From WikiPOBia

Jump to: navigation, search

The Admiralty, or more fully the Board of Admiralty, was the supreme governing body of the Royal Navy, and had been so since the reign of Charles II. Based in a handsome eighteenth-century building in Whitehall, London, it consisted of a First Lord (who was sometimes a naval man but more often a politician), about six other Lords, a First Secretary who signed commissions and was the designated recipient of the reports known as Admiralty letters, and a Second Secretary who was responsible for much of the day-to-day running of the office, together with a moderate clerical staff. The Lords were officially known as 'The Commissioners for Executing the Office of Lord High Admiral'.

First Lords during the canonic period included Lord St Vincent (1801-1804), both Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville, the father and Robert Dundas, 2nd Viscount Melville, the older brother of Jack Aubrey's friend Heneage Dundas[1]) (1804-5) and Lord Barham (1805-6). (The stupid and irresponsible anonymous First Lord of HMS Surprise occupies the chronological place of Lord Barham but is not to be identified with him, since Barham had been a capable sea-officer and was noted for his sound grasp of administration.) The First Secretaries during this time were Sir Evan Nepean (1795-1804), William Marsden FRS (1804-1809) and John Wilson Croker (1809-1830). The Second Secretaries were Benjamin Tucker (to 1804) and then John Barrow (1804-1845, with a short interval in 1806; O'Brian unhistorically dismisses him to a sick-bed in order to give a free field to his imagined deputy, Andrew Wray.)

The Admiralty appointed officers and issued their commissions, determined the disposition of fleets and individual ships, supervised the preparation and issuing of charts and orders, and received reports from officers and agents throughout the maritime world. The actual design, finance, building and maintenance of ships was delegated to the Navy Board. From 1796 onward, a telegraph installation on the roof of the Whitehall building was the centre of a communications system which could receive simple messages from the principal dockyards in a matter of minutes.


  1. O'Brian, Patrick. The Reverse of the Medal. (c)1986 by William Collins Sons & Co., Ltd. First published as a Norton Paperback 1992: p. 157
Personal tools