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Royal Sovereign-class battleship
HMS Resolution
Class overview
Name: Royal Sovereign-class battleship
Operators:  Royal Navy
Preceded by: Trafalgar class
Succeeded by: Centurion class
Built: 1889–1894
In commission: 1892–1915
Planned: 8
Completed: 8
Retired: 8
General characteristics [1]
Type: Pre-dreadnought battleship
Displacement: 14,150 long tons (14,377 t) (standard)
15,580 long tons (15,830 t) (full load)
Length: 410 ft 6 in (125.12 m)
Beam: 75 ft (23 m)
Draught: 27 ft 6 in (8.38 m)
Propulsion: 2 × Humphreys vertical triple-expansion engines
8 cylindrical boilers
2 shafts
Speed: 17.5 knots (20.1 mph; 32.4 km/h)
Range: 4,700 nmi (8,700 km) at 10 kn (19 km/h)
Complement: 712
  • Main belt: 14–18 in (356–457 mm)
  • Upper belt: 3–4 in (76–102 mm)
  • Forward Bulkheads: 16 in (406 mm)
  • After bulkhead: 14 in (356 mm)
  • Barbettes: 11–17 in (279–432 mm)
  • Casemates: 6 in (152 mm)
  • Conning Tower: 14 in (356 mm)
  • Deck: 2.5–3 in (64–76 mm)

The Royal Sovereign class was a class of pre-dreadnought battleships of the British Royal Navy. The class comprised seven ships built to the same design: HMS Royal Sovereign, HMS Empress of India, HMS Ramilles, HMS Repulse, HMS Resolution, HMS Revenge, and HMS Royal Oak, and a half-sister built to a modified design: HMS Hood. They and were launched from 1889 to 1894. The class displaced nearly 2,000 long tons more than the preceding Trafalgars. Only one of the ships, the Revenge, saw active service in World War I, participating in shore bombardments of the Belgian coastline. Hood also lived on to the First World War, but was quickly sunk as a blockship. Revenge was scrapped in 1919, while her sisters were scrapped between 1913 and 1914.[2]

In their day, the Royal Sovereigns embodied revolutionary improvements in firepower, armour, and speed, and began the steady evolution of the pre-Dreadnaught battleship to its apex in the King Edward VII-class battleship


The ships of the Royal Sovereign class were built under the Naval Defence Act 1889, which provided £21 million for a vast expansion programme. The Act was inspired by rumours of a possible Franco-Russian alliance and by perceived shortcomings in naval forces revealed during manoeuvres the year before. In total, ten battleships, forty-two cruisers, and eighteen other vessels were built—an enormous increase. The Act marks the adoption of the two-power standard, whereby the Royal Navy sought to be as large as the next two major naval powers combined.[3]

At the centre of the expansion programme were the Royal Sovereigns, the largest and fastest capital ships of their time. The class would be the template of British battleship design for 15 years, until Dreadnought, being improved upon by the Majestic class ships launched just a few years later. The Royal Sovereigns are considered the first of the type of battleship which would become known after the commissioning of Dreadnought in 1906 as pre-dreadnoughts.[1]

Technical characteristics


Right elevation, deck plan and hull section as depicted in Brassey's Naval Annual 1906

The Royal Sovereigns were designed by the noted warship designer Sir William White. They were much bigger than the Admiral, Victoria, and Trafalgar classes that had preceded them, and when Royal Sovereign herself was completed she was the largest warship in the world. At 17.5 knots (32.4 km/h) they were also faster than any other battleship afloat.[2]


The stern 13.5-inch (343-mm) gun barbette on Empress of India.

The forward 13.5-inch (343-mm) gun turret on Hood

Although the new 12-inch (305 mm) guns were preferred there were doubts that they could be built in time and so the 13.5 inch (343-mm) 67-ton guns used in the preceding Admiral class were chosen. The first seven Royal Sovereigns used open barbettes instead of turrets, allowing them to have a freeboard of 19 feet 6 inches (about 90% of modern guidelines), much higher than in immediately previous classes, improving their performance in heavy seas.[2]

The last ship of the class, Hood, was equipped with old-style, heavy, circular turrets of the type that first appeared in the 1860s, and consequently had a lower freeboard of only 11 feet 3 inches. She was otherwise virtually identical to her sister ships (in terms of machinery, protection, and armament) and therefore provided a useful comparison to them in terms of which was the better design. Hood proved too wet for efficient operations in the rough waters of the Atlantic and North Sea, while the high freeboard of her barbette-equipped near-sisters gave them the advantage in those waters. Hood was the last British battleship with the old-style turrets, and based on the experience with her and her sisters, all future British battleships were of a high-freeboard design and had their main armament in barbettes, although the adoption of armored, rotating gunhouses over the barbettes gradually led to them being called "turrets" as well, as remains the case today.[4][5]

The secondary armament was an important part of the design and consisted of ten 6 inch (152-mm) quick-firing guns were provided to counter torpedo boat attacks and were widely spaced on two decks so that a single hit would not disable more than one of them. As well as the weight of the guns, accommodation had to be provided for the 31 men needed to operate each one (eight manning the gun itself, eight more in each of two magazines and seven in the shell room). The 6-inch (152 mm) guns on the upper deck had only light shields when the class was built but in 1902 and 1903 they were enclosed within casemates.[3]


