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First Lord of the Admiralty

The First Lord of the Admiralty[1] or formally the Office the First Lord of the Admiralty[2] was the political head of the Royal Navy who was the government's senior advisor on all naval affairs and responsible for the direction and control of Admiralty Department as well as general administration of the Naval Service of the United Kingdom, that encompassed the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines and other services. It was one of the earliest known permanent government posts, apart from being the political head of the Royal Navy the post holder simultaneously held the title of the President of the Board of Commissioners for Exercising the Office of Lord High Admiral (known as the Board of Admiralty). The office of First Lord of the Admiralty existed from 1628 until it was abolished when the Admiralty, Air Ministry, Ministry of Defence and War Office were all merged to form the new Ministry of Defence in 1964.

Office of the First Lord of the Admiralty
Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (HM Government).svg
Seal of H.M. Government
Department of the Admiralty
Member of Board of Admiralty
Reports to Prime Minister
Nominator Prime Minister
Appointer Prime Minister
Subject to formal approval by the Queen-in-Council
Term length Not fixed (typically 3–7 years)
Inaugural holder Richard Weston, 1st Earl of Portland
Formation 1628-1964

Contents

HistoryEdit

In 1628, during the reign of Charles I, the Duke of Buckingham, Lord High Admiral of England, was assassinated and the office was placed in commission, under the control of a Board of Commissioners.

The first such First Lord of the Admiralty was Richard Weston, 1st Earl of Portland, who was appointed in 1628 the First Lord was not always a permanent member of the board until the Admiralty Department was established as an official government department in 1709[3] with the First Lord as its head, it replaced the earlier Office of the Admiralty and Marine Affairs,.[4] During most of the 17th century and the early 18th century, it was not invariable for the Admiralty to be in commission, so there are gaps in the list of First Lords, and a small number of First Lords were for a time Lord High Admiral.

After the Revolution, in 1690, a declaratory Act was passed, during the reign of William and Mary, Parliament passed the Admiralty Act, vesting in the Commissioners the powers formerly held by the Lord High Admiral of England.[5] and at this point became a permanent Cabinet position.

The Admiralty Commission was dissolved in 1701, but was reconstituted in 1709 on the death of Prince George of Denmark,[6] who had been appointed Lord High Admiral. The office has been held in commission from that time onwards, however, except for a short period (1827–28) when the Duke of Clarence was Lord High Admiral. The Board of the Admiralty comprised a number of “Lords Commissioners” headed by a First Lord.[7]

From the early 1800s the post was always held by a civilian[8] (previously flag officers of the Royal Navy also held the post). In 1832 First Lord Sir James Graham instituted reforms and amalgamated the Board of Admiralty and the Navy Board. By the provisions of the Admiralty Act of 1832, two Lords in committee could legalize any action of the Board.[9]

In 1868 Prime Minister, William Gladstone appointed Hugh Childers First Lord, who would introduce a new system at the Admiralty. However these changes restricted communication between the board members who were affected by these new regulations and the sittings of the Board were discontinued altogether. This situation described was further exacerbated by the disaster of HMS Captain in 1870, a poorly-designed new vessel for the navy.

The responsibility and powers of the First Lord of the Admiralty were laid down by an Order in Council dated January 14, 1869,[10] and a later Order (March 19, 1872) made the First Lord responsible to the Sovereign and to Parliament for all the business of the Admiralty. However by describing the Lords of the Admiralty as the "assistants" of the First Lord,[11] and by specifically defining their duties, had, in fact, partially disabled the collective power of the Board .

In 1931, for the first time since 1709, the First Lord was not a member of the cabinet.[12] In 1964, the office of First Lord of the Admiralty was abolished, the last holder being the second Earl Jellicoe, the son of Admiral of the Fleet Earl Jellicoe, and the functions of the Sea Lords were then transferred to the Admiralty Board, which forms part of the tri-service Defence Council of the United Kingdom.

