When it sank, the Kronan was among the largest battleships in the world. It was built by famous 17th-century English shipbuilder Francis Sheldon, and construction on the enormous fighting vessel began in 1668. When it was completed in 1672, the Kronan was some 170 feet long and almost 50 feet wide. It then became the flagship of King Karl XI’s Swedish navy.
The Kronan carried 126 guns and had a crew of 500 men, as well as 350 soldiers, on board. And for four years it served its country – until a fateful day in 1676. A Danish-Dutch naval force was menacing Sweden’s territory, and the Kronan was sent at the head of a Swedish attack. So, on June 1, in a heavy gale, the two fleets faced off against each other.
The strong winds combined with poor communication between the Swedish ships then led to the Kronan making a fatal error. It turned sharply to port with its sails too full. This manoeuvre subsequently pushed the ship onto its side and allowed water to enter through the open cannon ports. What happened next, though, is something of a mystery.