First Lord of the Admiralty of the United Kingdom

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Office of the First Lord of the Admiralty of the United Kingdom
Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and HM Government.png
Seal of HM Government United Kingdom
Department of Admiralty
Member ofBoard of Admiralty
NominatorPrime Minister of the United Kingdom
AppointerPrime Minister of the United Kingdom
Subject to formal approval by the Queen-in-Council
Term lengthNot fixed
Inaugural holderJohn Jervis, 1st Earl of St Vincent

The First Lord of the Admiralty of the United Kingdom was the British government's senior adviser on all naval affairs and the minister responsible for the direction and control of the Department of Admiralty 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 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 (Board of Admiralty). The office existed from 1801 to 1964.


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

Following the Acts of Union 1800 the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland were unified into a single state the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. In 1922 southern part of Ireland became an independent state (now called the Republic of Ireland), which led to the creation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. In 1964 this office was formally abolished when the three service ministries (Admiralty, Air Ministry and War Office) were unified into the Ministry of Defence. The Admiralty then became known as the Navy Department and this office holder became a junior minister under a new title Minister of Defence for the Royal Navy

Office Holders

  1. John Jervis, 1st Earl of St Vincent 1801–1804
  2. Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville 1804–1805
  3. Charles Middleton, 1st Baron Barham 1805–1806
  4. Charles Grey, Viscount Howick 1806
  5. Thomas Grenville 1806–1807
  6. Henry Phipps, 3rd Baron Mulgrave 1807–1810
  7. Charles Philip Yorke 1810–1812
  8. Robert Dundas, 2nd Viscount Melville 1812–1827
  9. HRH The Duke of Clarence (Lord High Admiral) 1827–1828
  10. Robert Dundas, 2nd Viscount Melville 1828–1830
  11. Sir James Robert George Graham, 2nd Baronet 1830–1834
  12. George Eden, 2nd Baron Auckland 1834
  13. Thomas Robinson, 2nd Earl de Grey 1834–1835
  14. George Eden, 2nd Baron Auckland 1835
  15. Gilbert Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound, 2nd Earl of Minto 1835–1841
  16. Thomas Hamilton, 9th Earl of Haddington 1841–1846
  17. Edward Law, 1st Earl of Ellenborough 1846
  18. George Eden, 1st Earl of Auckland 1846–1849
  19. Sir Francis Thornhill Baring 1849–1852
  20. Algernon Percy, 4th Duke of Northumberland 1852
  21. Sir James Robert George Graham, 2nd Baronet 1852–1855
  22. Sir Charles Wood 1855–1858
  23. Sir John Pakington 1858–1859
  24. Edward Adolphus Seymour, 12th Duke of Somerset 1859–1866
  25. Sir John Pakington 1866–1867
  26. Henry Thomas Lowry Corry 1867–1868
  27. Hugh Childers 1868–1871
  28. George Joachim Goschen 1871–1874
  29. George Ward Hunt 1874–1877
  30. William Henry Smith 1877–1880
  31. Thomas George Baring, 1st Earl of Northbrook 1880–1885
  32. Lord George Hamilton 1885–1886
  33. George Robinson, 1st Marquess of Ripon 1886
  34. Lord George Hamilton 1886–1892
  35. John Poyntz Spencer, 5th Earl Spencer 1892–1895
  36. George Joachim Goschen 1895–1900
  37. William Waldegrave Palmer, 2nd Earl of Selborne 1900–1905
  38. Frederick Archibald Vaughan Campbell, 3rd Earl Cawdor 1905
  39. Edward Marjoribanks, 2nd Baron Tweedmouth 1905–1908
  40. Reginald McKenna 1908–1911
  41. Winston Churchill 1911–1915
  42. Arthur Balfour 1915–1916
  43. Sir Edward Carson 1916–1917
  44. Sir Eric Geddes 1917–1919
  45. Walter Hume Long 1919–1921
  46. Arthur Hamilton Lee, 1st Baron Lee of Fareham 1921–1922
  47. Leo Amery 1922–1924
  48. Frederic John Napier Thesiger, 1st Viscount Chelmsford 1924
  49. William Clive Bridgeman 1924–1929
  50. A. V. Alexander 1929–1931
  51. Sir Austen Chamberlain 1931
  52. Sir Bolton Eyres-Monsell (Viscount Monsell from 1935) 1931–1936
  53. Sir Samuel Hoare 1936–1937
  54. Alfred Duff Cooper 1937–1938
  55. James Stanhope, 7th Earl Stanhope 1938–1939
  56. Winston Churchill 1939–1940
  57. A. V. Alexander 1940–1945
  58. Brendan Bracken 1945
  59. A. V. Alexander 1945–1946
  60. George Henry Hall 1946–1951
  61. Francis Aungier Pakenham, 1st Baron Pakenham 1951
  62. James Thomas, 1st Viscount Cilcennin (1955) 1951–1956
  63. Quintin McGarel Hogg, 2nd Viscount Hailsham 1956–1957
  64. George Douglas-Hamilton, 10th Earl of Selkirk 1957–1959
  65. Peter Carington, 6th Baron Carrington, 1959–1963
  66. George Jellicoe, 2nd Earl Jellicoe 1963–1964

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.