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Sovereign of the Seas 1637 by modelshipwright (Bill Short) - Sergal - 1:78 - Port "as built", Starboard "as presented to King Charles I for approval"

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Good day folks,


Well, what can be said other than that it is so sad that all the beautiful input has been lost from this site. There were so many wonderful models and a wealth of information for all to share. Now is the time for us all to rebuild the site together.


Today I will just post a photo of the stern of the Sovereign as she sits today while I consider if it is possible to revive the log as it previously was.






More to folllow...........




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After some sober thought I have decided that it will not be possible to totally recreate the log as it was on MSW1. I will, however, attempt to show the thought process that went into my decision to abandon the Mantua Sergal kit in its "out of the box form" for a heavily bashed version that is more in keeping with contemporary material available on The Sovereign of the Seas. I will start this by posting the initial build process that fortunately I have kept in Microsoft Word form. So, here we go.



Part 1.


This is a tale of modeling one of the truly great Seventeenth Century ships of the English fleet, The Sovereign of The Seas.  It is also a tale of differing opinions as to what this magnificent ship looked like coupled with the controversy surrounding the Sovereign ruling in England at that time.  Charles I, on a visit to the shipbuilding yard in Woolwich in 1634 to inspect the Leopard, spoke to Phineas Pett, the master ship builder, about building a great ship of such size as had never been contemplated before.  A typical ship of that day had (40) guns and a cost of approximately 6,000 Pounds.  The Sovereign would eventually cost 65,586 Pounds after Charles approved ornamentation carved in Oak and gilded in gold that surpassed anything seen before. This extravagance proved to be Charles’s downfall as the Ship Tax that was imposed to pay for it was a factor that led to the Civil War and Oliver Cromwell bringing Charles to trial and execution in London in the winter of 1649. Although this ship was probably the most ornately decorated ship of all, the documentation existing to verify its appearance is minimal and mainly consists visually of an engraving attributed to John Payne in 1634 and a sketch by a Dutch artist Van de Velde The Elder from the same period. Written documentation of the ship is also limited and probably the most detailed account is a book printed just prior to the launch in 1637 by Thomas Heywood, a London Playwright and artist.


I decided after completing my first wooden ship model, Artesania Latina’s San Francisco, to model The Sovereign and acquired the Mantua Sergal kit. I see The Sovereign as a San Francisco, only magnified ten times.  That is, much more of the same and larger in size. It is, as kits go, filled with surprises, some nice and some not so nice.  My experience with San Francisco has taught me that the best plan is to research the kit as much as is possible, and also research the ship in the same manner.  There are pitfalls with this kit as there are with any other, and the trick is to 'look ahead' far enough to avoid boxing yourself into corners from which there may be no exit. There are several articles available on building The Sovereign, one as recent as the fall of 1997 in Scale Ship Modeler magazine that are of great help in pointing out some of those pitfalls. I strongly recommend that they be looked at before you go too far with the assembly of the hull.


I decided to research the ship and with the help of my wife, who is a librarian, I obtained a book called "A Portrait of Peter Pett and The Sovereign of The Seas" by Geoffrey Callender. The book was written in 1930 and presents a bit of a mystery novel in fifty two pages about the two existing versions of this portrait, one of which is housed in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich England, and the other in the National Portrait Gallery in London England.




 The portrait is of Peter Pett, the son of Phineas Pett pictured against a cliff as a background with the Sovereign as seen from the stern in the water to the left of the cliff.  The book addresses several questions. What is the ship, which was the original painting, who painted them, when were they painted, and who is portrayed in the portrait?  I was fortunate enough to have borrowed a copy of this book from a Local University Library for two weeks. The portrait is very beautiful, and portrays the Sovereign as the artist saw it sometime between 1637 and 1675.  The ornamentation on the stern is brilliant gold against a black background, with the hull below the waterline depicted in white.  This depiction differs from that shown on the kit box. Mantua’s background for the ornamentation is Royal Blue and the hull is finished as natural wood below the waterline. Additionally, the coat of arms and other ornamentation portrayed on the stern by Mantua is completely different than that of the portrait.   The portrait shows Victory, holding two mottos, one in each hand, and on one side, Jason holding his oar in hand and on the other, Neptune, the God of the Sea.  This ornamentation is the creation of Thomas Heywood who was given the job by Charles I.  This presents a problem as far as the model goes. I now had to decide if I wanted to use the 675 ornamental bronze pieces supplied with the kit, or carve them from wood to match those shown on the  Portrait and the Van de Velde sketch of the Sovereign shown in Callendar’s book.



More to follow........................................



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Part 2.


Well, I have finished reading A Portrait of Peter Pett and The Sovereign of The Seas, and it must go back to its rightful home in a day or two.  Just enough time to review a few parts before it parts company with me. The answers to the five questions appear to be answered if you believe the author. Here goes.