Responsibilities and dutiesEdit

Between 1800 and 1912 included:[13]

First Lords of the Admiralty of England, 1628–1701Edit

Portrait Name Term of office Ref
  The Earl of Portland 1628 1635 [14]
  The Earl of Lindsey 1635 1636 [15]
  William Juxon, Bishop of Lincoln 1636 1638 [16]
  The Earl of Northumberland
(Lord High Admiral 1638–1642)
1642 1643 [17]
  The Lord Cottington 1643 1646 [18]
  Sir Henry Capell
(Lord High Admiral 1638–1642)
1679 1681 [19]
  The Earl of Nottingham 1681 1684 [20]
  The Earl of Torrington
(Lord High Admiral 1689)
1689 1690 [21]
  The Earl of Pembroke 1690 1692 [22]
  The Lord Cornwallis 1692 1693 [23]
  The Viscount Falkland 1693 1695 [24]
  The Earl of Orford 1694 1699 [25]
  The Earl of Bridgewater 1699 1701 [26]
  The Earl of Pembroke 1701 1702 [27]

First Lords of the Admiralty of Great Britain, 1709–1801Edit

First Lords of the Admiralty of the United Kingdom, 1801–1964Edit

Portrait Name Term of office Political party
  The Earl of St Vincent 1801 1804
  The Viscount Melville 1804 1805
  The Lord Barham 1805 1806
  Viscount Howick 1806 1806
  Thomas Grenville 1806 1807
  The Lord Mulgrave 1807 1810
  Charles Philip Yorke 1810 1812
  The Viscount Melville 1812 1827
  HRH The Duke of Clarence
(Lord High Admiral)
1827 1828
  The Viscount Melville 1828 1830 Tory
  Sir James Graham, Bt 1830 1834 Whig
  The Lord Auckland 1834 1834 Whig
  The Earl de Grey 1834 1835 Conservative
  The Lord Auckland 1835 1835 Whig
  The Earl of Minto 1835 1841 Whig
  The Earl of Haddington 1841 1846 Conservative
  The Earl of Ellenborough 1846 1846 Conservative
  The Earl of Auckland 1846 1849 Whig
  Sir Francis Baring, Bt 1849 1852 Whig
  The Duke of Northumberland 1852 1852 Conservative
  Sir James Graham, Bt 1852 1855 Peelite
  Sir Charles Wood, Bt 1855 1858 Whig
  Sir John Pakington, Bt 1858 1859 Conservative
  The Duke of Somerset 1859 1866 Liberal
  Sir John Pakington, Bt 1866 1867 Conservative
  Hon. Henry Lowry-Corry 1867 1868 Conservative
  Hugh Childers 1868 1871 Liberal
  George Goschen 1871 1874 Liberal
  George Ward Hunt 1874 1877 Conservative
  William Henry Smith Smith 1877 1880 Conservative
  The Earl of Northbrook 1880 1885 Liberal
  Lord George Hamilton 1885 1886 Conservative
  The Marquess of Ripon 1886 1886 Liberal
  Lord George Hamilton 1886 1892 Conservative
  The Earl Spencer 1892 1895 Liberal
  George Goschen 1895 1900 Conservative
  The Earl of Selborne 1900 1905 Liberal Unionist
  The Earl Cawdor 1905 1905 Conservative
  The Lord Tweedmouth 1905 1908 Liberal
  Reginald McKenna 1908 1911 Liberal
  Winston Churchill 1911 1915 Liberal
  Arthur Balfour 1915 1916 Conservative
  Sir Edward Carson 1916 1917 Conservative
  Sir Eric Geddes 1917 1919 Conservative
  Walter Long 1919 1921 Conservative
  The Viscount Lee of Fareham 1921 1922 Conservative
  Leo Amery 1922 1924 Conservative
  The Viscount Chelmsford 1924 1924 Labour
  William Bridgeman
(Viscount Bridgeman from 1929)
1924 1929 Conservative
  A. V. Alexander 1929 1931 Labour
  Sir Austen Chamberlain 1931 1931 Conservative
  Sir Bolton Eyres-Monsell
(Viscount Monsell from 1935)
1931 1936 Conservative
  Sir Samuel Hoare, Bt 1936 1937 Conservative
  Duff Cooper 1937 1938 Conservative
  The Earl Stanhope 1938 1939 Conservative
  Winston Churchill 1939 1940 Conservative
  A. V. Alexander 1940 1945 Labour
  Brendan Bracken 1945 1945 Conservative
  A. V. Alexander 1945 1946 Labour
  The Viscount Hall 1946 1951 Labour
  Lord Pakenham 1951 1951 Labour
  James Thomas
(Viscount Cilcennin from 1955)
1951 1956 Conservative
  The Viscount Hailsham 1956 1957 Conservative
  The Earl of Selkirk 1957 1959 Conservative
  The Lord Carrington 1959 1963 Conservative
  The Earl Jellicoe 1963 1964 Conservative

