Her Majesty The Queen conferred the title and office as a gift to the Duke of Edinburgh on his 90th birthday, which keeps alive the tradition of the monarch investing the office as an honour.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh arrived at the Admiralty Board yesterday, Wednesday 23 November 2011, and were met by the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, and the Guard and Band of the Royal Marines gave a Royal Salute.
Her Majesty and His Royal Highness were taken to the Admiralty Board Room where Admiral Stanhope presented the military members of the Navy Board: Admiral Sir Trevor Soar, Vice Admiral Charles Montgomery, Vice Admiral Andrew Mathews, Rear Admiral Phil Jones, Rear Admiral Amjad Hussain and Major General Buster Howes.
After receiving the Letters Patent and the Lord Admiral’s flag, the Duke watched a short performance of the Royal Marines Corps of Drums.
The Duke of Edinburgh has a strong involvement with the Navy, having enrolled at Dartmouth Naval College when he was 18 years old.
During the Second World War, His Royal Highness served with the Mediterranean and Pacific fleets and reached the rank of Commander before retiring from active service.
Although His Royal Highness gave up his active naval career some time ago, he has remained closely connected to, and actively interested in, every branch of Service life.
In 1952 he was appointed Admiral of the Sea Cadet Corps, Colonel-in-Chief of the Army Cadet Force and Air Commodore-in-Chief of the Air Training Corps. The following year he was promoted to Admiral of the Fleet and appointed Captain General of the Royal Marines.
Her Majesty The Queen has held the office of titular head of the Royal Navy - Lord High Admiral - since the Navy’s organisational structure was reviewed in 1964 and the title was revested in the sovereign.
Neither the Army nor the Royal Air Force have similar offices at their head and the Navy is the only Service in which Her Majesty holds the official headship in addition to being ‘Head of the Armed Forces’.
The office of the Lord High Admiral dates from the 14th century when the English Navy consolidated into one force. Originally responsible for aspects of Navy policy, the position of Lord High Admiral was held on commission by various peers of the realm.
By 1628, following the death of the Duke of Buckingham, the position became entirely honorary, with the duties of running the Navy delegated to a board of commissioners. Control of the Navy was passed to and from the board and the Lord High Admiral until 1709, when the powers of the Lord High Admiral were finally vested in the board.
For a short time in the 17th century, the office of Lord High Admiral was held by reigning monarchs King Charles II, King James II and, at the beginning of the 18th century, by Queen Anne (although on this occasion it was only for a month).