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King's treasure ship `found in Forth'

MARINE ARCHAEOLOGISTS searching for a treasure-laden ship belonging to Charles I, which sank 366 years ago near Edinburgh are convinced they have found the vessel. All summer they have been examining a wreck which lies beneath 40m of water, a mile off Burntisland in the Firth of Forth. It is believed to contain a fabled 280-piece silver dining service commissioned by King Henry VIII as well as other royal possessions, which today would be worth pounds 500m.

The archaeologists say that they are now poised to confirm publicly that the vessel is the Blessing of Burntisland, a royal ferry which sank during a storm in 1633 while carrying Charles I's possessions across the Firth of Forth after he had been crowned King of Scotland. Only two of the 35 people on board survived as the king watched in consternation from his own ship, the Dreadnought.

Alex Kilgour, spokesman for the Burntisland Heritage Trust, said that he was confident a positive announcement on the identity of the 60ft long, 15ft wide and 5ft deep ship could be made within two months. His colleague, Ian Archibald, said the historical significance of the ship was enormous. "What you have here is a fully intact royal kitchen that went down. Elsewhere, we have bits and pieces but we have never found the whole thing intact. We believe that everything is there right down to the soup ladels."

The find, if confirmed, will be the most important since the recovery of the Mary Rose. The importance of the vessel was appreciated equally well when it went down. So upset was Charles I that he rounded up 19 witches in Lancashire, blaming them for invoking the squall that swamped the vessel. In fact, it is more likely that it sank simply because it was overloaded with treasure - said to be worth pounds 100,000, or one fifth of the entire Scottish exchequer.

The site of the wreck remains controversial. This week, a San Diego- based diver, Bill Warren, claimed that the trust had merely located an 18th-century junk ship and that an American psychic had discovered the true location of the Blessing of Burntisland. The site identified by the psychic apparently confirmed coordinates pinpointed scientifically by Professor William Wallace at San Diego University.

Yesterday, Mr Archibald, a cartographer, rejected the San Diego claims, but confirmed that his group's identification of the site was made by Jim Longton, who had used a dowsing twig over a map. When Mr Longton tested his conclusions in the Forth, his rod began quivering madly just 50m from the spot he had identified on the map, right over where the wreck was found. "It was almost as if I was on the Blessing," he said.