James the First - from A.D. 1567 to A.D. 1625.
As James the First was totally unacquainted with nautical affairs, having possessed no fleet when King of Scotland, disputes constantly arose respecting the honour of the flag, which the English claimed, and this induced the famous Hugo Grotius to write a treatise, in which he endeavoured to prove the futility of their title to the dominion of the sea. England, however, still maintained her right to be saluted by the ships of all other nations, and the learned Selden supported the English, asserting that they had a hereditary and uninterrupted right to the sovereignty of the seas, conveyed to them by their ancestors in trust for their latest posterity. During this period numerous colonies were settled, and the commerce of England extended in all directions by her brave navigators. The navy was not neglected, twenty ships being added by the king, and 50,000 pounds voted for the maintenance of the fleet. In the year 1610 the largest ship of war yet constructed in England was built by order of the king, and called the Prince. Her keel was 114 feet, her cross-beam was 44 feet in length. She carried sixty-four pieces of great ordnance, and she was of the burden of 1400 tons. She was double built, and adorned most sumptuously within and without with all manner of curious carving, painting, and rich gilding, being in all respects the greatest and goodliest ship that ever was built in England. Raleigh’s remarks to Prince Henry on the subject are worthy of note, though it appears his advice was not followed. He recommended that the intended vessel should be of smaller size than the Victory, in order that the timber of the old ship might serve for the new. “If she be bigger,” he remarks, “she will be of less use, go very deep to water, and be of mighty charge (our channels decaying every year), less nimble, less manageable, and seldom to be used. A well-conditioned ship should be, in the first instance, strongly built; secondly, swift in sail; thirdly, stout sided; fourthly, her ports ought to be so laid that she may carry out her guns in all weathers; fifthly, she ought to hull well; sixthly, she should stay well when boarding or turning on a wind if required.” He then continues: “It is to be noted that all ships sharp before, not having a long floor, will fall rough into the sea from the billow, and take in water over head and ears; and the same quality of all narrow-quartered ships to sink after the tail. The high charging of ships is that which brings many ill qualities upon them. It makes them extremely leeward, makes them sink deep into the seas, makes them labour in foul weather, and ofttimes overset. Safety is more to be respected than show or niceness for ease. In sea-journeys both cannot well stand together, and, therefore, the most necessary is to be chosen. Two decks and a-half is enough, and no building at all above that but a low master’s cabin. Our masters and mariners will say that the ships will bear more well enough; and true it is, if none but old mariners served in them. But men of better sort, unused to such a life, cannot so well endure the rolling and tumbling from side to side, where the seas are never so little grown, which comes by high charging. Besides, those high cabin-works aloft are very dangerous, in that they may tear men with their splinters. Above all other things, have care that the great guns are four feet clear above water when all loading is in, or else those best pieces are idle at sea; for if the ports lie lower and be open, it is dangerous; and by that default was a goodly ship and many gallant gentlemen lost in the days of Henry the Eighth, before the Isle of Wight, in a ship called the Mary Rose.”
These remarks show how attentively Raleigh had studied the subject of shipbuilding and, undoubtedly, during his time great improvements were made in the construction of ships of the Royal Navy. A large East India ship of 1200 tons was also built at Woolwich, and was the first trading ship of that size launched in the kingdom. The king called her the Trade’s Increase.
In 1622 the first established contract for victualling the Royal Navy was made, and every man’s allowance settled. It appears not to have differed greatly from that served out at the present day, except that on Friday fish, butter, and cheese were served out; showing that the Romish custom of what is called fasting on Friday had not been abolished. The king also gave annually 30,000 pounds worth of timber from the royal forests for the use of the navy.