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The First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff (1SL/CNS) is the professional head of the United Kingdom's
Royal Navy The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare Naval warfare is combat Combat ( French for ''fight'') is a purposeful violent conflict meant to physically harm or kill the opposition. Combat may be armed (using weapon A ...
and Naval Service. Admiral
Ben Key Vice Admiral Vice admiral is a senior naval flag officer rank, equivalent to lieutenant general and air marshal. A vice admiral is typically senior to a rear admiral and junior to an admiral. In many navies,Vice admiral is a three-star rank in ...

Ben Key
was appointed First Sea Lord in November 2021. Originally titled the "Senior Naval Lord to the Board of Admiralty" when the post was created in 1689, the office was re-styled "First Naval Lord" in 1771. The concept of a professional "First Naval Lord" was introduced in 1805, and the title of the office was changed to "First Sea Lord" on the appointment of Sir John Fisher in 1904. Since 1923, the First Sea Lord has been a member of the
Chiefs of Staff Committee The Chiefs of Staff Committee (CSC) is composed of the most senior military A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare War is an intense armed c ...
; he now sits on the Defence Council and the
Admiralty Board Admiralty usually refers to: *Admiralty (United Kingdom), military department in command of the Royal Navy from 1707 to 1964 *The rank of admiral *Admiralty law Admiralty can also refer to: Buildings *Admiralty, Trafalgar Square, a pub in Lond ...
.MoD Website: people – First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff
accessed 23 July 2013


History

Lords Admiral were appointed from the 15th century; they were later styled ''Lords High Admiral'' until the 18th century, and
Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty The Board of Admiralty was established in 1628 when Charles I put the office of Lord High Admiral into commission. As that position was not always occupied, the purpose was to enable management of the day-to-day operational requirements of the R ...
from the 17th century, as the governors of the English and later British
Royal Navy The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare Naval warfare is combat Combat ( French for ''fight'') is a purposeful violent conflict meant to physically harm or kill the opposition. Combat may be armed (using weapon A ...
. From 1683 to 1684, there were seven paid Commissioners, and one unpaid supernumerary Commissioner. The number varied between five and seven Commissioners through the 18th century. The standing of all the Commissioners was in theory the same, although the First Commissioner or First Lord exercised an ascendancy over his colleagues from an early date. The generally recognized office of Senior Naval Lord to the
Board of Admiralty The Board of Admiralty was established in 1628 when Charles I Charles is a masculine given name predominantly found in English language, English and French language, French speaking countries. It is from the French form ''Charles'' of th ...
was established on 8 March 1689, with the first incumbent being ; he was also
First Lord of the Admiralty The First Lord of the Admiralty, or formally the Office of the First Lord of the Admiralty, was the political head of the English and later British Royal Navy The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare Naval warfare is ...
. On 20 January 1690 Admiral Herbert was succeeded by Admiral Sir John Chicheley under First Lord of Admiralty Thomas Herbert, Earl of Pembroke. On 22 May 1702 the Board of Admiralty ceased control of Naval Affairs and was replaced by the Lord Admiral's Council. The previous office of Senior Naval Lord was replaced by a Senior Member to the Lords Admiral Council; he was usually a serving naval officer of Admiral rank and was the ''Chief Naval Adviser'' to the Lord Admiral. This lasted until 8 November 1709, when the Board of Admiralty resumed control of Naval Affairs and the post of Senior Naval Lord was resumed. On 2 February 1771 the office of Senior Naval Lord was renamed to First Naval Lord. The first post holder was Vice-Admiral Augustus Hervey; he first served under First Lord of the Admiralty
John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, PC, FRS FRS may also refer to: Government and politics * Facility Registry System, a centrally managed Environmental Protection Agency database that identifies places of environmental interest in the Uni ...

