Naval History during the 16th Century

1) Historical overview

The English experiment of different types of government began to develop during this period. The monarch's leading advisers became the Privy Council of England, the central body of the government of the House of Tudor and the House of Stuart. Originally, this was a select group of the full royal council, but in time, the full council became too large for effective government. The monarch's principal private secretary (would be later known as the Secretary of State (1258–1660) during the 16th Century) he was responsible for all administrative functions of the crown and was in effect its Chief Executive Officer whilst the Lord High Treasurer was in effect its Chief Financial Officer and responsible for all functions of finance relating to accounting and auditing.

The Admiralty Office later renamed the Admiralty and Marine Affairs Office oversaw the creation of standing Navy Royal during the 16th century with its own secretariat, dockyards and a permanent core of purpose-built warships, originated in the early 16th century during the reign of Henry VIII. Under Elizabeth I of England it became involved in a war with Spain, which saw privately owned ships combining with the Navy Royal in highly profitable raids against Spanish commerce and colonies.

The origins of the Navy Office administered by the Navy Board dates in the first quarter of the 16th century when the clerk-of-the-ships the predecessor then later subordinate office of the Lord Admiral of England was joined by a Clerk Comptroller as the size of the navy began to expand he was joined by a third officer the Treasurer of Marine Causes. In 1545 a fourth officer was created Surveyor and Rigger of the Navy the work load was distributed between these Offices of the Clerks of the Kings Marine who did not initially work collectively together, towards the end of 1545 the clerks of the king's marine began to work collectively as a body called the Council of the Marine. The Council of the Marine was appointed by letters patent by Henry VIII on the 24 April 1546; it was initially presided over by the Lieutenant of the Admiralty it also included two new members of the council. The council was charged with overseeing the administrative affairs of the navy (while directive, executive and operational duties of the Lord Admiral remained with the Admiralty Office. The same year saw the creation of fifth In 1550 there was a creation of an eighth officer the General-Surveyor of Victuals who was responsible for supplying the fleet with food and drink supplies.

Also during this period an Office of Ordnance though essentially independent supplied the navy with weapons, it was directed by a Master of the Ordnance later known as the Master-General of the Ordnance, this board was responsible for the storing and issuing of weapons, maintaining gunpowder stores and running the ordinance wharf's at the main various Naval Bases. This board however was autonomous of both the Admiralty and Navy Offices. It was also supported by an Armoury Office. From the 1550's onward for the next six decades, this system of Naval administration did not change.

In 1557 the Lieutenant of the Admiralty ceased to direct the council of the marine that role was now given to the Treasurer of Marine Causes . In 1576 the council of the marine was renamed the navy board. In the earlier part of its history, it remained wholly independent until 1628 when it became a subsidiary semi-autonomous body of the Board of Admiralty. The navy board’s formation would influence the modernization of the Lord Admiral's office itself the Treasurer an original member of the board, however, developed independently of board (reporting to the , together they provided the money for the navy royal, however financial spending and financial administration would remain the responsibility of the Navy Office.

In 1588, Philip II of Spain sent the Spanish Armada against England to end English support for Dutch rebels, to stop English corsair activity and to depose the Protestant Elizabeth I and restore Catholicism to England. The Spaniards sailed from Lisbon, planning to escort an invasion force from the Spanish Netherlands but the scheme failed due to poor planning, English harrying, blocking action by the Dutch, and severe storms. A Counter Armada, known as the English Armada, was dispatched to the Iberian coast in 1589, but failed to drive home the advantage England had won upon the dispersal of the Spanish Armada in the previous year.

