Prince Charles at the bottom of the sea in his diving suit saw Margaret Rule signal to him and he followed.
"I thought he would enjoy seeing the cannon from King Henry VIII's flagship, the Mary Rose," said Rule. "We had just moved the cannon about 40 meters from the hull and set it right on the sea floor. Well, the prince followed me and I am sorry to say the water was so murky -- believe me, the water off Portsmouth is no great pleasure to dive in, not like the Yucatan or places like that -- that there was no way in this world the prince was going to see that cannon of his ancestor's ship.
"But he felt with his hand, first the tail of the Garter [the symbol of the royal house was cast on the cannon], then he could feel the letters of the motto, 'Honi soit,' then he could feel the Tudor rose [the red and white roses of England combined] and he raised his hand [giving the okay symbol, a circle of the thumb and first finger] to show he had recognized what it was.
"The prince is president of our foundation to raise the Mary Rose, you know, and it is a great comfort to us, for there are endless organizations that would like to have his name on their list of sponsors, let alone as their president.
"He has made five dives himself. There have been as many as 200 of us diving, to recover valuable objects from this ship that was sunk off Portsmouth in 1545, and I can tell you when you're poking about in those grotty [grungy] conditions of the sea, you appreciate the support of the Prince of Wales."
Rule, a diving archaeologist, was formerly curator of a Roman villa in Surrey, but as the Mary yrose project gathered steam, she had to start giving it all of her time.
The ship sank in full view of the king, standing on shore with the admiral's wife and his retinue. It is said he clearly heard the cries of the drowning, and it is recorded the admiral's wife swooned dead away in the royal arms. Of perhaps 700 men aboard, no more than 35 survived, none of them believed to be gentlemen or persons of rank. It is still not clear why the ship sank.
"If they had been, surely they would have been mentioned by name," said Rule, who is ruddy and bonny, as if diving about the sea bottom had done her nothing but good and caused her to blossom.
It will cost about $3 million to raise the flagship, but Rule is not here to raise money. She was visiting the National Geographic Society yesterday, since an article about the ship will appear in that magazine.
Not only has it always been known where the Mary Rose lay, there were even efforts to raise it. In the last century they got so far as to attach a hawser to the mainmast and give a great tug, an exertion that merely pulled the mainmast free of the deck. It is not known the ship lists at 60 degrees and is much silted over on one side, so something far more sophisticated than heaving and ho-ing is required.
"It will be 1982 before we try to raise her," said Rule, "since all the contents msut be removed first, and there will have to be horizontal tunnels beneath the keel, and a special cradle and air sausages and so on, but eventually the ship will repose in a maritime museum at Portsmouth.
"Fortunately for us, the excavators of the 19th century were able to get only the most trifling prices for things they recovered -- cannon and Tudor arrows [that went with the fabled long bows of yew wood] so they had no financial incentive to go on. If they had found it profitable, they would have looted everything and the archaeological value of the site would be quite lost.
"A great value is that the men were a cross section of English society. No, there were no women aboard as far as we know. On the one hand you have men with wooden bowls to eat from, their names scratched rudely with a knife, and on the other hand gentlemen with beautifully engraved pewter dishes, and velvet clothes. We have found a beautiful wooden pocket sundial. We have found a shawn [a woodwind predecessor of the oboel]. There is no shawn in all England. The provost of Paris used to go about at night looking for street bums to clear them off the streets. He was preceded by a man blowing the shawn. Wonderful to relate, he found almost no bums in his path.
"They heard the shawn, of course, and got out of the way. We were surprised at what a sophisticated, complicated instrument it is, and we hope to reproduce it as a modern instrument."
After which, no doubt, street crime will vanish forever.
Rulehs Roman villa included a silted-up harbor, and she used to explore it at low tide. But of course her work was all undone with every high tide, and she at last decided she was doing more harm than good, and left the site alone.
"The greatest joy perhaps I ever had was the discovery that when we dug a trench at the Mary Rose, in that silt, we could come back the next day and find the contours as sharp as they would have been on land. I have worked on undersea sites in sand, and they are terrible. After every storm, you find your work under six feet of sand.
"But this silt off Portsmouth, however unpleasant the conditions may be in that cold water, at least has the merit of staying put once you dig it away. It also has preserved much of the ship in a wonderful way.
"On eday a chest was removed from one of the decks, and a young woman said it appeared to be full of clay pigeons. You know, as in skeet shooting. I doubted a Tudor ship would have a chest full of clay pigeons. It proved to be a ship's medicine chest. The silt had not got inside it. When we opened the jars of lotions and ointments, we found in one the ruts made in the ointment by a hand that had gouged some out -- no doubt to treat a wound the day the ship sank.
Rule gets right on with things and before you have quite caught up with the medicine chest, she's on the new wonders.
Few of which surpass, perhaps, the image of the English heir feeling the rose of England at the depths of the sea, in murky darkness, and connecting thereby with the England of rising glory.