A Brief History of the Royal Navy

The Royal Navy’s official history begins in the 1600s, after the restoration of King Charles 2nd who had inherited 154 ships that had been acquired by King Henry 8th before him. However, for more than a thousand years before this time, there had been various types of naval structures that were dispersed as and when needed. Sophisticated warships were being built as early as the 9th century as the threat of invasion from the Vikings became a serious problem and, although many of the earliest battles were fought on land, by 882 several naval battles had been recorded. After the Norman Conquest, Norman the Conqueror sent, in 1072, a fleet of ships to Scotland but by the early 12th century the fleet had almost disappeared.  When the Norman kings needed ships for cross Channel transportation a fleet was raised in 1155 providing 57 ships. When King John lost Normandy this fleet became a force to prevent invasion. 54 royal galleys were constructed between 1207 and 1211 on King John’s orders.

In the 13th century, an infrastructure began to develop, with naval expenses increased due to the fear of French invasion. However English wealth began to decline in 1370 and eventually the fleet was sold off on King Henry 5th death in 1422. Significant reconstruction of the fleet did not occur until the 1480s when ships began to regularly mount guns. The first reformation of the Royal Navy, which was then known as the Navy Royal, did not occur until the reign of King Henry 7th who funded fighting ships. Henry 8th then ordered major expansion of the fleet.

England and Scotland formed a union in 1707 and the English navy merged with the smaller Scottish navy, becoming the naval force for the Kingdom of Great Britain. However, the two had operated together since 1603. During a century of general, there were major technological developments which led to a race to build bigger and better battleships. This ultimately became a dead end when submarines and aircraft became a priority. After the success of the Second World War the Royal Navy, although still known as one of the world’s most capable fleets, surrendered its leading position to the US Navy. It is still operating a large fleet of modern ships.

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