On March 20, 1743, The Princess Louisa set sail from Portsmouth (on the southern coast of England) bound for Bombay and Persia. Her cargo consisted of Spanish Colonial “pieces of eight” from the mints of Potosi, Bolivia and Lima, Peru. These coins were to be used to purchase silks, spices and other valuable Eastern items. She sank on April 18, 1743 on Galleons Reef, in the treacherous waters off the Cape Verde Islands, near the Isle of May (west of Africa).
The Princess Louisa was an East India Company merchant ship built in 1733. With two decks and three masts, it was one of the largest in the English fleet and built for speed. She was approximately 120 ft. in length, 550 tons, and armed with 30 guns. Many of the ships built for the East India Company were named for royalty, and The Princess Louisa was named after the youngest daughter of King George II. She set sail in company with another East Indiaman, the Winchester, and 26 smaller merchantmen. Since England and Spain were at war at this time, she was also escorted by the H.M.S. Sterling Castle, a 70-gun warship.
What started as an uneventful voyage soon turned dangerous as the ships prepared to pass through the Cape Verde Islands on the evening of April 17, 1743. The Princess Louisa entered the dangerous waters first and about an hour later fired her guns as a signal of danger. As the Winchester neared, they saw their sister ship “in or very near the breakers” on a reef and were able to avoid the same fate. By morning The Princess Louisa could be seen “among the rocks without ever a mast standing and the sea making a free passage over her.” Rescue attempts were made by the Winchester but were unsuccessful. Fortunately, 42 of the 115 people aboard floated to safety on the nearby island, but nothing on the ship could be saved. Although a recovery expedition was mounted in 1744, the salvage attempt was unsuccessful and the treasure of The Princess Louisa lay undiscovered on the ocean floor for more than 250 years.
In 1998-99 an expedition by the well-known maritime archaeological recovery company, Arqueonautas, recovered these Spanish Colonial treasure coins and archaeologists from Oxford University confirmed that the wreck was indeed The Princess Louisa. A variety of denominations were salvaged. The majority were one real and two reales featuring the pillar-and-wave design with partial date, denomination and assayer mark visible on the obverse, and a potent Jerusalem cross on the reverse.