1. What is the ship?


It is pretty much a certainty that the ship in the portrait is the Sovereign.   Thomas Heywood, the playwright and artist who was appointed by Charles I to conceive the details of the ornamentation.  Heywood wrote a book called "A True Description of His Majesties Royall Ship, Built this Year 1637 at Wool-Wich in Kent; to the glory of our English Nation and not paralleled in the whole Christian World".  It was released on September 7th, 1637, just prior to the expected official launch of the Sovereign. In the book he describes the decorations of the ship and the stern description reflects the portrait.  It is significant to mention that the Sovereign was the first one hundred gun ship, and that it was twice the size of anything built to that date. A typical ship of that day was forty guns and could be built at a cost of 5,500 to 6,500 pounds.  The Sovereign cost 65,586 pounds, 16 shillings and 9 1/2 pence.  Clearly, a new standard in size and cost.


2. Who painted the picture? ( The Portrait in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich)


All evidence in the book points to Van De Velde, the Elder, a Dutch marine painter who was in England with his son at the time in question.  The Elder Van De Velde was not a portrait painter, but rather a painter of ships.  His son, had produced a self portrait and could have painted the image of Peter Pett.  You are left with the impression that it was a joint effort of the father and son.


3. Who is the man portrayed?


By the calipers held in the right hand, it was felt that the man in the portrait was the architect or builder of the ship. The creator of the Sovereign was Phineas Pett (1570-1647).  In his autobiography, he details how Charles approached him to build the great ship.  However, the sitter is not Phineas Pett. If so, he would have been sixty seven years old at the sitting, and the man in the portrait is clearly much younger. The summation is that it must have been his son, Peter Pett the Great.


4. When was the picture painted?


It is apparent by the detail show of the stern, that the painter took a great deal of time to prepare for its painting.  It would follow that he must have had some time in which to observe the ship. The logical times that this would be possible are:

a. - 1637-1638 at the conclusion of building operations

b. - The first re-building in 1659-1660

c.  - The second re-building in 1685.


Both of the Van De Veldes were in England in at the time of the first and second re-building, and it is deemed to be Van De Velde the Elder as painting the ship, the Younger, Peter Pett, and the time as the first re-building in 1660.


5. What is the relationship to the painting in the National Portrait Gallery in London?


The book surmises that the painting in the National Gallery was a copy attributed to William Dobson.  The book reveals that many of the details in the National Portrait Gallery version are not in keeping with accurate naval details and hence is a copy of the original in Greenwich.


These, briefly, are the conclusions that this book comes to regarding the two portraits. For my purposes, the book has aided me in getting a more complete picture of the ship I am modeling, the time it was built in, and has changed my view of how to proceed with her.  I intend to follow up on articles published in the Mariners Mirror that comment on this book and will hold my conclusions until I have exhausted all available materials.  I have simplified the answers to the above questions, and the book contains much more detail to support its conclusions. I would recommend that if you are intending to build SOS, you try to read this book and any other references to satisfy yourself of the direction you want to go in modeling her. I have very nearly decided to change the stern ornamentation and stern galleries on my model to more closely resemble the depiction on the painting.  My reasoning is, that the portrait was painted in the time of the ship, and must resemble her, at least in the eyes of the painter, in a more accurate way than the pictures shown on the Mantua kit box.  I may be wrong, but that is my conclusion.



More to follow......................



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Part 3.

I have received through the diligent research of my librarian wife, six articles cited in Lars Bruzelius's Bibliography on The Sovereign at his WEB site.



The first three are a single article presented in three parts and written by R.C. Anderson. In the article he discusses the painting in Geoffrey Callender's book, the sketches attributed to the Van de Veldes, rigging, triple decks, number of guns and other items in an effort to de-mystify what the Sovereign really did look like and which representation may be the closest to the real ship. He concludes that his article reaches no definite conclusion as taken from every conceivable view. He summarizes by saying that his article may have shown up weak points in previous representations that were accepted as reliable.

A fourth article by G.S. Laird Clowes explores the same issues and concludes that the sketches and portrait were not drawn by the Van de Veldes. He concludes that the large sketch in the book by Geoffrey Callender was more likely the original sketch by Payne from which he made his now famous print.

It would seem that the sad part about all of this is that this ship was not documented in great detail, and the few representations of her were lacking identification of their creators. It has left a great mystery to be re-hashed again and again in order to conclude what the ship really looked like. That in itself is a great magnet to me and offers adventure, rather than frustration! I think the general concensus is that the Payne print of The Sovereign and the large sketch in the Portrait book by Payne or Van de Velde, along with the description by Thomas Heywood in his book " A true Description of His Majesties Royall Ship, Built in this Year 1637 at Wool-witch in Kent; to the great glory of our English Nation, and not paralleled in the whole Christian World", form a reasonable picture of what The Sovereign must have looked like in its time.

