The Gloucester Project
An important wider issue is whether James should also be held responsible for the tragedy? He had insisted that the pilot follow James’s preferred course, despite Ayres’s misgivings. The Duke accepted no blame whatsoever, and his supporters, thankful that he had survived, celebrated his miraculous escape. Wild rumours also circulated of a conspiracy to kill James, as the event and his conduct became politicised by both his supporters and detractors.
The Gloucester sank quickly on the morning of 6 May – within an hour of striking sandbanks – but the tops of its masts stayed above water for some time. Roxburghe’s widow, Lady Margaret, disconsolate following her husband’s death, organised a search party to recover his body which was able to locate the site a fortnight later, though not the young Earl’s body – he was only 23 or 24 years old. Other local salvage attempts were made but without much success, and many have searched for the wreck until the site was recognised by experienced Norfolk divers the Barnwell brothers, and James Little.
But that’s a whole other story …