Until the time of Henry VII, the Monarchs of England commandeered and armed merchant ships when there was a need for a navy. Henry started building naval dockyard's first Portsmouth Dockyard in (1495) and completed it by (1496), He also started a programme of building specialised warships. By the end of his reign there were five royal ships, two being four-masted carracks that were much larger than the usual English merchant ship. Henry VII died in 1509 succeeded by son Henry VIII . The King ordered a further three yards were built those at Woolwich Dockyard in (1512), Deptford Dockyard in (1513) and Erith Dockyard in (1514). By the time that Henry VIII died in 1547 the navy had been built up to about 40 ships. The invention of gunport meant that guns could be carried much lower in a ship and so more and heavier ones could be carried. In addition a warship carried archers who tried to kill the enemy crew. However the king still needed to borrow some ships to fight sea battles. Henry VIII started new shipbuilding yards at Deptford and Woolwich Dockyard. He had two major ships: the Henri Grâce à Dieu and the Mary Rose, which later sank. When Elizabeth I came to the throne she ordered the construction of one more yard the last one this century at Chatham Dockyard in (1567).

2) Organization Sixteenth Century


King Henry VIII built the first naval dock in Britain at Portsmouth, in 1546 he established the Navy Office, which remained almost unchanged for 300 years until 1832, created the Admiralty and Marine Affairs Office, and set up the administrative machinery for the control of the fleet. For his achievements Henry VIII was known as the father of the English navy.

2.1) High Command of the Armed Forces of England


Flag of the Royal Standard of England (1406-1603)

2.2) Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of England

During the 16th century English monarch is the "Head of all the Armed Forces of England" and has also been described as "Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Crown".

  1. Henry VII of England
  2. Henry VIII of England
  3. Edward VI of England
  4. Lady Jane Grey
  5. Mary I of England
  6. Elizabeth I of England

2.3) Senior Civil and Military advisers to the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of England

The Privy Council was chief advisory body to the Monarch during the 16th century consisting of both civil, military and religious advisers.

2.4) The Privy Council of England

The earliest records of the Privy Council of England date back to the court of the Norman Kings who ruled over England from 1066 to 1154. Although it was originally named the King’s Council, the body developed the description ‘privy’, with reference to the words archaic meaning of ‘hidden’ to highlight its frequent private meetings. The Privy Council of England , also known as '''His''' (or '''Her''') '''Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council''', was a body of advisers to the Sovereign of the Kingdom of England. Its members were often senior members of the House of Lords and the House of Commons of England|House of Commons, together with leading churchmen, judges, diplomats and military leaders.

The Privy Council of England was a powerful institution, advising the Sovereign on the exercise of the Royal Prerogative and on the granting of Royal Charters. It issued executive orders known as Orders in Council and also had judicial functions. In terms of political influence, the Council was perhaps at its most influential during the Tudor period, which lasted from 1485 to 1603. During this time, the Council had approximately 40 members and was used by the monarch for a variety of different purposes, ranging from advising on matters of war and peace, and on occasions to circumvent Parliament and the courts.

The Privy Council was considered the hub of the Tudor political system, and according to historian Sir Geoffrey Elton, ‘the centre of administration, the instrument of policy making, the arena of political conflict, and the ultimate means dispensing the King’s justice’. The Council developed even more significantly during the reign of Elizabeth I, which lasted from 1558 to 1603. As members of the Privy Council at this time were exclusively men and the social assumption was that the business of government was properly conducted only by men, the importance of the Council rose dramatically under the unmarried female ruler.

During Elizabeth I’s reign, the Privy Council was involved in an array of governmental areas, including religion, military matters, the Queen’s security, the economy, and the welfare of the people. It could be called on to deal with matters of national interest and also mundane issues that affected individuals rather than the country. In the early years of Elizabeth’s reign, the Council met only three times a week, but towards the end of her reign, they met almost everyday.

