of the British Armed Forces
|History and future|
The Admiralty was the authority in the Kingdom of England, and later in Great Britain and until 1964 in the United Kingdom, responsible for the command of the Royal Navy. Originally exercised by a single person, the Lord High Admiral, the Admiralty was from the early 18th century onwards almost invariably put "in commission" and exercised by the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, who sat on the Board of Admiralty.
In 1964, the functions of the Admiralty were transferred to a new Admiralty Board, which is a committee of the tri-service Defence Council of the United Kingdom and part of the Ministry of Defence. The new Admiralty Board meets only twice a year, and the day-to-day running of the Royal Navy is controlled by a Navy Board (not to be confused with the historical Navy Board described later in this article). It is common for the various authorities now in charge of the Royal Navy to be referred to as simply The Admiralty.
The title of Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom was vested in the Sovereign from 1964 to 2011. The title was awarded to The Duke of Edinburgh by the Queen on his 90th birthday. There also continues to be a Vice-Admiral of the United Kingdom and a Rear-Admiral of the United Kingdom, both of which are honorary offices.
- 1 Function and organisation
- 2 Admiralty buildings
- 3 "Admiralty" as a metonym for "sea power"
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 Further reading
- 7 External links
Function and organisation
The office of Admiral of England (or Lord Admiral and later Lord High Admiral) was created around 1400, though there were before this Admirals of the Northern and Western Seas. In 1546, King Henry VIII established the Council of the Marine, later to become the Navy Board, to oversee administrative affairs of the naval service. Operational control of the Navy remained the responsibility of the Lord High Admiral, who was one of the nine Great Officers of State.
In 1628, Charles I put the office of Lord High Admiral into commission and control of the Royal Navy passed to a committee in the form of the Board of Admiralty. The office of Lord High Admiral passed a number of times in and out of commission until 1709, after which the office was almost permanently in commission (the last Lord High Admiral being the future King William IV in the early 19th century).
In 1831, the Navy Board was abolished as a separate entity and its duties and responsibilities were given over to the Admiralty.
In 1964, the Admiralty was subsumed into the Ministry of Defence along with the War Office and the Air Ministry. Within the expanded Ministry of Defence are the new Admiralty Board, Army Board and Air Force Board, each headed by the Secretary of State for Defence. As mentioned above, there is also a new Navy Board in charge of the day-to-day running of the Royal Navy.
The Board of Admiralty
When the office of Lord High Admiral was in commission, as it was for most of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries until it reverted to the Crown, it was exercised by a Board of Admiralty, officially known as the Commissioners for Exercising the Office of Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, &c. (alternatively of England, Great Britain or the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland depending on the period).
The Board of Admiralty consisted of a number of Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty. The Lords Commissioners were always a mixture of admirals, known as Naval Lords or Sea Lords, and Civil Lords, normally politicians. The quorum of the Board was two commissioners and a secretary.
The president of the Board was known as the First Lord of the Admiralty, who was a member of the . After 1806, the First Lord of the Admiralty was always a civilian, while the professional head of the navy came to be (and is still today) known as the First Sea Lord.
The Admiralty complex lies between Whitehall, Horse Guards Parade and The Mall and includes five buildings. Since the Admiralty no longer exists as a department, these are now used as an "office bank" by the British government:
The oldest building was long known simply as The Admiralty, and is now referred to popularly as the Old Admiralty and officially as the Ripley Building.
It is a three storey U-shaped brick building completed in 1726. Alexander Pope implied the architecture is rather dull, lacking either the vigour of the baroque style which was fading from fashion at the time, or the austere grandeur of the Palladian style which was just coming into vogue. It is mainly notable for being perhaps the first purpose built office building in Great Britain. It contained a board room, other state rooms and offices and apartments for the Lords of the Admiralty. Robert Adam designed the screen which was added to the entrance front in 1788. Nowadays the Ripley Building is allocated to the Department for International Development.
Admiralty House is a moderately proportioned mansion to the south of the Ripley Building, built in the late 18th century as the residence of the First Lord of the Admiralty, serving that purpose until 1964. Winston Churchill was one of its occupants. It lacks its own entrance from Whitehall, and is entered through the Ripley Building. It is a three-storey building in yellow brick with neo-classicistic interiors. Its rear facade faces directly onto Horse Guards Parade. The architect was Samuel Pepys Cockerell. There are now three ministerial flats in the building.
Old Admiralty Building (or Admiralty Extension or OAB)
This is the largest of the Admiralty Buildings. It was begun in the late 19th century and redesigned while the construction was in progress to accommodate the extra offices needed due to the naval arms race with the German Empire. It is a red brick building with white stone detailing in the Queen Anne style with French influences. It is now used by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office staff refer to the building as the OAB (Old Admiralty Building).
Admiralty Arch is linked to the Old Admiralty Building by a bridge and is part of the ceremonial route from Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace. It contains further office space currently used by the Cabinet Office.
The Admiralty Citadel
"Admiralty" as a metonym for "sea power"
In some cases, the term admiralty is used in a wider sense, as meaning sea power or rule over the seas, rather than in strict reference to the institution exercising such power. For example, the well-known lines from Kipling's Song of the Dead:
If blood be the price of admiralty,
Lord God, we ha' paid in full!
- List of Lord High Admirals and First Lords of the Admiralty
- List of Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty
- Lord High Admiral of Scotland
- Bradley, Simon, and Nikolaus Pevsner. London 6: Westminster (from the Buildings of England series). New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2003. ISBN 0-300-09595-3.
- C. Hussey, "Admiralty Building, Whitehall", Country Life, 17 and 24 November 1923, pp. 684–692, 718-726.
- Daniel A. Baugh, Naval Administration in the Age of Walpole (Pinceton, 1965).
- Sir John Barrow, An Autobiographical Memoir of Sir John Barrow, Bart., Late of the Admiralty (London, 1847).
- John Ehrman, The Navy in the War of William III: Its State and Direction (Cambridge, 1953).
- C. I. Hamilton, The Making of the Modern Admiralty: British Naval Policy-Making 1805-1927 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).
- C. I. Hamilton, "Selections from the Phinn Committee of Inquiry of October–November 1853 into the State of the Office of Secretary to the Admiralty, in The Naval Miscellany, volume V, edited by N. A. M. Rodger, (London: Navy Records Society, London, 1984).
- C. S. Knighton, Pepys and the Navy (Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 2003).
- Christopher Lloyd, Mr Barrow of the Admiralty (London, 1970).
- Malcolm H. Murfett, The First Sea Lords: From Fisher to Mountbatten (Westport: Praeger, 1995).
- Lady Murray, The Making of a Civil Servant: Sir Oswyn Murray, Secretary of the Admiralty 1917-1936 (London, 1940).
- N.A.M. Rodger, The Admiralty (Lavenham, 1979)
- J.C. Sainty, Admiralty Officials, 1660-1870 (London, 1975)
- Sir Charles Walker, Thirty-Six Years at the Admiralty (London, 1933)
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- The Admiralty at the Survey of London online
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