There have been English naval forces for more than a thousand years; however, the official history of the Royal Navy began with the establishment of the Navy Royal by Henry VIII in 1546. The Royal Navy started as an assortment of "King's ships" assembled only as needed, then dispersed. During the 16th century, the Royal Navy emerged as a standing navy and became a regular establishment during the tumult of the 17th century. From the middle decades of the 17th century to the 18th century, the Roya Navy vied with the Spanish Navy, the Dutch Navy and the French Navy for maritime supremacy in the age of sail.
The foundations of the British Empire were laid with overseas possessions and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height in the 18th and early 20th centuries, it was the largest empire in history. It was the Royal Navy's Admirals who helped assert naval superiority globally. After the defeat of France in the Napoleonic Wars, Britain emerged as the principal naval and imperial power of the 19th century.
John Thomas Duckworth, born in Leatherhead Surrey, England, in 1748, joined the Royal Navy in 1759, as an 11-year-old midshipman aboard HMS Namur. He saw action during the Seven Years' War, the American Revolutionary War, the French Revolutionary War, and the Napoleonic Wars. Duckworth fought almost all of Britain's enemies on the seas at one time or another in a career that spanned nearly sixty years, ending his career as Governor of Newfoundland and its Dependencies.
Duckworth died on August 31, 1817, and was buried at the church in Topsham, Devon, England, where he was laid to rest in the family vault. Duckworth Street in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, is named in his honour.