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Ship renaming policies in the RN of the 18th and 19th c.
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Post Posted: Sat Jul 20, 2013 1:27 am    Post subject: Ship renaming policies in the RN of the 18th and 19th c. Reply with quote

Hi, as we know the RN ships have captured many-many enemy vessels, and retained some names, just adding the customary prefix HMS, while renaming others. Was there a specific policy as to which ships were to be renamed, while the others kept their names, no matter how un-British they sounded, like the HMS Ville de Paris, for example? Also, which branch was in charge of naming ships?
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Post Posted: Sun Jul 21, 2013 8:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

    - The use of HMS was not general till the 19th century
    - There was no rule. On one side was that if another ship of the RN already had the same name then the prize had to be renamed (for example there were three Neptune at Trafalgar), as ships names were unique for obvious reasons (except for small ships like tenders or port utility ships). On the other side to have a Ville de Paris in the RN was a show of power.
    - The naming of ships rested on the Admiralty. Sometimes the name of a ship was changed while she was still on stock.

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Post Posted: Sun Oct 05, 2014 6:28 pm    Post subject: Naming of ships Reply with quote

To follow up on this question, it seems fairly clear that the Admiralty usually kept the name of a French or Spanish prize, unless it duplicated (or was very similar to) a name already in use. This was a way of recognising and celebrating the Royal Navy's successes, and the French did the same with the few British ships they captured and incorporated (e.g. Berwick, Ambuscade).

However, when the name of the enemy ship had notably revolutionary or anti-monarchical overtones, the name would be changed to one which was more suitable, and at the same time often recognised the circumstances of the prize's capture. Thus the French ship of the line Hoche (a notable French general) became the Donegal in British service, since it was captured off the nw coast of Ireland. The Franklin, named after Benjamin Franklin and captured at the Battle of the Nile, became the Canopus, an ancient Egyptian city on the Nile.

I believe that the final say on the naming of ships belonged to the First Lord, although I suspect most names were suggested by the Secretary and approved (or not) by the First Lord. Certainly the Earl of Sandwich, First Lord off and on from the 1750s to the 1780s, seems to have taken a strong interest in the naming of ships, and promoted the widespread use of names drawn from classical literature, such as Bellerophon and Euryalus. T.D. Manning's book, British Warship Names, deals with this in some detail.
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