompanying my on-location podcast on the Isle of Wight and Southsea Castle, recorded in the summer of 2023.

A Brief History of The Battle of The Solent

To commemorate the anniversary of the Battle of the Solent on 19 July 1545, this month’s podcast takes us to Bembridge Down on the Isle of Wight and Southsea Castle in Portsmouth. Travelling back in time, we consider the historic battle from both the French and English perspectives.

The Solent refers to the strait that separates the Isle of Wight from the south coast of England. It was here, in 1545, that one of the most well-known and significant sea battles took place. It was part of a wider conflict between England and France, with tensions running high between King Francis I of France and King Henry VIII of England following Henry’s siege and subsequent capture of Bologne.

Infuriated, the French launched an invasion of England. Launched from Le Harve, an enormous naval fleet carrying thousands of soldiers approached English shores via a stretch of water known as the Solent, which separates the mainland and the harbour at Portsmouth with the Isle of Wight.

Henry’s ‘army at sea’ was tasked with defending the realm against invasion, the first serious attempt since the successful Norman invasion of England in 1066. On July 19, the English and French fleets engaged in battle. It was the first time two naval forces would engage in battle by firing cannon broadside from their ships, but something that would be commonplace in decades and centuries.

During the battle, one of the two largest ships in the English fleet, the Mary Rose, sank under mysterious circumstances, resulting in the loss of over five hundred crew members. The sinking of the Mary Rose was a significant blow to the English, but they were successful in repelling the French invasion attempt.

In this podcast, I’m joined by Dominic Fontana, retired professor from Southampton University and expert in The Battle of the Solent, we explore both the French and English perspectives of this naval battle between Henry VIII and Francis I of France.

There is unrestricted access to the first half of this podcast here. However, to listen to the full episode, you must be a member of The Ultimate Guide to Exploring Tudor England, The Tudor Travel Guide’s membership site. For more information on the membership, click here.

The Battle of the Solent Video

On this occasion, we filmed the podcast in the making. The completed film (1 hour, 22 mins) is available to members of ‘The Ultimate Guide to Exploring Tudor England‘. If you are already a member, you can access the film from the main podcast page in the membership. If you are not yet a member but would like to become one, you can sign up here.

The Battle of the Solent Gallery

All images in this gallery are the author’s own.

Bembridge Down, the Isle of Wight.

Tudor defences of Portsmouth Harbour.

Looking out from Southsea Castle across the Solent, as Henry VIII would have watched the battle unfold.

The tiny conical marker floating on the surface of the water indicates the position of the remains part of the wreck of the Mary Rose.

Where the French forces came ashore on the Isle of Wight.

Artefacts from the Mary Rose on display in the Mary Rose Museum

The remains of the Mary Rose. About 40% of the ship survives

Useful Links

Visiting information for Southsea Castle is here.

Other forts that may be of interest include: Dover Castle, Deal Castle or Walmer Castle or the ruins of Camber Castle.

My podcast on the Cowdray murals is here.

If you have enjoyed touching the past through this blog, you can join my membership, The Ultimate Guide to Exploring Tudor England, which brings together all my best, most comprehensive content in one place: blogs, videos, live chat, progresses, maps, itineraries, travel information and podcasts.

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