The Royal Navy has protected Britain's shores and coastline for hundreds of years and was once the most powerful naval fighting force in the world. Discover more about the establishment of the Royal Navy and how it has evolved. Plus, read about some heroic naval leaders and their infamous endeavours.

Henry VIII (1491–1547) is credited for establishing the Royal Navy – establishing Royal Dockyards and building new, innovative warships.

In the 17th and 18th centuries there were six Royal Navy Dockyards in England, at Deptford, Woolwich, Chatham, Sheerness, Portsmouth and Plymouth.

The gold lace on naval officers’ uniforms has traditionally be used to indicate rank. But what are its origins?

The Sea Fencibles were a British naval militia, mostly volunteers, that was formed in 1793 to act as an anti-invasion force in coastal waters.

The Battle of Trafalgar took place in 1805. Nelson masterminded the victorious British attack on the Franco-Spanish fleet.

Greenwich Hospital was founded on the belief that England should look after her injured and aged sailors.

The Battle of Trafalgar is one of the most famous naval battles in British history. Nelson led Britain to victory over a combined French and Spanish fleet, but was shot and died during the battle. 

The horrors of the Western Front are all too familiar, but did you know about the Britons who gave their lives fighting at sea in World War I? 

Despite leading an extraordinary life Emma Hamilton is probably best known for her scandalous affair with Lord Nelson, which lasted from 1799 to his death in 1805. 

Naval reformer, citizen scientist, serious player on the national stage, MP and prisoner of the Tower of London – Samuel Pepys was all these but it is his candid diary that has ensured he remains a household name centuries after his death.

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