HMS Sovereign of the Seas

Sovereign of the Seas was a 17th century warship of the English Navy. She was ordered as a 90-gun first-rate ship of the line of the English Royal Navy, but at launch was armed with 102 bronze guns at the insistence of the king. She was later renamed Sovereign, and then Royal Sovereign. The ship was launched on October 13, 1637 and served from 1638 until 1697. She was built by Peter Pett under the guidance of his father Phineas, the king's master shipwright.

She was the most extravagantly decorated warship in the Royal Navy, completely adorned from stern to bow with gilded carvings against a black background. The money spent making her, £65,586 (equal to £8,195,183 today), helped to create the financial crisis for Charles I that contributed to the English Civil War.

The Sovereign of the Seas was not so much built because of tactical considerations, but as a deliberate attempt to bolster the reputation of the English crown. Her name was, in itself, a political statement as Charles tried to revive the perceived ancient right of the English kings to be recognised as the 'lords of the seas.'

As originally built she carried 100 guns, had a keel length of 127 feet, a 47 foot beam, and displaced 1605 tons.

 HMS Sovereign of the Seas 1637

HMS Sovereign of the Seas 1637


The first engraving by John Payne currently in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich is the "official" portrait of the ship.

The second drawing, by Willem van de Velde the Elder, shows the Sovereign as built.