Sovereigns of the Sea: The Quest to Build the Perfect Renaissance Battleship
Her keel measured 126 feet, and she stretched to 160 feet overall. Her 46.5-foot beam sacrificed speed for the sake of stability, and the 19 feet of water she drew denied her access to smaller ports. Some saw her enormous size and ungainly proportions as serious drawbacks, but the 102 heavy bronze cannon that bristled from her flanks guaranteed that this black-hulled, ornately decorated monster would live up to her name: Sovereign of the Seas. The Dutch sailors who faced her in battle called her by another name, “The Golden Devil.”
This immensely powerful floating fortress was the culmination of more than two hundred years of competition among the kingdoms of Europe to create the perfect marriage between guns and ships. Their relentless quest for maritime supremacy had produced a seemingly endless succession of grandiose flagships, from Henry V’s Grace à Dieu to Sweden’s ill-fated Vasa. Emerging nation-states had invested vast portions of their treasuries, kings had vied as much for prestige as for power, and thousands of hapless seamen had perished in pursuit of this goal.
Sovereigns of the Sea is a gripping tale of an arms race that created and ruined empires, changed the map of the world, and led Europe out of the Renaissance and into the modern age.