This description varies from what Mantua has provided in the kit in a number of ways. That said, I feel that the Mantua kit is an acceptable effort to provide modelers with the opportunity to build her, and achieve a very fine model. The kit may not be accurate to the Payne Print or the sketches, or the Portrait, but it is a very good start at it, and with a little research and adventuresome spirit upon the part of the modeler, a modified version can result which could be very close to Payne's Print, the sketches, and those observations by the writers of the articles in the Mariners Mirror and in the Portrait of Peter Pett and The Sovereign of The Seas. As for the cost of the kit, you simply have to weigh it against the time it would take to re-create the very large number of carvings on SOS along with the difficulty in obtaining plans from which to work. Not to say that it couldn't be done, but it would be at some cost in dollars and personal time. The carvings alone would be a monumental task.

I hope to dig out more on The Sovereign, and will share my travels with you as I get to it. Now I must get back to planking the hull, as the research has consumed four weeks of building time.

Thanks to Lars for his support and off list e-mails that have helped me in my research. Incidentally, his web site pages are always being updated as he obtains new facts, and he is going to be adding some interesting information to The Sovereign page soon.

More to follow...........


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 Part 4.


I have read and returned to the University of Western Ontario Library, a book written by Alan R.Young,

a professor at Acadia University, who critiqued Thomas Heywood's book written in 1637 describing

The Sovereign of The Seas.  Thomas Heywood was a playwright and had been annually responsible for the creation of successive Lord Mayors' pageants in London.  A pageant consisted of a play presented with actors on moving carts with stage settings which were conveyed through the streets for the populous to

view.  The sets sometimes consisted of elaborate carvings, and Thomas Heywood worked with

The Christmas brothers, John and Mathias, who had been appointed Naval Carvers in 1634, in producing the pageants.  Charles I appointed Heywood as the designer of all of the carvings and adornments on The Sovereign of The Seas, and Heywood used the Christmas brothers to carve them.  Heywood wrote his book,  A true description of His Majesty's Royall Ship called The Sovereign of The Seas built in Wolwitch in Kent 1637, and had it published to coincide with the launch of the Sovereign on September 25, 1637.  In it he starts with some poetry written by his good friend Shackerley Marmion and spends a great deal of time talking about nautical history going back to Noah's Ark and Jason's Argo.  Eventually, he describes the Sovereign of The Seas, including rather detailed descriptions of the carvings and their meanings.  It becomes clear when he describes the stern, that the adornments are those shown in the Portrait of Peter Pett and The Sovereign of The Seas which I wrote about in my earlier e-mails.  He describes Victory with Jason on her right and Hercules on her left. He also describes the carvings at the beakhead and on her hull in great detail.


In a later printing of the booklet, Heywood also makes mention of the crew of The Sovereign and also mentions that Peter Pett, the master builder had the grandeur of the Sovereign "graved in a portrait by the excellent artist Mr. John Paine, dwelling near the posterne gate neere unto Tower-hill, of whose excellent skill as well in drawing and painting, as his Art in graving, I am not able to give Character answerable unto his merit".


The conclusion would appear to be that the kit by Mantua depicts the stern in a different light than the Payne engraving or the Portrait in Greenwich.  Perhaps it was meant to emulate the Sovereign after one of her re-builds.  At any rate, I have decided to modify the kit and will try to build the stern as close to the portrait as I can.  It may be that with the limited material available on this ship, that a truly accurate depiction of her may not be possible. I think that credit must go to Mantua for providing a model of this great ship regardless of its historical accuracy.


More to follow.........



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Part 5.


I feel somewhat guilty that I did not give you more information from the book "His Majesty's Royal Ship", a criticism of Thomas Heywood's book published in 1637.  As I plan to modify the stern of the Mantua model of SOS that I am building, the carving is of great importance to me.  I want to give you some more detail in this regard and share with you the descriptions that Thomas Heywood wrote in 1637.


He starts by describing the figure of King Edgar on a horse trampling seven kings.  This can be clearly seen in the Payne engraving and the Van de Velde sketch included in the book.  He writes:


"Upon the Beak-head sitteth royall King Edgar on horse-backe, trampling upon seven Kings:  now what he was, and who they were, I shall briefly relate unto you, rendring withall a full satisfactory reason to any unpartiall reader, why they are there and in that manner placed."


The figure is of King Edgar who is trampling the seven kings.  They are Kynadus, King of the Scots; Malcolme, King of Cumberland; and of the petty Kings of Wales, Difnall, Grifith, Huval, Jacob, Judithil.  King Edgar was said to have had these Kings row him up and down the River Dee to show his strength as a Naval Ruler.  He proclaimed himself the Lord of The Four Seas and Charles had the motto "Ab Edgaro quatuor Maria Vindico", ( "By the authority of Edgar, I lay claim to the Four Seas") placed on the Sovereign beneath the beakhead. The figurehead was intended to be a prefiguration of Charles.


