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Margaret Rule Obituary

Archaeologist and holder of an honorary fellowship from the University of Portsmouth, Margaret Rule, has died at the age of 86.

Margaret Rule is most known for her recovery of the Mary Rose, Henry VIII’s flagship, from the bottom of the Solent in 1982.

The ship had sailed for 34 years before sinking a mile offshore in July 1545, killing 500 of the men and boys aboard.

In 1965 Margaret Rule was invited by military historian Alexander McKee to search for underwater wrecks off the coast of Portsmouth.

By 1971 they had discovered timbers they knew to belong to the Mary Rose.

Margaret Rule recalled their actions at this point: “We had to protect the wreck from looters. We formed a Mary Rose Committee and leased the site from the Crown for one pound a year.”

By 1978 the Committee had worked to uncover an intact ship, and in 1979 the decision was made to raise the ship under the presidency of the Prince of Wales with Margaret Rule as its chief archaeologist.

By the 11th October 1982 a verdict was reached and millions of television viewers around the world watched on as the Mary Rose was raised.

It didn’t all go perfectly to plan however, as a steel pin gave way and the top part of the cage used to support the ship threatened to collapse.

“I was in charge of it and I could see what was happening,” said Margaret Rule. “I very nearly went down in history as the woman who lost the Mary Rose.”

Fortunately the ship survived and in 2013 a £36 million museum housing the wreck and many of the 19,000 artefacts discovered with it was opened in Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard.

In her later life Margaret Rule was granted an honorary doctorate from Liverpool University and an honorary fellowship from the University of Portsmouth.

She was named a CBE in 1983 and was awarded the Mitchell Medal for Engineering the same year.

Born in High Wycombe on 27th September 1928, Margaret Rule is survived by her son.

Margaret Rule, born on September 27 1928, died on April 9 2015.

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