Boards, departments and offices under the First LordEdit

Fictional First LordsEdit

 
W. H. Smith portrayed in a Punch cartoon from 13 October 1877 when First Lord, saying: "I think I'll now go below." In Pinafore, Sir Joseph Porter similarly sings: "When the breezes blow / I generally go below".

The "Radical" First Lord, and a major character, in Gilbert and Sullivan's comic opera H.M.S. Pinafore (1878), is Sir Joseph Henry Porter, KCB. W. S. Gilbert wrote to Arthur Sullivan he did not intend to portray the real-life then First Lord, the bookseller and newsagent W. H. Smith, a Conservative,[55] although some of the public, including Prime Minister Disraeli (who later referred to Smith as "Pinafore Smith"), identified Porter with him.[56] The counterparts shared a known lack of naval background. It has been suggested the character was drawn on Smith's actual "Radical" predecessor of 1868–71, Hugh Childers.[57]

ReferencesEdit

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  2. ^ Pryde, E. B. (Feb 23, 1996). Handbook of British Chronology. Cambridge University Press. p. 135. ISBN 9780521563505. 
  3. ^ Blake, Nicholas; Lawrence, Richard (2005). The Illustrated Companion to Nelson's Navy. Stackpole Books. p. 8. ISBN 9780811732758. 
  4. ^ Knighton, C. S.; Loades, David; Loades, Professor of History David (Apr 29, 2016). Elizabethan Naval Administration. Routledge. p. 8. ISBN 9781317145035. 
  5. ^ Hamilton, Admiral Sir. Richard. Vesey, G.C.B. (1896). Naval Administration: The Constitution, Character, and Functions of the Board of Admiralty, and of the Civil Departments it Directs. George Bell and Sons, London.   This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  6. ^ Blake, Nicholas; Lawrence, Richard (2005). The Illustrated Companion to Nelson's Navy. Stackpole Books. p. 8. ISBN 9780811732758. 
  7. ^ Hamilton, Admiral Sir. Richard. Vesey, G.C.B. (1896). Naval Administration: The Constitution, Character, and Functions of the Board of Admiralty, and of the Civil Departments it Directs. George Bell and Sons, London.   This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  8. ^ Constable, Archibald (1861). The Edinburgh Review, Or Critical Journal: ... To Be Continued Quarterly. Austrian National Library, 4 Nov 2013. p. 291. 
  9. ^ (eISB), electronic Irish Statute Book. "electronic Irish Statute Book (eISB), Admiralty Act, 1832". irishstatutebook.ie. Government of Ireland, 2017. Retrieved 9 March 2017. 
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AttributionEdit

This article contains some text from: Vesey, Richard Sir, Admiral, (1896), Naval Administration: The Constitution, Character, and Functions of the Board of Admiralty, and of the Civil Departments it Directs, George Bell and Sons, London. Now in the public domain.

SourcesEdit

  • Hamilton, C. I. (2011). The Making of the Modern Admiralty: British Naval Policy-Making, 1805-1927. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521765183.
  • Rodger, N.A.M. The Admiralty (Lavenham, 1979)
  • Sainty, J. C. Admiralty Officials, 1660–1870 (London, 1975)

External linksEdit