Sunday, 14 March 2021

Vice-Admirals of Ulster

4th Earl of Kilmorey OBE


  • Arthur, 1st Baron Chichester; in office 1602-25
  • Edward, 1st Viscount Chichester, 1625-39
  • Charles, 1st Earl of Mountrath, 1647
  • Sir William Stewart Bt, 1647
  • John Davis (?), 1661
  • Gorges (?), 1666
  • Gustavus, 1st Viscount Boyne, 1691-1709, 1716-23  
  • The Hon Frederick Hamilton, 1710-15
  • Henry, 1st Baron Conyngham, 1748-79
  • William Burton Conyngham, 1779-96
  • Charles, 1st Earl O'Neill, 1822-1841
  • Archibald, 2nd Earl of Gosford, 1841-49
  • Francis, 2nd Marquess Conyngham, 1849-76
  • George Henry, 3rd Marquess Conyngham, -1882
  • Archibald, 4th Earl of Gosford, -1922
  • Frederick, 3rd Marquess of Dufferin & Ava, 1923-30
  • Francis Charles, 4th Earl of Kilmorey, 1937-61
  • Basil, 1st Viscount Brookeborough, 1961-73
The various Vice-Admirals of the Coast were not responsible for defence.
The office of Lord High Admiral had two separate strands: one concerned with legal jurisdiction (as head of the High Court of Admiralty, from which the office derived by far the greater part of its emoluments and its power); and the other concerned with executive command of the Navy.
The Vice-Admirals of the Coast were appointed in regard to the former, not the latter.  

Vice-Admiralty Courts ceased to function in 1864.

In 1891 the Admiralty Court itself was merged into the High Courts of Justice under the Judicature Act of that year.  

All appointments as Vice-Admirals of the Coast, already essentially nugatory, automatically lapsed.
There were various claims to the honorary dignity of the title from families which had held it in succession over a number of generations (although it was never hereditary) or by various mayors (although any rights in this respect were extinguished by the Municipal Corporations Act of 1895).
The Marquesses Conyngham, for instance, owned 150,000 acres of land in Ireland, the vast majority of which was in County Donegal.

Even when still functioning, the office of Vice-Admiral of Ulster was more limited than the title might suggest, as a charter issued by CHARLES II to the Honourable the Irish Society gave jurisdiction over the larger part of the coast of Ulster to them, excepting only the coasts of counties Down and Antrim.

In 1961, when the question of reviving the office of Vice-Admiral of Ulster arose (there having been none since 1937), the Head of the Historical Section (Admiralty) was consulted, and provided a summary of the historical background before giving his personal opinion on the matter:
Subject to a clear acceptance of the fact that any such appointment today carries only a legal connotation, is defunct, and does not entitle the holder to claim any military rank or duty, Head of H.S. sees no real objection to the proposed appointment beyond the obvious stupidity of appointing gentlemen to moribund offices. All these Vice-Admiralty titles are quite meaningless today.
In 1964, after the office of Lord High Admiral was resumed by the Crown, the Royal Navy ceased to have authority to issue warrants for such offices.

First published in January, 2012.

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