Research Collections Team

Royal Reviews of the Fleet

The first Royal review of the fleet has been recorded as being held in 1415 when Henry V reviewed his ships prior to sailing to France which ended in the victory of Agincourt. Since then, 43 Royal naval reviews have taken place, the last being in 1977 to mark the Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth II.

Most of the reviews have been held at Spithead, the anchorage outside of Portsmouth Harbour in the channel known as the Solent. There have only been two reviews not held there: July 1919 at Southend to mark the naval victories of the Great War and in 1965 in Clyde where a partial review took place.

The largest review held was never advertised for it was a review of the D-Day invasion fleet in May 1944; 800 vessels were present ranging from capital vessels to small minesweeper and landing craft. Reasons for holding a review vary. Originally they were held when a mobilisation for war was carried out and secondly, to demonstrate the strength of the fleet to potential enemies. Examples of the first reason can be seen in 1415, 1853 (imminent war with Russia) and 1914, while examples for the second came in 1700 when Peter the Great visited Britain, the visit of the Russian Tzar and Kings of France and Prussia in 1844 and lastly the visit of Kaiser Wilhelm II and Admiral von Tirpitz in 1889.

The reign of Queen Victoria saw 17 Royal reviews of the fleet - the first being 1842 and the last in 1899. Her Diamond Jubilee review in 1897 and the review of 1899 were presided over by the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) as the Queen was too frail to attend in person. Since the early part of the twentieth century, it has become customary to hold a review to mark the Coronation and Royal Jubilees of the reigning monarch. This custom ended in 2002 when it was decided not to hold one to mark Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee in that year due to cost.

The 20th Century has seen 12 Royal reviews, which are outlined below:

1909     Spithead       Edward VII
1912     Spithead     Coronation       George V      
1914     Spithead     WWI mobilisation     George V
1919     Southend    WW1 victory George V
1924     Spithead           George V
1935     Spithead     Silver Jubilee George V
1937     Spithead     Coronation George VI
1944 Spithead     D-Day Invasion George VI
1953 Spithead     Coronation Elizabeth II
1965     Clyde     Elizabeth II
1969     Spithead     NATO review Elizabeth II
1977     Spithead     Silver Jubilee Elizabeth II

Royal Naval Museum Library, 2001
The information contained in this fact sheet is correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the library for a bibliography of further reading materials, if available.

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Created on the 19 March 2003
Last modified on the 18 December 2003