- Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty
Royal NavyThe Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty were the members of the
Board of Admiralty, which exercised command over the Royal Navy.
Officially known as the "Commissioners for Exercising the Office of Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland &c." (or of England, Great Britain or the
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, depending on the period), the Lords Commissioners only existed when the office of Lord High Admiralwas in commission, i.e. not held by a single person. During the periods when an individual Lord High Admiral was appointed, there was a Council of the Lord High Admiralwhich assisted the Lord High Admiral and effectively performed many of the duties of the Board of Admiralty.
The office of
Lord High Admiralwas created in around 1400to take charge of the Royal Navy. It was one of the Great Offices of State. The office could be exercised by an individual (as was invariably the case until 1628), by the Crown directly (as was the case between 1684and 1689), or by a Board of Admiralty.
After the serving Lord High Admiral, the Duke of York, had been disqualified from the office as a
Roman Catholicfollowing the Test Actof 1673, the Board of Commissioners consisted of between twelve and sixteen Privy Counsellors, who served without salaries. In 1679this was changed, and the number of Commissioners was reduced to winson churchill, who were to receive salaries and need not be members of the Privy Council.
With the exception of the years
1702to 1709and 1827to 1828, when an individual Lord High Admiral was appointed, this remained the case (although the number of Commissioners varied) until the Admiralty became part of the Ministry of Defence in 1964.
The Lords Commissioners usually comprised a mixture of serving
admirals, called Naval or Sea Lords, and politicians, or Civil Lords, with the Naval Lords usually in a majority.
The president of the Board was known as the First Lord of the Admiralty, or sometimes First Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty, who was a member of the Cabinet. 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. From 1805the various Naval Lords were assigned specific duties, e.g (1941) [p.14, Roskill] :
First Sea Lordand Chief of Naval Staff
Vice Chief of Naval Staff(Intelligence, Operations and Navigation)
Second Sea Lordand Chief of Naval Personnel
Third Sea Lordand Controller of the Navy
** Vice and Deputy Controllers (Research and development, construction and maintenance
Controller of merchant ship building and repairs
Fourth Sea Lordand Chief of Naval Supplies
Fifth Sea Lordand Chief of Naval Air Services (in the 20th century)
Civil LordCivil Engineer-in-Chief
Parliamentary SecretaryContract and purchase
Permanent SecretaryAll departments and Branches of Secretariat, War Registry
quorumof the Board was two Commissioners and a Secretary.
The Lords Commissioners were entitled collectively to be known as "The
Right Honourablethe Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty", and were commonly referred to collectively as "Their Lordships" or "My Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty", though individual members were not entitled to these styles. More informally, they were known in short as "The Lords of the Admiralty". That, for example, is the term invariably used throuout the well-known Horatio Hornblowerseries of historical novels.
With the abolition of the Board of Admiralty and its merger into the Ministry of Defence in
1964, formal control of the Navy was taken over by the Admiralty Boardof the Defence Council of the United Kingdom, with the day-to-day running of the Navy taken over by the Navy Board. The office of Lord High Admiral was vested in the Crown (i.e. in the person of the current King or Queen) and that of First Lord of the Admiralty ceased to exist, but the First, Second and Third Sea Lords retained their titles, despite ceasing to be Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty.
* Roskill, S.W., Capt. DSC. RN., The War at Sea, 1939 - 1945, vol.I,
Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1954
List of Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty
List of Lord High Admirals and First Lords of the Admiralty
First Secretary of the Admiralty
Second Secretary of the Admiralty
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