First Lord of the Admiralty of Great Britain

From Naval History Archive
Jump to navigationJump to search
Office of the First Lord of the Admiralty of Great Britain
Seal of HM Government Great Britain
Department of Admiralty
Member ofBoard of Admiralty
NominatorPrime Minister of Great Britain
AppointerMonarch of Great Britain
Subject to formal approval by the King-in-Council
Term lengthNot fixed
Inaugural holderHRH Prince George of Denmark

The First Lord of the Admiralty of Great Britain was the English government's senior adviser on all naval affairs and the minister responsible for the direction and control of the Admiralty and Marine Affairs Office as well as general administration of the Royal Navy, 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 Navy Royal the post holder simultaneously held the title of the President of the Board of Commissioners for Exercising the Office of Lord High Admiral (Board of Admiralty). The office of First Lord of the Admiralty existed from 1628 until it was abolished following the Act of Union in 1707 between Kingdom of England and Kingdom of Scotland creating the Kingdom of Great Britain.


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 Department of Admiralty was established as an official government department in 1690[1] with the First Lord as its head; it replaced the earlier Office of the Admiralty and Marine Affairs.[2] 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.

During the English Civil War (1642-1651) the office was placed in abeyance control of naval affairs passed to a number of parliamentary and council of state committees such as the Parliamentary Admiralty Committee (1645-1648) Council of State Committee on the Admiralty and Navy (1649-1652) Committee on Admiralty Affairs (1652-1653) Admiralty Commission (1653-1660). The office was reestablished following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660.

The First Lord was not always a permanent member of the Board of Admiralty until the Department of Admiralty was established as an official department of state in 1690 with the First Lord as its head; it replaced the earlier Admiralty and Marine Affairs Office.

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 commssioners of the Board of Admiralty the powers formerly held by the Lord High Admiral of England.[3] and at this point the office holder became a permanent Cabinet position.

The Board of Admiralty was dissolved in 1701 and replaced by a Lord High Admirals Council until 1708. In 1709 in the Board of Admiralty was reconstituted following the death of Prince George of Denmark,[1] 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.[3]

From the early 1800s the post was always held by a civilian[4] (previously flag officers of the Royal Navy also held the post).

Office Holders

  1. HRH Prince George of Denmark, (1707-1708)
  2. The Earl of Orford, (1709-1710)
  3. Sir John Leake, (1710-1712)
  4. The Earl of Strafford, (1712-1714)
  5. The Earl of Orford, (1714-1717)
  6. The Earl of Berkeley, (1717-1727)
  7. The Viscount Torrington, (1727-1733)
  8. Sir Charles Wager, (1733-1742)
  9. The Earl of Winchilsea, (1742-1744)
  10. The Duke of Bedford, (1744-1748)
  11. The Earl of Sandwich, (1748-1751)
  12. The Lord Anson, (1751-1756)
  13. The Earl Temple, (1756-1757)
  14. The Earl of Winchilsea, (1757-1757)
  15. The Lord Anson, (1757-1762)
  16. The Earl of Halifax, (1762-1762)
  17. Hon. George Grenville, (1762-1763)
  18. The Earl of Sandwich, (1763-1763)
  19. The Earl of Egmont, (1763-1766)
  20. Sir Charles Saunders, (1766-1766)
  21. Sir Edward Hawke, (1766-1771)
  22. The Earl of Sandwich, (1771-1782)
  23. The Viscount Keppel, (1782-1783)
  24. The Viscount Howe, (1783-1783)
  25. The Viscount Keppel, (1783-1783)
  26. The Viscount Howe, (1783-1788)
  27. The Earl of Chatham, (1788-1794)
  28. The Earl Spencer, (1794-1801)

Boards,Departments and Offices under the First Lord


  1. 1.0 1.1 Blake, Nicholas; Lawrence, Richard (2005). The Illustrated Companion to Nelson's Navy. Stackpole Books. p. 8. ISBN 9780811732758.
  2. Knighton, C. S.; Loades, David; Loades, Professor of History David (29 April 2016). Elizabethan Naval Administration. Routledge. p. 8. ISBN 9781317145035.
  3. 3.0 3.1 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.
  4. Constable, Archibald (1861). The Edinburgh Review, Or Critical Journal: ... To Be Continued Quarterly. Austrian National Library, 4 November 2013. p. 291.