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The Story of Jacques Francis the Salvage Diver

Watch this narrated audio with images telling the story of Jacques Francis the Salvage Diver.
Jacques plunged into the sea and the cold engulfed him. It was so different to the warm waters where he’d learnt to swim and dive as a child. He took a series of deep breaths, allowing his lungs to inflate with air and take precious oxygen into his blood and dived beneath the waves. As he reached the depths, he began to make out the shape of the wreck through the murky water. He had heard the tale of how this proud warship had met her doom. The men of the town didn’t agree on exactly what had caused her to sink, but they well recalled the spectacle of her quick, cruel disappearance beneath the waves.
The screams of the drowning men were loud enough to reach the shore. Their skeletons would be waiting for him amongst the sunken timbers. Hundreds of onlookers, including King Henry himself, had watched helplessly as the ship went down. The Mary Rose; that was what they called her. And now that splendid ship lay lifeless before him in the water. Her side was studded with guns of iron and bronze, the latter marked with a royal crest. That was why he was here,
why the King had hired his master: to salvage the expensive weaponry. The Venetian could not dive this deep himself, and so he found Jacques, and the other divers in his team, and brought them to this cold island to perform a miracle for the English King.

In this video narrated by actor Paterson Joseph, we introduce the story of Jacques Francis, a salvage diver from an island off the coast of West Africa. We know a great deal about the story of Jacques Francis because he testified in court in a dispute about a Tudor shipwreck.

Like John Blanke the trumpeter in Week 1, Jacques Francis earned a living in Tudor England with his valued specialist skills.

We will look in more detail at the background to his story within the next steps and examine the evidence from the High Court of Admiralty records.


After watching the video, take a moment to reflect and share your thoughts in the comments:

  • What particularly interested you in the story and experiences of Jacques Francis and did anything surprise you?

  • What skills had Jacques Francis developed in swimming, diving and salvage operations, and why do you think these skills might be particularly valued in England in the Tudor period?

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Black Tudors: The Untold Story

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