The ships were heavily armoured with an 8 feet 6 inch high belt 18 inches thick, reducing to 14 inches thick at the ends past the two barbettes, and with a 4 inch thick steel armour belt above. This belt was intended to detonate any lighter shells and was the result of live firing experiments on the old battleship Resistance. The armour was backed by 10 feet (3 m) deep coal bunkers, the coal providing additional protection and were subdivided to continue to provide buoyancy after being hit. The deck was 3 inches thick, thinning to 2.5 inches at the ends and curving down. The intention was that if this were penetrated then the ends could be flooded with little loss of buoyancy.[3]


Their upper decks were planked-over beams without steel deck plating.[6]


The ships rolled excessively when first put into service, the captain of Resolution turning back to England on one occasion in rough weather in the Bay of Biscay in December 1893, but fitting bilge keels and carrying as heavy a coal store as possible (up to 1,400 tonnes) remedied this fault to a great degree. However, sensationalist reporting of Resolution rolling heavily during the 1893 storm gave the ships a nickname, the "Rolling Ressies", which stuck with the ships throughout their lives.[7]

Operational history

The ships spent their lives in the routine of the Victorian Royal Navy, participating in annual manoeuvres and occasional fleet reviews from their commissioning until the early 1900s. All saw service in home waters and many also served in the Mediterranean, where some saw service in the 1897–1898 blockade of Crete. The class generally went into the commissioned reserve around 1905.[8]

In 1906, the Royal Sovereigns, like every other battleship in the world, were made obsolete with the launch of the revolutionary HMS Dreadnought, the first all-big-gun battleship. They were consigned to less critical duties for the remainder of their service life, and began to appear on the disposal list in 1909.[8] Only two ships survived to see the outbreak of war in 1914, one of them (Hood) quickly being sunk as a blockship. Only one, Revenge (renamed Redoubtable in 1915), saw action in World War I, bombarding the coast of Belgium in 1914 and 1915 before decommissioning.[9]

Ships in Class

HMS Royal Sovereign

HMS Royal Sovereign served in the Channel Fleet (1892–1897), Mediterranean Fleet (1897–1902), Home Fleet (1902–1905), the new Channel Fleet (1905–1907), and the commissioned reserve (1907–1909) before going into material reserve in 1909. She was scrapped in 1913.[2]

HMS Hood

HMS Hood served in the Mediterranean Fleet (1893–1900) and (1901–1902), Home Fleet (1903–1904), and commissioned Reserve (1905–1907), then on subsidiary duties in home waters until decommissioned in 1911. She was sunk as a blockship at Portland harbour in November 1914.[10]

HMS Empress of India

HMS Empress of India (originally to have been named Renown) served in the Channel Fleet (1893–1897), Mediterranean Fleet (1897–1901), Home Fleet (1902–1905), Reserve Fleet (1905–1907), and the new Home Fleet (1907–1912), and was sunk as a target in 1913.[2]

HMS Ramillies

HMS Ramilles served in the Mediterranean Fleet (1893–1903), Reserve Fleet (1903–1907), and Home Fleet (1907–1911), and was scrapped in 1913.[2]

HMS Repulse

HMS Repulse served in the Channel Fleet (1894–1902), Mediterranean Fleet (1902–1903), and Reserve Fleet (1905–1907), then in subsidiary roles until decommissioned and scrapped in 1911.[2]

HMS Resolution

HMS Resolution served in the Channel Fleet (1893–1901), then in various subsidiary and commissioned reserve duties until decommissioned in 1911 and scrapped in 1914.[2]

HMS Revenge

HMS Revenge served in the Special Flying Squadron in 1896 as its flagship, then in the Mediterranean Fleet (1896–1900, which included service as flagship during the blockade of Crete in 1898), then as flagship of the Home Fleet (1902–1905), in the Channel Fleet in 1905, and on various duties in the commissioned reserve (1905–1913). Bombarded the Belgian coast in 1914 and 1915 and was renamed Redoubtable in 1915, then decommissioned and was scrapped in 1919.[2]

HMS Royal Oak

HMS Royal Oak served in the Special Flying Squadron in 1896, Mediterranean Fleet (1897–1902), Home Fleet (1903–1905), Reserve Fleet (1905–1907), and the new Home Fleet (1907–1911), before decommissioning in 1912 and being scrapped in 1914.[2]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Chesneau, Koleśnik & Campbell 1979, p. 32.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 "Royal Sovereign Class Battleship". Retrieved 21 September 2010. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Hore, p. 75
  4. Burt, p. 85
  5. Chesneau, Koleśnik & Campbell 1979, p. 33.
  6. Brown, D K Warrior to Dreadnought, p177.
  7. Burt, pp. 66–67
  8. 8.0 8.1 Burt, pp. 80–84
  9. Burt, pp. 83–84
  10. "Hood Class Battleship Class Overview". MaritimeQuest. Retrieved 21 September 2010. 


  • Brown, David (1997). Warrior to Dreadnought, Warship Development 1860–1905. London: Chatham. ISBN 1-84067-529-2. 
  • Burt, R. A. (1988). British Battleships 1889–1904. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-061-0. 
  • Chesneau, Roger; Koleśnik, Eugène M.; Campbell, N.J.M. (1979). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1860–1905. London: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-133-5. 
  • Friedman, Norman (2011). Naval Weapons of World War One. Barnsley, South Yorkshire, UK: Seaforth. ISBN 978-1-84832-100-7. 
  • Hore, Peter (2005). The World Encyclopedia of Battleships. London, UK: Hermes House. ISBN 1-84681-278-X. 
  • Parkes, Oscar (1990 (reprint of the 1957 edition)). British Battleships. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-075-4. 

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