He then describes the  figure of Cupid that is located at the Beak-head and which can be clearly seen in the Payne engraving and the Van de Velde sketches.  He describes it as follows:


"I began at the Beak-head, where I desire you to take notice, that upon the stemme-head there is a Cupid, or Child resembling him, bestriding and bridling a Lyon, which importeth, that sufferance may curbe Insolence, and Innocence restraine viloence, which alludeth to the great  mercy of the King, whose Type is a proper Embleme of that Great Majesty, whose Mercy is above all his Workes." 


Alan Young continues to say that this was again emblematic of Charles and was intended to show his mercy. He also notes that perceiving the lion as emblematic of violence would have been natural, however it is not as easy to associate it with Royalty unless aided by Heywood's text.


More to follow....................



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Part 6.


Well, on to the beakhead bulkhead.  There are six figures described by Thomas Heywood in hid book, and Mantua has chosen to use six identical figures of a woman moulded in brass.  They are, however, very different and as Heywood describes, are intended to depict not just a representation of typical figures on a warship but also having a relationship to one another.  He writes:


"On the Bulk-head right forward, stand six severall Statues in sundry postures, their Figures representing Consilium, that is, Counsell: Cura, that is: Care: Conamen, that is, Industry: and unanimous endeavour in one compartment: Counsell holding in her hand a closed or folded Scrole; Care a Sea-compasse; Conamen, or Industry, a Lint-stock fired. Upon the other, to correspond with the former, Vis, which implyeth force, or strength; handing a sword. Virtus, or Vertue, a sphearicall Globe; and Victoria, or Victory, a wreath of Lawrell. The Morall is, that in all high Enterprizes there ought to be first Counsell, to undertake; then Care, to [Gla] manage; and Industry, to performe; and in the next place, where there is ability and strength to oppose, and Vertue to direct, Victory consequently is alwayes at hand to crown the undertaking."


It is unfortunate that Mantua could not make each figure distinct, but I fear that it was in aid of reducing costs or a misrepresentation.  In any case, this can be corrected if you carve your own figures, and use the Van de Velde sketch as a guide.  They can all be seen in his sketch, whereas the Payne engraving is taken from a different angle, and they are very difficult to see clearly.


In the next part, I will discuss the criticism Heywood suffered in some of his choices of carvings and mottos, and also have a look at the very ornate and beautiful stern decorations.


More to follow....................



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Part 7.


Before I get to the stern, Heywood describes additional carvings of which he writes: 


"Upon the Hances of the waste are foure figures with their severall properties: Jupitor riding upon his Eagle, with his Trisulk ( from which hee darteth thunder ) in his hand; Mars with his Sword and Target, a Foxe being his Embleme; Neptune with his Sea-horse, Dolphin and Trident; and lastly Aoelus upon a Camelion ( a beast that liveth onely by the Ayre ) with the foure Windes, his Ministers or Agents, the East call'd Eurus, Subsolanis, and Apeliotes; the North-Winde, Aquilo or Boreas; the West, Zephyrus, Favonius, Lybs, and Africus; the South, Auster, or Notus."


The Hances of the waste are the points where the main rail curves up to meet the forecastle forward and the quarterdeck aft. Of the four figures mentioned by Heywood, only the last two, Neptune and Aoelus, can be seen in the Van de Velde and Payne sketches. He does not offer any further explanation or symbolism for these figures and we are left to our imagination as to their meaning. Unfortunately, Mantua has again used the same moulding for all four figures, and it resembles the figure of a person sitting upon a throne like structure and slumped forward.  Once again, these would have tp be replaced by scratch carvings if you wanted to follow the Van de Velde sketch and the descriptions of Heywood for the sake of authenticity.


Heywood tells us that even prior to his book being printed or the launch of The Sovereign, he suffered some criticism as to its decorative scheme. This adds validity to the notion that he was the author and creator of the decorations on The Sovereign. In referring to the mottos he used on the stern of the vessel he wrote:


"in her two hands she holdeth two Mottoes; her right hand which pointeth to Jason, bears the Inscription, Nava, (which word whosoever by some, and those not the least opinionated of themselves, mistaken)  was absolutely extermin'd and excommunicated from all Grammaticall Construction, nay, Jurisdiction; for this would not allow it be Verbe, or Adverbe, Substantive, nor Adjective; and for this I have not onely behind my back been challenged, but even Viva voce taxed, as one that had writ at random, and that which I understood not."


We are now at the point of describing the stern, and as it is a lengthy discussion, I will take a break until part 8.


More to follow..........................



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Part 8.


Well, I took a break during which I had the opportunity to travel to Florida and visit my friend John Weliver and see his very fine completed model of The Sovereign. He in turn introduced me to Father William Romero.  It was a very enlightening visit and I came home even more determined to complete The Sovereign as historically correct as I am capable of and to try my hand at carving the Stern Gallery adornments. With that said, we can now resume where I left off and talk about the stern as described by Thomas Heywood in his book A True Description of His Majesties Royall Ship.  In passing, I would like to point out that Lars Bruzelius has added the text of this book to his web site at:




For anyone contemplating the modeling of the Sovereign, this site is invaluable and the text is worth the read. Thanks to Lars. Now, on to the stern.


