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Summary Article: Royal Navy from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

The navy of Britain. Alfred the Great established a navy in the 9th century, and by the 13th century there was already an official styled ‘keeper of the king's ships’. This office grew to become the Navy Board 1546, the body responsible for administering the fleet of Henry VIII, some 80 ships, with the Great Harry as his flagship. The Navy Board administered the navy until 1832, when the Board of Admiralty was instituted. The government head of the Admiralty was the First Lord of the Admiralty, while the senior serving officer in command of the navy was the First Sea Lord (now known as the First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff). The Admiralty was abolished in 1964 and replaced by the naval department of the Ministry of Defence.

It was only in the reign of Elizabeth I 1558–1603 that the navy grew from Henry's private fleet to become a national defensive force. It gained the title Royal Navy in the reign of Charles II 1660–85. During the 18th century the Royal Navy successfully vied for maritime supremacy with the French navy, leading Britain to victory in four separate wars between 1688 and 1763. It played a key role in Britain's stand against Napoleon and was never again challenged by the French after Trafalgar 1805. Meanwhile the navy had been the means by which the British Empire extended round the world from the 17th century.

The Royal Navy was the world's most powerful navy until well into the 20th century. However, changing strategic priorities after World War II, and later budgetary restraints, had resulted in a slimming down of the surface fleet by the early 21st century. Despite this smaller presence, the service has remained a potent force, and is responsible for the submarine deployment of the national strategic nuclear deterrent.

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Royal Navy

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