The Royal Navy of the United Kingdom is the oldest of the British armed services (and is therefore the Senior Service). From the early 18th century to the middle of the 20th century, it was the largest and most powerful navy in the world, playing a key part in establishing the British Empire as the dominant power of the 19th and early 20th centuries. In WWII, the Royal Navy operated almost 600 ships. During the Cold War, it was transformed into a primarily anti-submarine force, hunting for Soviet submarines, mostly active in the North Atlantic Ocean. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, its role for the 21st century has returned to focus on global expeditionary (blue water) operations.
The Royal Navy is a constituent component of the Naval Service, which also comprises the Royal Marines, Royal Fleet Auxiliary and associated reserve forces under command. The Naval Service had 38,710 regular personnel as of November 2006.
The Battle of the Nile, known in France as the Battle of Aboukir Bay, was an important naval battle of the French Revolutionary Wars between a British fleet commanded by Rear-Admiral Horatio Nelson and a French fleet under Vice-Admiral François-Paul Brueys D'Aigalliers. It took place on the evening and early morning of August 1 and August 2, 1798. French losses have been estimated to have been as high as 1,700 dead (including Brueys) and 3,000 captured. British losses were 218 dead. Although decisive, the victory did not prevent the French from conquering most of Egypt and parts of Syria.
HMS Victory is a 104-gun ship of the line of the Royal Navy, built between 1759 and 1765. She was constructed at Chatham Dockyard, and was something of an unusual occurrence at the time; during the whole of the 18th century only ten first-rates were constructed. The Royal Navy preferred smaller and more manoeuvrable ships and it was unusual for more than two first-rates to be in commission simultaneously. Victory was Horatio Nelson's flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar. In 1812, her active career ended, and over the next century, she served as a depot ship and signals school before restoration work began in 1922. She opened as a museum in 1928, although conservation and restoration work is still ongoing. Currently, Victory sits in dry dock in Portsmouth as a museum ship. She is the oldest naval ship still in commission and the only remaining ship of the line except for the Regalskeppet Vasa.
The Queen and Prince of Wales occasionally intervened in his career—the Queen thought that there was "a belief that the Admiralty are afraid of promoting Officers who are Princes on account of the radical attacks of low papers and scurrilous ones". However, Louis welcomed battle assignments that provided opportunities for him to acquire the skills of war and to demonstrate to his superiors that he was serious about his naval career. Posts on royal yachts and tours actually impeded his progress, as his promotions were perceived as royal favours rather than deserved. However, he rose through the command ranks on his own merit and eventually served as First Sea Lord, the senior uniformed officer in the Royal Navy, from 1912 to 1914 until he was forced to resign when anti-German feeling was running high at the start of World War I.