The author, Alan R. Young, explains that Heywood describes the stern as pictured in The Portrait of Peter Pett by Peter Lely, and goes on to say that the central figure is that of Victory with the motto "Validis incumbite remis", or Lean Upon Strong Oars. Victory has a crown signifying riches around one arm and a laurel on the other for honour. Her right hand is pointing to Jason while her left hand points to Hercules. This may be meant to signify that Hercules should be valiant on the land while Jason is industrious with his oar on the waters.  Hercules points to Aeolus, god of the winds, who is flying on an eagle.  Jason can be seen to be holding the golden fleece in his left hand. As his hands are full, he cannot point to Neptune, the god of the seas, who is riding a sea horse.  This description of the stern decorations and the corresponding portrait are quite different from Mantua's kit.  I should also point out that drawings that appear in the book "A History of Naval Architecture, 1851, by John Fincham, depict the stern very much like the Mantua version. There are clearly more stern gallery windows evident, and the area described above by Heywood is shown quite differently, and includes a Royal Crest emblem with a Lion and a Unicorn.  I am left to believe that at some time in The Sovereign's history, during one of her rebuilds, the stern must have been altered.


Additionally, the author points out that in the Lely portrait, the motto "Soli Deo Gloriam", presumably chosen by Thomas Heywood, can be seen on the stern. He further points out that the Lely painting shows the lion and the unicorn, the royal supporters, at either end of the taffrail, the figure below Victory, the royal arms below that and the three feathers of the Prince of Wales underneath. The painting also shows other heraldic themes as the rose and thistle with the crowned monograms "CR" (Carolus Rex) and "HM" Henrietta Maria). There is also a frieze across the stern including the English Lion, the Scottish Unicorn, the Welsh or Tudor dragon, and the Tudor Greyhound. Young further describes additional friezes in the painting which are very difficult to decipher.


I very much like the representation in the Peter Lely portrait, and have decided to modify the kit to try to achieve this look.  The colour scheme of black and gold, described by Heywood and decried by Charles the first is the representation which I will try to achieve. Whichever way the model is completed, the stern is quite detailed and makes a very handsome picture when completed.



More to follow...........................



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Part 9.



Well, I am back after nearly a month.  I've been busy working on The Sovereign and specifically modifying the stern of the ship to resemble the Portrait in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich by Lely.  It is certainly looking very different than the Mantua rendition, and I think when it is complete, it will look very close to the portrait. Now, more on the ships history.


In Alan Young's book he makes reference to The Payne engraving and the Van de Velde sketch in pointing out the heraldic badges and beasts on the beakhead, including the rose of England, the thistle of Scotland, the harp of Ireland, the dragon of Wales, the fleur-de-lys of France, the three feathers of the Prince of Wales, the lion, the unicorn, the greyhound together with the monograms of Charles and Henrietta Maria. He mentions that some of these also appear on the sides of the quarter galleries amongst portrait heads and interspersed with groups of military trophies, drums, weapons, cannons, trumpets, etc. The catheads were supported by goat-headed satyrs.  He further mentions that in his research, that a cannon which is now at The Royal Artillery Institution at Woolwich, was from the Sovereign and once could be seen in St. James Park in London.  It is embossed with a rose ensign with a crown, the foul anchor, the sceptre and the trident and the motto "Carolvs Edgari Sceptrvm Stabilit Aqvarvm", Charles has grasped Edgar's sceptre of the seas.  This engraving added 3 Pounds to the cost of every cannon. The cannon were made by John Brown who was the king’s gun-founder in 1638. 


Young gives many more details in his book and I recommend that if you are contemplating building The Sovereign, that you should read it if possible.


The Sovereign had a keel of 126 feet, a breadth of 46 feet 6 inches, and tonnage by draught in water of 1661 tons.  She was clearly much larger than any of her predecessors. The largest ship to fight the Spanish Armada had been 760 tons. Charles had insisted that she have 102 cannons.  Her cost ended up at 65,586 Pounds, 16s. and 9 1/2d.  Charles had spent 6691 Pounds on the carvings and adornments alone. The cost of the Sovereign eventually led to the downfall of Charles I and as history has recorded was influential in thrusting the country into civil war.  It had a far greater impact on Charles and the country itself than it ever did in battle.



Well, that pretty well finishes the research I have done to date on the Sovereign.  I am going to continue to look for other information. and one day hope to visit the NMM in Greenwich.  At their WEB site, you can do a search of their database of paintings and sketches.  Several come up under the Sovereign, and I would like to see them some day if I get the chance.


In conclusion, Mantua's kit offers the modeler a chance to build this magnificent ship to their rendering, or with a little research, to a modified version more in keeping with the Portrait.  Without Mantua's kit, I believe it would be very difficult to scratch build her to represent an historically accurate depiction. In this case, and for me, the kit proved to be the catalyst to build a ship which I am very fond of.


