H.M.S. Royal Sovereign, Battleship, 1892


(For full details see below)
HMS Royal Sovereign, the lead ship of the pre-Dreadnought class which included Empress of India, Repulse, Hood, Ramilles, Revenge, Resolution and Royal Oak.

c. 43 x 36 cm (17 x 14 inches)

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hms royalsovereign1897
HMS Royal Sovereign – a photograph taken of her at anchor in 1896 or 1897.  This image was scanned by Steven Johnson from Queen victoria’s Jubilee Double Edition of the “Navy and Army Illustrated” titled “The Queen’s Navy” on 25 June 1897.  Note the twin funnels are side-by-side and therefore perfectly overlapping “as one” in the above print.

HMS Royal Sovereign was the lead ship of the eight ships of her class of “pre-dreadnought” battleships built for the Royal Navy in the 1890s.  These ships were the centrepiece of the Government’s Naval Defence Act 1889, which provided £21.5 million for a vast expansion programme. The Act also formalised the “two-power standard”, whereby the Royal Navy sought to be as large as the next two major naval powers combined.

Preliminary work on what would become the Royal Sovereign class began in 1888 and the Board of Admiralty directed the Director of Naval Construction, Sir William White, to design an improved and enlarged version of the Trafalgar class. These ships were equipped with gun turrets, the weight of which dictated that they be low-freeboard ships to reduce their topweight. White argued for a high-freeboard design to improve the new ships’ ability to fight and steam in heavy weather. This meant that the armament could only be mounted in lighter, less-heavily armoured barbettes.
It had also become clear that all previous generations of naval vessels had  been built to engage enemy vessels “within reach” – i.e. in the local vicinity, but the latest big gun technology had shown that present and future engagements would require long-range weapons capability.  After much discussion, the board came around to White’s view and the design resembled an enlarged version of the earlier Admiral class, although one of the eight ships, Hood, was built as a low-freeboard turret ship in deference to the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Arthur Hood, who had strongly argued for the type. The Royal Sovereigns are often considered the first of the type of battleship which would become known, after the commissioning of the revolutionary Dreadnought in 1906, as pre-dreadnoughts.  When it was launched in 1906 it rendered all existing battleship vessels obsolete.
For a more detailed discussion on the  development of the Royal Sovereign class of battleships see Military Wiki here.
At 14,150 LT she was built in dry-dock at Portsmouth Royal Navy Dockyard (there was no slipway long enough). Her keel was laid in September 1889, she was launched in February 1891 and commissioned in 1892, relieving HMS Camperdown to serve as flagship of the Channel Fleet a role which she performed for the next five years.  After taking part in Queen Victoria’s Diamond Spithead Review on 26th June 1897, she left for the Mediterranean, returning to Portsmouth in 1902.  After a major refit the remainder of her career was mainly as a reserve vessel until she was sold in 1913 to be broken up, eventually in Genoa.

Additional information

Weight 0.023 kg
Dimensions 44.5 × 33.8 cm