Admiral of the South

The Admiral of the South also known as Admiral of the Southern Fleet was a senior English Navy appointment. The post holder was chiefly responsible for the command of the navy's fleet that operated in the English Channel out of Portsmouth from 1294 to 1326.

Office of the Admiral of the South
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Admiralty of the South
Reports toPrivy Council of England
NominatorMonarch of England
AppointerMonarch of England
Subject to formal approval by the King-in-Council
Term lengthNot fixed , (usually for life)
Inaugural holderWilliam de Leybourne
Formation1294-1306, 1325-1326


The origins of the office Admiral of the South [1] dates back to 1294 with the appointment of William de Leybourne. The office was known by different names from its inception, such as Admiral of the South on the Portsmouth Station (1294–-1325),[2] Admiral of the Southern Sea, Admiral of the Southern Fleet this command existed only briefly for a period of about ten years. In 1326 the office was merged with that of the Admiral of the West.[2] The first royal commission as Admiral to a naval officer was granted in 1303. By 1344 it was only used as a rank at sea for a captain in charge of a fleet or fleets.[3]

Rank and Role

The administration of English Navy from the end of the 13th century was decentralized into three regional 'admiralties' until the end of the fourteenth Century.[4] The appointment of an admiral was not regarded by the English government at the time as an honorary post subordinate to a military rank, their importance attached to their office can be confirmed by the recording of their allowances paid recorded in the Calendar of Patent Rolls.[5] In the fourteenth Century Admirals were paid a respectable salary which was only granted because the position was viewed as substantially important. In addition the rank of admiral was only granted to men of high prestige within feudal hierarchy, most recipients of the office were usually knights but more often earls.[6] The Admirals duties usually consisted of assembling fleets for naval expeditions undertaken by the monarch on campaign, maintaining order and discipline and supervising the work of the Admiralty Courts for each region. On major military expeditions the Admiral would go to sea with their fleets and accompany the overall Commander-in-Chief of both sea and land forces usually the King himself but sometimes a nobleman of higher rank than the admiral. Their role was to observe and direct naval battles but not necessarily taking part in them, themselves.[6] However, from 1344 onward their role was moving from primarily administrative on to that of a seagoing command.[7]

In 1337 the first known record of the appointment of a "vice-admiral' was granted to a Nicholas Ususmaris, a Genoese, he was made Vice-Admiral of the King's fleet of galleys, and all other ships of Aquitaine. However these appointments were few and far between. There was two further instances of the appointment of Vice-Admirals to Sir Thomas Drayton as Vice-Admiral of the Northern Fleet and Sir Peter Bard Vice-Admiral of the Western Fleet both on 28 July 1338.[8]

Special assistants were appointed to handle two important sub-divisions of the admirals powers. The first was the admiral's lieutenant, or deputy, referred to as sub-admirals, who handled administrative and legal duties and each of these admirals had one and often retained more knowledge than the Admiral himself in relation to the sea and coastal communities.[9] It would not be until the early 15th century that they would appointed on a more regular basis however they were referred to at this time as the admirals Lieutenant-General this office eventually became known as the Lieutenant of the Admiralty.[10]

The second was the Wardens of the Coast for each region who were responsible for the direction and co-ordination of the fleet, the equipping of boats and processing payments to sailors and superintendence of the Sea Guard Militia assigned to each maritime coastal county.[6] From the mid fourteenth century there was a move to centralise these regional naval authorities as seen with the appointment of the Admiral of the Southern, Northern and Western fleets sometimes referred to as Admiral of the Fleet or Admiral of England and the Admiral of the North and West this tendency towards unifying regional naval authorities under one admiral eventually led to the creation of the office of the Lord-Admiral of England[6]

The Admirals were logistically supported by the Clerk of the Kings Ships who looked after all the navy's finances whilst victualling of the navy was handled by another one of Kings Clerks.[6]

Admirals of the SouthEdit


No appointments 1311 – 1325
No appointments after 1326 the office is merged with the office of Admiral of the West [11]

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ Durston, Gregory (2017). The Admiralty Sessions, 1536-1834: Maritime Crime and the Silver Oar. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 4. ISBN 9781443873611.
  2. ^ a b c Houbraken, Jacobus; Thoyras, Paul de Rapin; Vertue, George (1747). The History of England, A List of Admirals of England, 1228–1745. J. and P. Knapton. p. 271.
  3. ^ "History of Naval Ranks and Rates". National Museum of the Royal New Zealand Navy. 10 November 2015. Retrieved 13 February 2019.
  4. ^ Rodger, N.A.M. (1997). "Captains and Admirals: Social History 1204 to 1455". The safeguard of the sea : a naval history of Britain. Vol 1., 660-1649. London: Penguin. pp. 131–142. ISBN 9780140297249.
  5. ^ Bell, Adrian R.; Curry, Anne; King, Andy; Simpkin, David (2013). The Soldier in Later Medieval England. Oxford: OUP Oxford. p. 45. ISBN 9780199680825.
  6. ^ a b c d e Rodger pp. 131-142
  7. ^ National Museum of the Royal New Zealand Navy
  8. ^ Tucker, St George (2004). "Introduction". Blackstone's commentaries : with notes of reference to the constitution and laws, of the federal government of the United States, and of the Commonwealth of Virginia; with an appendix to each volume, containing short tracts upon such subjects as appeared necessary to form a connected view of the laws of Virginia as a member of the federal union. Vol. 1 (5 ed.). Clark, New Jersey, United States: Lawbook Exchange Ltd. p. xxxii. ISBN 9781886363168.
  9. ^ Gorski, Richard (2012). "The Admirals". Roles of the Sea in Medieval England. Woodbridge, England: Boydell Press. p. 82. ISBN 9781843837015.
  10. ^ Blomfield, R. Massie (January 1912). "Naval Executive Ranks". The Mariner's Mirror. 2 (4): 106–112. doi:10.1080/00253359.1912.10654589.
  11. ^ a b c Clowes, Sir William Laird; Clowes, William Laird; Markham, Sir Clements Robert (1996). "Military History of the Navy, 1154-1399". The Royal Navy: A History from the Earliest Times to the Present: Volume I. Chatham Pub. pp. 160–303. ISBN 9781861760104.


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