Highest-ranking naval officer.
History, UK In the UK Royal Navy and the US Navy, in descending order, the ranks of admiral are: admiral of the fleet (fleet admiral in the USA), admiral, vice admiral, and rear admiral.
Before the word ‘admiral’ came into use in England under Edward I, the chief naval officer was known as ‘Keeper of the Ships’. The first Englishman to bear the title was William de Leyburn, to whom in 1297 Edward granted the title Admirallus Maris Anglise, Admiral of the Sea of England. The first Admiral of England was Edward of York, appointed 1391. The important office of High or Lord Admiral was created by Henry VIII, changed to Lord High Admiral 1627, and continued with breaks till 1828, when its administrative functions were vested in the Board of Admiralty. The duties of High or Lord Admiral, and later of Lord High Admiral, were exercised by an individual until 1628, when for the first time the office was put into commission, all the great officers of state being commissioners.
During the Commonwealth, naval affairs were at first directed by a parliamentary committee, but afterwards Oliver Cromwell himself took control of them. When the monarchy was restored, Charles II appointed his brother James to be Lord High Admiral; he held this office 1660–73, when Charles put it into commission again. On James's accession to the throne 1685, he resumed his former office, but at the revolution of 1688 the office was again put into commission. In this position it remained until 1828, excepting the three years 1707–09 (when first the Earl of Pembroke and then Prince George assumed the title), and the 16 months 1827–28 when the ‘sailor prince’, afterwards William IV, was Lord High Admiral. In 1964, on the absorption of the Admiralty by the Ministry of Defence, the Board of Admiralty as such ceased to exist, and the sovereign, in the person of Queen Elizabeth II, once again assumed the title, but not the functions, of Lord High Admiral.
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