Modern Times

The Golden Devil.

The Sovereign Of The Seas.

Modern Times, As Seen Through Ship Design, Part 4.

A vessel so heavily decorated with gold that it was called the Golden Devil by the Dutch.

HMS Sovereign Of The Seas, stern gilding.

Well, Idid say that nothing much would happen in ship design until the advent of iron; even so, the nature of a warship in those days was to be seen. Being seen was as much a weapon as its power to punch holes in enemy ships. Scaring off the opposition was a reasonable strategy in those days. That the Dutch, the most serious contender of the English Channel at the time – were so scared as to call it the “Gouden Deuvel”, the Golden Devil, should be enough to tell you that its impressive form spoke as much as its ability to sink them in fair combat. But then, the British, like all Anglo-Saxons, do not consider fighting fairly as an option if they can first win by fighting unfairly.

Now, to say that this vessel was ornate is to understate the situation at hand: the vessel had gilded carvings from stem to stern, the gilding alone cost £6,691 – a sum substantial enough to build a first class warship carrying 40 guns. The Sovereign of the Seas itself cost ten times this much, the extra cost being solely in terms of decoration. The Sovereign of the Seas cost £65,000, which is the equivalent of ten million in our day and age – only this was a time when if you bought something, somebody had made it. In those days, money was worth its weight in gold.

The question is why did King Charles I want one big warship when he could have bought ten? Well, he had the money to spend for one thing – even if it had serious consequences, namely: his head. It was his splashing out so much money at one time that led to a financial crisis in Britain that was so serious, the result was a coup d’état, and the establishment of a republic. The point is that it was big, gaudy and spoke very loudly of His Majesty’s own power. Literally and metaphorically. Now what was it the wise man said? ‘Pride cometh before a fall’.

Because the main point of this chaotic series of essays is to establish why people want big, imposing warships at all. The Fifth Epoch is the epoch of the consciousness soul, and as such, is the Epoch in which responsibility is learned through contriteness. Having the strength to tell others what to do is the quintessential opposite of this – and in being its opposite, hinders the development of conscience. This is evil at its purest.

You might now understand why an otherwise pedestrian series of histories is not published on my more public blog. In the Fifth Epoch, people do not want to deal with conscience or its consequences: people want knowledge, power and positions of authority. Any authority – be it as administrator on the Anthroposophical Group on Facebook or Nazi Gauleiter – works directly against the impulses of the Fifth Epoch. And humanity’s future.

I will add that such things are only pedestrian because they are normality in our day and age.

The Sovereign Of The Seas was the most impressive, most dangerous “fuck off” that King Charles could float on water. Everything about the Golden Devil told people that it was bigger and stronger than they were, so don’t even think of coming closer.

In short, the Golden Devil was everything a human should not be.

Which will tell you why these things need to be bigger, more powerful, more authoritative. It’s because a person that thinks can undermine this kind of behaviour with relative ease – a situation that we will meet frequently but not as often as we meet the ‘bigger is better’ brigade of dimwits.

The Sovereign Of The Seas was a well built ship, and was in battle even at the tender age of fifty, today such a feat is all but impossible. Sure, the American battleships fought in the Gulf War, they did so not as battleships though, but as floating missile platforms.

For all their glory, these ships decayed like any other. This is perhaps the only piece that remains from the entire navy: and it's in Holland at the Rijksmuseum.

The stern carving from the Royal Charles

Plus, of course, the enemy wasn’t able to strike back at them, which is the first law of our modern times: “Up yours and no returns all day”. It would be around ninety years after The Sovereign Of The Seas first put to sea that the vessel was burned to the keel at Chatham. Even mighty and imposing ships like the Golden Devil start to rot. It is possible that the keel can still be seen at low water, much like the Grace Dieu on the river Hamble.

As a side note, the Golden Devil was in Portsmouth during the Dutch night raid on the river Medway in 1667; this was after the Restoration, by the way,  The Dutch had put a huge prize on the vessel’s ‘head’, several thousand pounds. The Dutch did snatch the “Royal Charles”, which they sailed back to Holland. Unable to use a vessel with such a deep draught, they sold the thing for scrap, but kept one of the stern carvings. This is still to be seen in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and is the only memory of a time when gilded ships could strike fear into an enemy’s heart.

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