More to follow.................



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Part 10.


Some interesting things have developed on The Sovereign.  A couple of people on the list have purchased the Mantua kit and are getting ready to build her as well. In the meantime, I joined the MARHIST list at Queens University and posed the same question about the configuration of the stern gallery windows that I did on this list.  Two people responded including Robert Scott from the Ventura County Maritime Museum in Oxnard California.  He informed me that there is a scratch built model of The Sovereign in the museum which was built to look like the Lely Portrait in the NMM in Greenwich. It was modeled by the late Ed Marple.  He apparently researched the ship for about two years and used a set of plans that are available from the Dromedary in El Paso Texas, Item #CM15, which were drawn by the Late Clive Millward.  I have ordered a set of these plans to see for myself, how they relate to my research and am hoping that they may be a good guide to the carvings and overall look of the port and starboard sides of the ship. The price is $11.00 US.  The other person who replied is Mr. Clark Hoffman and he visits the museum on a regular basis.  He has offered to answer any questions about the Sovereign model on his visitations.  There are certainly a lot of very helpful people involved with this hobby, and I am thankful to have contact with so many of them.


I was also fortunate enough to contact Alan R. Young, the author of the book ‘His Majesty's Royal Ship : A Critical Edition of Thomas Heywood's a True Description of His Majesties Royal Ship which I mentioned in my previous articles. In my opinion, this book is essential if you are really serious about emulating the Sovereign in its original state when built in 1637.  He is providing additional information to me on the Sovereign and I am indebted to him for that.  The book is still available at Amazon.com  and some other booksellers on the web.


Regarding progress on my construction, I have completed all but (12) of the sub-planks on the hull and modified the stern and stern galleries to better match the Portrait. Due to the poor quality of the walnut planking provided for the final layer on the hull, I am, with the help of a friend, cutting new planks this weekend.  The kit provides 6mm wide planks by 1.0 mm thick. The width is not to scale and should have been 4mm, and in my opinion, the thickness should have been 0.5 mm to allow easier application. At 1:78 scale, the 4mm equals 12” in width and I plan to make each plank about 100MM long or 25 feet. I am considering Pear or Walnut for this purpose.



More to follow.....................



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Part 11.


Today, I received the plans for The Sovereign from The Dromedary in El Paso Texas.  They were drawn by Nexus Plans Service, Nexus House, Boundary Way, Hemel, Hempstead, Herts, HP2 7ST England.  The drawings are all on one sheet and they represent the Sovereign as seen in The Portrait of Peter Pett and The Sovereign of The Seas that resides in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich England. The scale is given as 1/16" = 1 Foot. The stern treatment is as described in Thomas Heywood's book mentioned in previous articles as does the ornamentation on the rest of the hull. There is a stern plan, a sectional or body plan showing the frames, a body plan half breadth lower plan, bow plan, a rigging plan and a deck plan.  It is interesting to note that the colour scheme closely matches the colours shown in The Portrait. It calls for the hull in varnished timbers, the underbelly white, the main wales black, top sides above middle deck ports black, beak and stern and quarter galleries carved in panels representing Trophies of War and The Chase, Hunting Scenes, Coats of Arms, Symbolic devices etc; Figurehead King Edgar on horseback trampling on 7 kings, the whole gilded on black background, bulkheads likewise, inboards red, rails and strakes above wreath ports black. 



As far as armament goes, it is listed as"


Lower Tyre        26 Cannon 42 lbs.

Middle Tyre       28 Culverin 24 lbs.

Upper Tyre        28 Demi-Culverin 9 lbs.

Forecastle         6 Falcon 3 lbs.

Half Deck          8 Falcon 3 lbs.

Quarter Deck     4  1 ½ lbs.


That totals (100) guns and the controversy continues.  The main dimensions are given as 172 ft. for the length of the lower gun deck, 46 ft. 6 in. as the Breadth Extreme, Draught as 22 ft., and tonnage as 1552.  Again, these seem to be at odds with other accounts.  There is also a table of Spar dimensions and a Rigging Table which is numbered and corresponds to numbers on the drawing.


It is apparent that a scratch built model could result from using this drawing and other references to produce a representation of the Sovereign that would be more in keeping with the look of the ship at her launch.  This model would look somewhat different from the Mantua version.  For a cost of $17.00 US, I am very pleased to have this additional reference to use while building my modified version of Mantua's kit. For those interested, they are item #CM15 on page #31 of their current catalogue and were drawn by Clive Millward.


More to folllow....................



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Part 12.


