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Admiral command Flag RN from 1864.png
Command Flag of an Admiral, Royal Navy.
British Royal Navy OF-9-collected.svg
Insignia shoulder board and Sleeve lace for Admiral
CountryUnited Kingdom
Service branchRoyal Navy
NATO rankOF-9
Non-NATO rank9
Next higher rankAdmiral of the Fleet
Next lower rankVice-Admiral
Equivalent ranksGeneral

Admiral (Adm) is a very senior flag rank of the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom, which equates to the NATO rank code OF-9, outranked only by the rank of admiral of the fleet. Royal Navy officers holding the ranks of rear admiral, vice admiral and admiral of the fleet are sometimes considered generically to be admirals. The rank of admiral is currently the highest rank to which a serving officer in the Royal Navy can be promoted, admiral of the fleet being in abeyance except for honorary promotions of retired officers and members of the Royal Family.


King Henry III of England appointed the first known English Admiral Sir Richard de Lucy on 29 August 1224,[1] he also held the title of Keeper of the Sea and Sea Ports. As the English Navy was expanding towards the end of the thirteenth century, new appointments of admirals that were described in royal writs at the time, who were designated specific administrative and geographic responsibilities were created, Sir John de Botetourt was appointed Admiral of the North in 1294 this office lasted until 1412. Also in the same year the king appointed Sir William de Laybourne the dual offices of Admiral of the South, (1294-1412) and Admiral of the West, (1294-1412).[2]

The first commission of appointment granted to an Admiral commanding an English Fleet who was solely a naval officer was in 1303 to Gervase Alard..[3][4] In 1304 the office of Admiral of the Irish Sea was created,[5] by 1356 it was titled Admiral of the Irish Fleet.[6]

From 1344 onward it was then solely used as a rank at sea for a captain in charge of a fleet or fleets.[7] In 1364 the office of Admiral of the North and West was established until 1414.[1] From 1408 onward the regional admirals responsibilities were gradually absorbed into the office of the High Admiral of England (later Lord Admiral of England) leading to a centralizing process that ended in 1414 with establishment of a single commander-in-chief of the Navy Royal and a single Admiralty Office. In 1412 the creation of the Admiral of the Narrow Seas was established briefly until 1413, it was then in abeyance until 1523 when it was revived on a more permanent basis as a Vice-Admiralty until 1688.

In Elizabethan period (1588-1603) the Navy Royal had grown large enough to be organised into coloured squadrons. The squadron's senior Admiral flew a red ensign, the second Vice-Admiral white, and the third Rear-Admiral blue. By 1625 the squadrons became too large for one admiral to control the movements of his squadron efficiently and effectively. This led to three admirals being assigned to each individual squadron: The Admiral of the Fleet commanded the Red Squadron and the English Fleet, the Admiral of the White the forward squadron and the Admiral of the Blue the rear squadron, each squadron had a corresponding Vice-Admiral as his second, and a Rear-Admiral as his third in command.[8] There was no rank of Admiral of the Red until it was created in 1805 since this would be deemed as being in overall command of the whole fleet.[9]

Between 1649 and 1665 during the early days of the English Republic following the English Civil War this rank was replaced by a Commonwealth Navy rank called General at Sea. In 1864 the system of coloured squadrons was abolished along with the nine promotional ranks. Thus leaving only three flag officer ranks Admiral, Vice-Admiral and Rear-Admiral.


  1. 1.0 1.1 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. 270.
  2. Pryde, E. B.; Greenway, D. E.; Porter, S.; Roy, I. (1996). Handbook of British Chronology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 134. ISBN 9780521563505.
  3. Pryde. Greenway. Porter. Roy. p.134.
  4. "History of Naval Ranks and Rates". National Museum of the Royal New Zealand Navy. 10 November 2015. Retrieved 13 February 2019.
  5. Rodger, N.A.M. (1997). "Appendix V Admirals and Officials". The safeguard of the sea : a naval history of Britain. Vol 1., 660-1649. London, England: Penguin. pp. 504–509. ISBN 9780140297249.
  6. Nicolas, Sir Nicholas Harris (1847). A History of the Royal Navy: 1327-1422. London: R. Bentley. pp. 524–534.
  7. "History of Naval Ranks and Rates". National Museum of the Royal New Zealand Navy. 10 November 2015. Retrieved 13 February 2019.
  8. "Information sheet no 055: Squadron Colours" (PDF). The National Museum Royal Navy. 2014. Retrieved 13 February 2019.
  9. "Information sheet no 055: Squadron Colours" (PDF). The National Museum Royal Navy. 2014. Retrieved 13 February 2019.