3) The Admiralty of England


Flag of the Lord Admiral in the 16th century

The Admiralty of England during the 16th century consisted of initially the Office of the High Admiral England, Ireland and Aquitaine (1385-1513) later renamed as the Office of the Lord Admiral of England]]] (1513-1610) he was the Commander-in-Chief of the English Navy he also held the title of office-of-the-admiral-of-the-fleet when operationally in command of a fleet. among his other duties he was responsibility for directing the Admiralty Office the later called Admiralty and Marine Affairs Office he was supported by an operational deputy commander-in-chief the Vice-Admiral of England also styled as Vice-Admiral of the Fleet (1410-1707). In 1545 a second deputy was established responsible civil administration of the navy he was called the Lieutenant of the Admiralty they were responsible for the control direction of the navy in matters of naval operations, civil administration , administering logistical support and judicial administration of the navy in relation to admiralty law and the admiralty courts. In order to achieve this they were supported by the following offices and organizations.

  1. Admiralty Office (1500-1546)
  2. Admiralty And Marine Affairs Office (1546-1599)

3.1) The Tudor/English Navy


Naval Ensign of the English Navy 1486 to 1603

The navy during this period only also known as the Navy Royal is the military branch of a Kingdom of England's armed forces principally designated for naval and amphibious warfare; namely, lake-borne, riverine, littoral, or sea and ocean-borne combat operations and related functions. that was administered by the Admiralty of England. Modern historians often refer to it as the Tudor Navy during this period.

4) Conflicts during the 16th century

The Kingdom of England and hence Navy Royal was involved in a number of armed conflicts either directly or part of joint opposing forces during the 16th century that continued into the 17th century, below is some of the most important ones individual battles and other naval engagements can be found in those articles.

4.1) Italian War of (1521–1526)

The Italian War of (1521–1526), sometimes known as the Four Years' War, was a part of the Italian Wars. The war pitted Francis I of France and the Republic of Venice against the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, Henry VIII of England, and the Papal States.

4.2) Italian War of (1542–1546)

The Italian War of (1542–1546) was a conflict late in the Italian Wars, pitting Francis I of France and Suleiman I of the Ottoman Empire against the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and Henry VIII of England.

4.3 Italian War of (1551–1559)

The Italian War of (1551–59), sometimes known as the Habsburg–Valois War and the Last Italian War, began when Henry II of France, who had succeeded Francis I to the throne, declared war against Holy Roman Emperor Charles V with the intent of recapturing Italy and ensuring French, rather than Habsburg, domination of European affairs.

4.4) War of the Portuguese Succession (1580-1583)

The War of the Portuguese Succession, a result of the extinction of the Portuguese royal line after the Battle of Alcácer Quibir and the ensuing Portuguese succession crisis of 1580, was fought from 1580 to 1583 between the two main claimants to the Portuguese throne.

4.5) Anglo-Spanish War (1585–1604)

The Anglo-Spanish War was an intermittent conflict between the kingdoms of Spain and England that was never formally declared.[2] The war was punctuated by widely separated battles, and began with England's military expedition in 1585 to the Netherlands under the command of the Earl of Leicester in support of the resistance of the States General to Spanish Habsburg rule.

4.6) Dutch Revolt (1568–1648)

The Dutch Revolt was the revolt of the northern, largely Protestant Seven Provinces of the Low Countries against the rule of the Roman Catholic Habsburg King Philip II of Spain, hereditary ruler of the provinces. The northern provinces (Netherlands) eventually separated from the southern provinces (present-day Belgium and Luxembourg), which continued under Habsburg Spain until 1714.

4.7) Eighty Years' War (1568–1648)

The Eighty Years' War also known as the Dutch War of Independence (1568–1648)[2] was a revolt of the Seventeen Provinces of what are today the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg against Philip II of Spain, the sovereign of the Habsburg Netherlands.

6) Sources


7) Attribution

  1. A brief history of the Royal Navy: Information sheet no 060: The National Museum of the Royal Navy
  2. for use of the Royal Standard of England.
  3. Operational commands Tudor navy 16th century
  4. the authors kindly acknowledge the Wikipedia article Admiralty in 16th century
  5. Flag of the 1st Admiralty of England image by image by Martin Grieve, 23 August 2006, article by Rob Raeside 11 November 2013.
  6. Royal Standard of England (1406-1603)
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