John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich
. In 1805, for the first time, specific functions were assigned to each of the 'Naval' Lords, who were described as 'Professional' Lords, leaving to the 'Civil' Lords the routine business of signing documents. On 2 May 1827 the Board of Admiralty once again ceased control of Naval Affairs and was replaced, until 1828, by a
Lord High Admirals Council The Lord High Admirals Council was a series of councils appointed to advise and assist the Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom, Lord High Admiral of England and then later of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in the direction of ...
. The title of the First Naval Lord was changed to First Sea Lord on the appointment of Sir Jackie Fisher in 1904. In 1917 the First Sea Lord was re-styled First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff. From 1923 onward, the First Sea Lord was a member of the
Chiefs of Staff Committee The Chiefs of Staff Committee (CSC) is composed of the most senior military A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare War is an intense armed c ...
, and from 1923 to 1959, in rotation with the representatives of the other services (the
Chief of the Imperial General Staff Chief of the General Staff (CGS) has been the title of the professional head of the British Army The British Army is the principal land warfare force of the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Irelan ...
and
Chief of the Air StaffChief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Force Chief of Staff or Chief of Air Force, is the appointment held by the most senior officer in several nations' air forces. This appointment may refer to: * Chief of Air Force (Australia) * Chief of Air Staff (Ba ...
), he served as the chairman of that committee and head of all British armed forces. The title was retained when the
Board of Admiralty The Board of Admiralty was established in 1628 when Charles I Charles is a masculine given name predominantly found in English language, English and French language, French speaking countries. It is from the French form ''Charles'' of th ...
was abolished in 1964 and the Board's functions were integrated into the Ministry of Defence. Under the current organisation, the First Sea Lord sits on the Defence Council,''The Navy List, 1992'', corrected to 31 March 1992, pub HMSO, pages 4–5.
''The Navy List, 2008'', compiled 3 September 2008, pub TSO, pages 4–5.
the
Admiralty Board Admiralty usually refers to: *Admiralty (United Kingdom), military department in command of the Royal Navy from 1707 to 1964 *The rank of admiral *Admiralty law Admiralty can also refer to: Buildings *Admiralty, Trafalgar Square, a pub in Lond ...
and the
Navy Board The Navy Board (formerly known as the Council of the Marine or Council of the Marine Causes) was the commission Commission or commissioning may refer to: Business and contracting * Commission (remuneration), a form of payment to an agent for ser ...
. Since 2012, the flagship of the First Sea Lord has nominally been the
ship of the line A ship of the line was a type of naval warship A warship or combatant ship is a naval ship that is built and primarily intended for naval warfare. Usually they belong to the armed forces of a state. As well as being armed, warships are des ...
, which used to be flagship.HMS Victory handed to First Sea Lord in Portsmouth
BBC News, 10 October 2012, accessed 8 October 2016


Appointees

The following table lists all those who have held the post of First Sea Lord or its preceding positions. Ranks and honours are as at the completion of their tenure: , -style="text-align:center;" !colspan=7, Senior Naval Lords , -style="text-align:center;" !colspan=7, First Naval Lords , -style="text-align:center;" !colspan=7, First Sea Lords


Living former First Sea Lords


In fiction

In John Buchan's novel, ''
The Thirty-Nine Steps ''The Thirty-Nine Steps'' is an adventure novel by the Scottish author John Buchan John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir (; 26 August 1875 – 11 February 1940) was a Scottish novelist, historian, and Unionist politician who served as Govern ...
'' (1915), the First Sea Lord is named as Lord Alloa, an impostor whom
Richard Hannay Major-General Sir Richard Hannay, Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath, KCB, OBE, Distinguished Service Order, DSO, is a fictional character created by List of Scottish novelists, Scottish novelist John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir, John Buc ...
recognizes at a meeting as a spy and recent pursuer of his. Hannay describes Lord Alloa as recognizable from news pictures for his "beard cut like a spade, the firm fighting mouth, the blunt square nose, and the keen blue eyes...the man, they say, that made the New British Navy". The real First Sea Lord at the time the story is set (early summer 1914) was
Prince Louis of Battenberg Admiral of the Fleet An admiral of the fleet or fleet admiral (equivalent rank to admiral of the navy Admiral of the Navy was the highest possible rank in the United States Navy ), (unofficial)."''Non sibi sed patriae''" ( en, "Not ...
, coincidentally also bearded.


See also

*
Chief of the Defence Staff (United Kingdom) The Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) is the professional head of the British Armed Forces The British Armed Forces, also known as Her Majesty's Armed Forces, are the military, military services responsible for the defence of the United King ...
*
Second Sea Lord The Second Sea Lord and Deputy Chief of Naval Staff (formerly Second Sea Lord) is deputy to the First Sea Lord and the second highest-ranking officer to currently serve in the Royal Navy and is responsible for personnel and naval shore establish ...
*
Third Sea Lord The post of Controller of the Navy (abbreviated as CofN) was originally created in 1859 when the Surveyor of the Navy The Surveyor of the Navy also known as Department of the Surveyor of the Navy and originally known as Surveyor and Rigger ...
*
Fourth Sea Lord The Fourth Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Supplies originally known as the Fourth Naval Lord was formerly one of the Naval Lord The Board of Admiralty was established in 1628 when Charles I of England, Charles I put the office of Lord High Admiral ...
*
Fifth Sea Lord The Fifth Sea Lord was formerly one of the Naval Lord The Board of Admiralty was established in 1628 when Charles I of England, Charles I put the office of Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom, Lord High Admiral into Commissioner, commission ...
*
Chief of the Air StaffChief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Force Chief of Staff or Chief of Air Force, is the appointment held by the most senior officer in several nations' air forces. This appointment may refer to: * Chief of Air Force (Australia) * Chief of Air Staff (Ba ...
- the
Royal Air Force The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for th ...
equivalent *
Chief of the General Staff The Chief of the General Staff (CGS) is a post in many armed forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare War is an intense armed conflict be ...
- the
British Army The British Army is the principal land warfare force of the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' us ...
equivalent


Notes

a. In 1955, it was decided to create a new post, Chief of the Defence Staff, who would be chairman of the
Chiefs of Staff Committee The Chiefs of Staff Committee (CSC) is composed of the most senior military A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare War is an intense armed c ...
.Defence Administrative Responsibilities
Hansard, 25 October 1955


Citations


Sources

* * * * * * * * {{Chief of the navy by country * * Ceremonial officers in the United Kingdom * Royal Navy appointments
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...