A Tudor ship lost -- and found; The Story of the Mary Rose, by Ernle Bradford. New York: W. W. Norton. 207 pp. $ 24.95.

On July 19, 1545, Vice-Admiral Sir George Carew's 700-ton flagship, the Mary Rose, sank during the Battle of Portsmouth, while King Henry VIII was looking on from the shore. To this day nobody knows why the ship sank. It is known that the Mary Rose's maneuverability in a beam wind was severely limited, that the ship was grossly overloaded with soldiers, and that when the vice-admiral's uncle, Sir Gawen Carew, sailed alongside and called out, ''What is the trouble?'' Sir George Carew replied, ''I have the sort of knaves I cannot rule.'' Was it mutiny? No one can say.

It wasn't until the 1830s that John Deane found a bronze 32-pounder gun bearing a Tudor inscription, that research in old records revealed he had rediscovered the Mary Rose, ''some lost lady of old years'' (Robert Browning). Although valuable relics were retrieved, the wreck remained below until last Sept. 29, when the Mary Rose Trust, whose president is Prince Charles, made the epic retrieval.

Ernle Bradford tells the enthralling tale: the struggle to obtain finance; the evolving techniques to prevent disintegration of the rescued 300-year-old relics. Now it will take two years to reassemble the ship's interior, several more to preserve the hull's oak.

This beautifully illustrated volume is a fitting tribute to all this endeavor. How poetic, too, that the Tudor flagship which sank so ingloriously under the gaze of Henry VIII should resurface so splendidly before the eyes of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.

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