We would like to place Cookies on your computer to give you the best possible experience when you visit our website. If you are happy with the current Cookie settings and want to continue to use this website as normal, click 'OK'. You also have the option to change these settings, plus learn more about Cookies and how we use them. More information on Cookies.

Change settings

Sign into my account

Forgot your username Forgot your password

Protecting our Nation's Interests

Skip to main content


The history of the United Kingdom is the history of the Royal Navy. We are an island nation and sea has always been a vital factor. It is the means of people arriving from overseas, a barrier to invaders, a highway for trade and the basis for a once-global empire.

RN Historic Branch imagery
RN Historic Branch imagery
RN Historic Branch imagery
RN Historic Branch imagery

Events Calendar

Find out more

The history of the United Kingdom is the history of the Royal Navy. As long as there has been a nation there has been a navy, encouraging growth and trade, and defending the people.

Henry VIII created the first permanent administration for the Navy via Letters Patent in 1546. With growing skill and assurance, the ships of the Royal Navy defended their nation well throughout the wars of the 17th and 18th centuries.

The Royal Navy contributed to the growth of the British Empire during this period, advancing voyages of exploration and defending recent strategic gains. The Royal Navy began to show a superiority to the navies of her enemies, winning, amongst many victories, the great battle of Trafalgar.

Imperial assets continued to be defended throughout the 19th century, with the Royal Navy also undertaking the lengthy campaign against the slave trade. In an era of technological revolution, moving from sail to steam, and from wood to steel, the Royal Navy kept pace with her rivals to ensure command of the seas and national security.

As the world plunged into the chaos of two global conflicts in the early 20th century, the Royal Navy fought to maintain this command. Convoyed merchant shipping ensured that the country had the food and armaments to survive and turn the conflict against the enemy. Innovative advances in technology created a renewed assurance and confidence in naval power. Naval forces prevailed, whether in the Grand Fleet action of the Battle of Jutland, the slow attrition of the Battle of the Atlantic, or the amphibious triumph of the D-Day Landings.

Post-War, throughout the Cold War, and still today, the Royal Navy maintains the means to react rapidly to developing crises around the globe, whether it is deployed to counter conflict, respond to humanitarian disaster, or to evacuate British citizens from danger.

Historic Events

28 October

Formation of the Royal Marines
Memorable Date observed by the Corps of Royal Marines 28 October 2014