Admiral of the North

The Admiral of the North[1] also known as Admiral of the Northern Seas and Admiral of the Northern Fleet [2] was a senior English Navy appointment. The post holder was chiefly responsible for the command of the navy's fleet[3] that operated in the North Sea and off the English coast out of Yarmouth from 1294 to 1412.

Office of the Admiral of the North
Admiralty of the North
Reports toPrivy Council of England
NominatorMonarch of England
AppointerMonarch of England
Subject to formal approval by the King-in-Council
Term lengthNot fixed , (usually for life)
Inaugural holderJohn de Botetourt, 1st Baron Botetourt


The origins of the office Admiral of the North[4] dates back to 1294 with the appointment of John de Botetourt. The office was known by different names from its inception, such as Admiral of the North and Admiral on the Yarmouth Station (1294–-1325), Admiral of the North Sea, Admiral of the Northern Squadron and Admiral North, of the Thames[5] with the exception of the office of Admiral of all the Fleets about England[6] between 1360 and 1364 and the creation of the office of Admiral of England from 1385 to 1388[6] according to Ehrman "During the fourteenth centuries this office grew rapidly in importance" [7] it was one of the two Admiralty's that existed at this time, and in 1412 this office along with the Admiralty of the West was amalgamated into a single office Admiral of England, Ireland and Aquitaine.[8] It was considered the most important naval command in the English Navy from the late 13th century until the beginning of the 15th century.[9]

The first royal commission as Admiral to a naval officer was granted in 1303. By 1344 it was only used as a rank at sea for a captain in charge of a fleet or fleets.[10]

Rank and Role

The naval defence of England from the end of the 13th century was divided into regional commands or 'admiralties' until the end of the fourteenth Century.[11] The appointment of an admiral was not regarded by the English government at the time as an honorary post subordinate to a military rank, their importance attached to their office can be confirmed by the recording of their allowances paid recorded in the Calendar of Patent Rolls.[12] In the fourteenth Century Admirals were paid a respectable salary which was only granted because the position was viewed as substantially important. In addition the rank of admiral was only granted to men of high prestige within feudal hierarchy, most recipients of the office were usually knights but more often earls.[13] The Admirals duties usually consisted of assembling fleets for naval expeditions undertaken by the monarch on campaign, maintaining order and discipline and supervising the work of the Admiralty Courts for each region. On major military expeditions the Admiral would go to sea with their fleets and accompany the overall Commander-in-Chief of both sea and land forces usually the King himself but sometimes a nobleman of higher rank than the admiral. Their role was to observe and direct naval battles but not necessarily taking part in them, themselves.[13] However, from 1344 onward their role was moving from primarily an administrative one to that of a seagoing command.[14]

In 1337 the first known record of the appointment of a "vice-admiral' was granted to a Nicholas Ususmaris, a Genoese, he was made Vice-Admiral of the King's fleet of galleys, and all other ships of Aquitaine. However these appointments were far and few between. There was two further instances of the appointment of Vice-Admirals to Sir Thomas Drayton as Vice-Admiral of the Northern Fleet and Sir Peter Bard Vice-Admiral of the Western Fleet both on 28 July 1338.[15]

Special assistants were appointed to handle two important sub-divisions of the admirals powers. The first was the admiral's lieutenant, or deputy sometimes referred to as sub-admirals, who handled administrative and legal duties and each of these admirals had one and often retained more knowledge than the Admiral himself in relation to the sea and coastal communities.[16] It would not be until the early 15th century that they would appointed on a more regular basis however they were referred to at this time as the admirals Lieutenant-General this office eventually became known as the Lieutenant of the Admiralty.[17]

The second was the Wardens of the Coast for each region who were responsible for the direction and co-ordination of the fleet, the equipping of boats and processing payments to sailors and superintendence of the Sea Guard Militia assigned to each coastal county.[13] From the mid fourteenth century there was a move to centralise these regional naval authorities as seen with the appointment of the Admiral of the Southern, Northern and Western fleets sometimes referred to as Admiral of the Fleet or Admiral of England and the Admiral of the North and West this tendency towards unifying regional naval authorities under one admiral eventually led to the creation of the office of the Lord-Admiral of England[13]

The Admirals were logistically supported by the Clerk of the Kings Ships who looked after all the navy's finances whilst victualling of the navy was handled by another one of Kings Clerks.[13]

Office Holders

Notes:The British Naval Historian Nicholas A. M. Rodger in his book the Safeguard of the Sea (2004) lists only officers that were appointed to this office and also took part in particular campaigns and not those that were officially appointed Admiral of the North, but their appointments were cancelled at the start of a campaign.