Recently, a friend of mine offered his power tools and a very nice piece of Swiss Pear and during a Sunday afternoon, we cut (240) new strakes for The Sovereign's outer layer of planking. The Walnut supplied with the kit was out of scale, being 6mm in width, and had a distinct green cast to it which when finished was not attractive.  The Swiss Pear has a nice blend of colour spread randomly throughout the strakes and when finished on a test panel made a very warm and rich finish.  I cut the strakes 3.9 mm wide which represents 12" at 1:78 scale and intend to use a length of 100 mm representing 25 ft. as a plank length.  The thickness ended up at 0.7 mm as I felt that this would be easy to work around the rather severe curves at the stern and bow while leaving enough thickness to allow for scraping. I also plan to replace the deck planking with Holly and will return to cutting planks in the near future.


While working my way along on the Sovereign, I reflected on the decision I had made to modify the ship to match the Portrait of Peter Pett and The Sovereign of The Seas by Lely in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich England. The decision was taken after extensive research and many hours of thought. Recently there have been more than seven people, both on the list and off, who indicated to me they are going to build the Sovereign from the kit. They also asked me for the eleven e-mail postings on SOS that I sent to the list.  As this kit is very expensive, I feel that I must share that thought process which led to the decision.  Once the modifications to the superstructure are done, you almost assuredly cannot go back. If it got to the point where completing the kit became difficult or impossible it would result in many wasted dollars.


Firstly, I am a new ship modeler having completed only one wooden model kit, a Spanish Galleon. Although a more experienced modeler may be comfortable modifying the Sovereign kit, the decision to do it was daunting to me. The major modifications were as follows:


1. Change the planking on the underbelly of the hull where it meets the wing transom on the stern.  I added balsa filler to allow the planks to curve to a completely vertical plane where they meet the transom.  This is clearly shown in the Portrait.


2. Modify the framing of the stern and support structures of the stern galleries to produce an 'hourglass' like shape for the stern when viewed from aft.  This included reducing the overall width across the stern galleries and making their silhouette when viewed from aft, slightly concave.


3. Planning for and drawing out the new aft stern gallery windows which were reduced from (20) on the kit to (10) on my modified version.


In the decision process, one must consider the ornamentation that Mantua offers for the stern.  Firstly, virtually all of would have to be discarded if my modified version was to follow Thomas Heywood's description of the carvings which matches the Portrait.  As I have no carving experience, this was a major consideration. I would have to create all new ornamentation. If at some point I decided to return to using the Mantua bronze ornamentation again, they will not fit properly on my modified stern.  It took me weeks to finally take the plunge and actually cut wood with all this in mind.  My decision was helped by a visit to Florida in December.  My good friend John Weliver discussed this process with me at length.  His knowledge and experience were invaluable. He also took me to visit Father Romero in La Belle FL and there I received a lesson in carving as well as other advice on scratch building.  I came home to Toronto armed with the courage to take the steps necessary to do the modifications. I subsequently purchased Father Romero's Royal Yacht Fubbs Practicum from Pier Books which extensively covers the process of carving ornamentation.  It will serve me well when I start carving.


I hope this helps anyone who might consider modifying The Sovereign and will serve as a caution that once the modifications are started, it may not be possible to go back and complete the kit to Mantuas vision.  I would be happy to share the details of this with anyone off the list.


More to follow..................



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Part 13.



I received photographs of Edward Marples model of the Sovereign of The Seas which resides in the Ventura County Maritime Museum in Oxnard California.  Robert Scott, who works at the museum kindly sent them to me after reading a query of mine on the Maritime History List.  Mr. Marples, who is now deceased, was a renowned ship modeler in Southern California and his model shows this very well.  He researched The Sovereign for a long time prior to modeling her and eventually used the plans drawn by Clive Millward and available from the Dromedary in El Paso Texas, mentioned in my previous article.  The model is 51” long and 48” high by about 24” wide measured across the yards. He used Holly for the planking below the waterline to simulate an off-white colour, Swiss Pear above the waterline, and in the areas requiring black as a background for the ornamentation, he planked the model with Ebony.  All the ornamentation is hand carved, quite an accomplishment,  gilded in gold leaf and placed on the Ebony background.  The decks are of Swiss Pear and the hull and deck planking was treenailed.


The stern ornamentation follows Thomas Heywood’s description and resembles the Portrait of Peter Pett and The Sovereign mentioned in previous articles.  As the ornamentation in the plans from the Dromedary is almost indecipherable, he used a sketch in Bjorn Landstrom’s book ‘The Ship’ as a guide for the carvings. It seems he was unaware of the portrait or did not have access to it during the construction of the model as the stern ornamentation is more like Mr. Landstrom’s sketch than the portrait.


This is a scratch built model and is a considerable accomplishment.  I hope some day to travel to Oxnard to see it up close.


Construction continues on my Sovereign and the sub-planking is now complete and the hull is now fully enclosed.  After many hours of scraping the hull with furniture scrapers, I am satisfied with the shape and have begun assembly of the lower main wales.  It should be mentioned that Mantua’s plan #5 and #6 differ greatly.  One is meant to be a rigging plan and the other a general plan with a side view of the ship. Positioning of the wales and their distance from the bottom of the keel varies from plan #5 to plan #6. You are left to fathom this out on your own.  I personally think plan #5 is closer to the truth, but it is anyone’s guess. 


