The Lord High Admiral and the Administration of the Navy
The medieval “Admiral of England, Ireland and Aquitaine” was head of the Admiralty-jurisdiction and had no connection with the King’s ships and no claim to be appointed to the command of any naval expedition. The King’s ships, when not in use, were left in charge of the Clerk of the Ships, an officer entirely independent of the Admiral. Before the appearance of the Admiral, courts had existed in some of the sea-port towns, administering the law maritime to merchants and mariners; and from the Middle Ages until Stuart times the ports were endeavouring to secure Admiralty courts of their own, independent of the Lord High Admiral. With the growth of the Admiralty jurisdiction, under Henry VIII, local Vice-Admirals were appointed in the sea-board counties to assist in the exercise of the jurisdiction. The first Admiral of England actually in command of a naval squadron was Sir Edward Howard, killed in action during the war of 1512-14 against France.