No appointments 1315 – 1322
  • Admiral Sir John Perbroun, (1322 – 1324). [6][18]
  • Admiral Sir John Sturmy, (1324 – 1325). [6][18]
  • Admiral Sir John Ottervin, (1325 *). [6]
  • Admiral Sir John Sturmy, 1325 – 1326 [6]
  • Admiral Sir Robert Layborn, (1326 – 1327).[18]
  • Admiral Sir John Perbroun, (1327 – 1328).[6][18]
No appointments 1329 – 1333
No appointments 1353 – 1354
No appointments 1357 – 1369 see Admiral of the South, North and West.[18]
  • Admiral Sir Nicholas Tamsworth, (1369 -1370).[18]
  • Admiral John, Lord Neville, (1370 -1371).[18]
  • Admiral Sir Ralph Ferrers, (1371 -1372).[18]
  • Admiral Sir William Neville, (1372 -1373).[18]
No appointments 1374 – 1375. [18]
No appointments 1388 – 1389 see Admiral of the North and West.[18]
No appointments 1392 – 1400 see Admiral of the North and West.[18]
No appointments: see Admiral of the North and West, 20 February 1404 – 28 April 1405.
  • Admiral Sir Nicholas Blackburn, (1406 – 1407).[18]
Note: The office although vacant was amalgamated into the single office of the Lord Admiral of England in 1412.[19]

See also



  1. Phillips, Simon (2009). The Prior of the Knights Hospitaller in late medieval England. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell Press. p. 52. ISBN 9781843834373.
  2. "FASTOLF, Hugh (d.c.1392), of Great Yarmouth and Caister, Norf. and London. | History of Parliament Online". The History of Parliament Trust 1964-2017. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  3. Myers, Alec Reginald; Douglas, David Charles (1996). English historical documents. 4. [Late medieval]. 1327–1485. Psychology Press. p. 497. ISBN 9780415604673.
  4. Cushway, Graham (2011). Edward III and the War at Sea: The English Navy, 1327–1377. Boydell Press. p. 222. ISBN 9781843836216.
  5. Hardy, Thomas Duffy (1869). Calendar of State Papers, 1066 to 1377. Longmans Green and Co. p. 338.
  6. Houbraken, Jacobus; Thoyras, Paul de Rapin; Vertue, George (1747). The History of England, A List of Admirals of England, 1228-1745. J. and P. Knapton. pp. 271–273.
  7. Ehrman, John (2012). The Navy in the War of William III 1689-1697: Its State and Direction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 189–190. ISBN 9781107645110.
  8. Ehrman, John (2012). The Navy in the War of William III 1689-1697: Its State and Direction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 189–190. ISBN 9781107645110.
  9. Ainsworth, William Harrison (1843). "Ainsworth's Magazine". 3. Chapman and Hall: 42. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  10. "History of Naval Ranks and Rates". National Museum of the Royal New Zealand Navy. 10 November 2015. Retrieved 13 February 2019.
  11. Rodger, N.A.M. (1997). "Captains and Admirals: Social History 1204 to 1455". The safeguard of the sea : a naval history of Britain. Vol 1., 660-1649. London: Penguin. pp. 131–142. ISBN 9780140297249.
  12. Bell, Adrian R.; Curry, Anne; King, Andy; Simpkin, David (2013). The Soldier in Later Medieval England. Oxford: OUP Oxford. p. 45. ISBN 9780199680825.
  13. Rodger pp. 131-142
  14. National Museum of the Royal New Zealand Navy
  15. Tucker, St George (2004). "Introduction". Blackstone's commentaries : with notes of reference to the constitution and laws, of the federal government of the United States, and of the Commonwealth of Virginia; with an appendix to each volume, containing short tracts upon such subjects as appeared necessary to form a connected view of the laws of Virginia as a member of the federal union. Vol. 1 (5 ed.). Clark, New Jersey, United States: Lawbook Exchange Ltd. p. xxxii. ISBN 9781886363168.
  16. Gorski, Richard (2012). "The Admirals". Roles of the Sea in Medieval England. Woodbridge, England: Boydell Press. p. 82. ISBN 9781843837015.
  17. Blomfield, R. Massie (January 1912). "NAVAL EXECUTIVE RANKS". The Mariner's Mirror. 2 (4): 106–112. doi:10.1080/00253359.1912.10654589.
  18. Rodger, N.A.M. (2004). The safeguard of the sea : a naval history of Britain. 660 to 1649. New York: W.W. Norton. pp. 504–506. ISBN 9780140297249.
  19. Ehrman, John (2012). The Navy in the War of William III 1689-1697: Its State and Direction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 189–190. ISBN 9781107645110.


  • Cushway, Graham (2011). Edward III and the War at Sea: The English Navy, 1327–1377. Woodbridge: Boydell Press. ISBN 9781843836216.
  • Ehrman, John (2012). The Navy in the war of William III, 1689-1697 : its state and direction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781107645110.
  • Gorski, edited by Richard (2012). "Keeping the Seas: England's Admirals 1369-1389". Roles of the sea in medieval England. Woodbridge, U.K.: Boydell Press. ISBN 9781843837015.
  • Houbraken, Jacobus; Rapin-Thoyras, Paul de; Vertue, George (1747). "A List of Admirals of England, 1228–1745". The History of England. London: J. and P. Knapton.
  • Rodger, N.A.M. (2004). The safeguard of the sea : a naval history of Britain 660 to 1649. New York: W.W. Norton. ISBN 9780140297249
  • Simpkin, David (2012). "Keeping the Seas: England's Admirals 1369–1389". In Gorski, Richard (ed.). Roles of the Sea in Medieval England. Woodbridge: Boydell Press. ISBN 9781843837015.
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