As a general overview of my progress to date, it has suddenly come to me that all the work I have done to correct imperfections in the bulkheads and other structural parts of the hull may have added up to more effort than if I had scratch built it from a plan.  All the shimming, cutting, scraping etc might be avoided. It has certainly laid the groundwork for me to consider scratch building my next model.


More to follow.......................



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Part 14.


While in the process of final planking the hull above the main wales, I began to contemplate the bow and particularly the beakhead and the positioning of the bowsprit.  Mantua shows the bowsprit as being mounted aligned with the centreline of the ship.  The plans I purchased from the Dromedary which were drawn by Clive Milward show the bowsprit as offset to starboard and clearly indicate that the stem head was to port of this mast.  Some of the list members have helped in this analysis and I thank Lars, Sven, Terrence and others who reinforced  the decision I have come to as far as my depiction of The Sovereign goes. 


I have decided after consulting my reproductions of Payne’s engraving, the Van de Velde sketch and Millward’s plans, that they clearly indicate that the bowsprit was offset to starboard.  The foremast is indeed stepped quite far forward and as Lars indicated, could not have been stepped to the keel but rather to the stem.  This would cause the bowsprit to impact it if aligned centrally.  I intend to offset the bowsprit on my model.


While studying the Payne drawing and Millward’s plans I noticed that the bowsprit is rigged with five shrouds on each side which terminate on the beak immediately behind the figurehead of King Edgar.  They include deadeyes and lanyards.  This is most interesting!  I can only assume this rigging was added to stabilize the bowsprit as perhaps the gammoning was not sufficient to do so.  Any comments on this would be appreciated. Clive Millward’s plans show this as well and I can only surmise that they existed.  Mantua has rigged this area very differently. 


Additionally, the construction of the beakhead presents another opportunity to strive for originality.  I intend to look at the plans of Wasa, which had a similar beak and see if my construction of the beak can be improved upon over Mantua.


More to folllow.....................



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Back to the future.  If you are this point, you have read all the steps I took in my research and have seen the thought processes which lead to my decision to trash the Mantua kit and scratch build it from that point on including the ornamentation. It was a leap of faith and I took it with great fear. Now that I look back, it was all worth it and I am enjoying the process or creating what I believe is a true contemporary representation of the ship.  Here are the contemporary works that lead me to that decision.




The Van de Velde sketch.




The Payne Engraving




The Lely Portrait

Edited by modelshipwright
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Hello Bill,


Welcome back, you have been misssed.


Yes, it is indeed sad that all the beautiful input was lost from this site.

But together we have been working hard an already rebuild lots of our work.


Thank you for posting this beautiful picture of your Souvereign.

If it is in any way possible to revive your log, and you have the time, please do re-post it.

I know it will make a lot of us very happy.


I am really looking forward to your progress.


Take care,



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Hi Bill,


I can just say thank you, thank you, thank you for reposting your most wonderful build. Hopefully your actions will motivate others to repost their logs as well.


From here, I am going to do what you did and keep a running log of my build on microsoft word. I, since I fist joined MSW1, maintained my photos in three places: my computer, a zip drive, and photopbucket. I lost the verbage as did most everyone else. Won't happen to me again!


Look forward to your log as it unfolds.





Hopeful aka David


“there is wisdom in many voices”


Completed: Sharpie Schooner (Midwest) Posted on kit build log.

Current: Sultana (MSW) Updating the build log and continuing on with the build


Next: Lady Nelson (Amati Victory)

Edited by hopeful
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Having made the decision to modify the hull, I proceeded to make the changes to achieve a profile close to the Lely Portrait of the stern. The following picture shows the beginnings of the stern construction.




As you can see in the photo that follows I decided to "paint with wood" in my depiction of the Sovereign. It meant that I would only use different colour woods to represent colour on my model and thus the decision to plank below the water line in American Holly and above it in Swiss Pear. Not an easy feat as I found out.




With no experience in carving, I consulted the Seaways List for information as to how to go about carving ornamentation. There was a limited amount of information available in print. The preferred method was to trace the outlines of the sculpture on a piece of wood and start carving.  I soon found that when the lines disappeared, it was like driving in fog. This left me to do some soul searching and find a way to get around this. I discovered that drawing the item to be carved on paper, and then on the wood, was the answer.  This allowed me to commit the image to memory, so when the lines began to disappear as I carved, I still knew what the object looked like and could continue to carve without fear. The following photo shows my very first carving for the stern of the Sovereign. It was carved using a Proxon engraver that holds 3/32" burs.




The Proxon Carver




The next photo shows some additions to the stern which include some of the arched window frames, carved from Boxwood with rotary tools.





Edited by modelshipwright
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