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 World War II, 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 Her Majesty's 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.
It was part of the War of the Third Coalition, and a pivotal naval battle of the 19th century. The British victory spectacularly confirmed the naval supremacy that Britain had established during the 18th century. However, by the time it was fought, Napoleon had abandoned his plans to invade southern England and instead was defeating Britain's allies in Germany.
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.