Commander-in-Chief of the Forces
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Commander-in-Chief of the Forces

Commander-in-Chief of the Forces
George-cambridge-1819.jpg
Longest serving
FM Prince George, Duke of Cambridge

5 July 1856 - 1 November 1895
English Army
British Army
War Office
TypeSenior-most officer
AbbreviationC-in-C
Reports toSecretary of State for War
AppointerThe Monarch
Term lengthNo fixed term
Formation1645
January 1793
First holderCaptain General Sir Thomas Fairfax
as General-in-Chief
FM Jeffery Amherst, 1st Lord Amherst
as Commander-in-Chief of the Forces
Final holderFM Frederick Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts
Abolished12 February 1904
SuccessionChief of the General Staff

The Commander-in-Chief of the Forces, later Commander-in-Chief, British Army, or just the Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C), was (intermittently) the professional head of the English Army from 1660 to 1707 (the English Army, founded in 1645, was succeeded in 1707 by the new British Army, incorporating existing Scottish regiments) and of the British Army from 1707 until 1904.

In earlier times, supreme command of the Army had been exercised by the monarch in person. After 1660 it became rare for British sovereigns to lead their troops in battle (with the notable exception of King William III); instead, it became normative for command (especially in time of war) to be delegated to an individual, who usually held the appointment of Captain General or Commander-in-Chef of the Forces.[1] (In early years these two titles were often used interchangeably, and/or the appointments were held concurrently). The office was not always filled: for example, James II and William III both functioned themselves as Commander-in-Chief; at other times the appointment simply lapsed (especially if there was no perceived immediate military threat.[1]

In most instances, Commanders-in-Chief of the Forces were not Cabinet members (only Conway and Wellington had a seat in Cabinet by virtue of holding this office; Ligonier and Granby were also in Cabinet during their time in office, but in both cases sat as Master-General of the Ordnance).[1] Instead, the British Army was represented variously and tenuously in government by the Paymaster of the Forces (Paymaster General from 1836), the Master-General of the Ordnance (who did not invariably have a seat in Cabinet), the Secretary at War (who was not usually a member of the Cabinet) and (from 1794) the Secretary of State for War.

The appointment of Commander-in-Chief remained in the personal gift of the monarch, and its independence was guarded by Queen Victoria (among others) as emblematic of the notion that command of the Army was vested in the Crown; during her reign, however, the office was (in 1870) made much more clearly subordinate to the Secretary of State for War (and to Parliament).[2]

The office was replaced in 1904 with the creation of the Army Council and the appointment of Chief of the General Staff. The title reverted to the monarch, who remains (titular) "Commander-in-chief of the British Armed Forces".[3]

Republican origins

In 1645, after the outbreak of the English Civil War, Parliament appointed Thomas Fairfax "Captain General and Commander-in-Chief of all the armies and forces raised and to be raised within the Commonwealth of England".[4] Thomas Fairfax was the senior-most military officer, having no superior, and held great personal control over the army and its officers. Lord Fairfax was styled "Lord General". None of his successors would use this title. In 1650, Fairfax resigned his post, shortly before the Scottish campaign of the War.[5]

Oliver Cromwell, Fairfax's Lieutenant-General, succeeded him as Commander-in-chief of the Forces.[5] Under Cromwell, the Commander-in-Chief was de facto head of state, especially after the dismissal of the Long Parliament. Cromwell held the office until 1653, when he was elected Lord Protector.[6]

On 21 February 1660, the reconstituted Long Parliament resolved "that General George Monck be constituted and appointed Captain-General and Commander in Chief, under Parliament, of all the Land-Forces of England, Scotland and Ireland".[7]

Post-Restoration origins

After Monck's death, the post, which gave the holder significant military power, was abolished until James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth successfully petitioned Charles II and was granted it in 1674.[8] After Monmouth's execution the post was again not filled until 1690, when it was bestowed upon John Churchill, Earl of Marlborough, during the King's absence in Ireland.[9] It was likewise conferred on Meinhardt Schomberg, Duke of Schomberg the following year during the King's absence in Flanders, Marlborough having fallen from favour.[10]

Later history

With the appointment of General Lord Jeffrey Amherst in 1793, the Commander-in-Chief was given authority over matters of discipline, over supplies, training and promotions in the British Army. The establishment of a military staff took place under the oversight of his successor, Frederick, Duke of York.[11]

With the demise of the Board of Ordnance in the wake of the Crimean War the Commander-in-Chief assumed command of the Ordnance troops: the Royal Regiment of Artillery and the Corps of Royal Engineers. The momentum of reform at this time, however, was toward increasing the authority of the Secretary of State for War. From the passing of the War Office Act 1870, as part of the Cardwell Reforms, the Commander-in-Chief was made clearly subordinate to the Secretary of State, to serve as the latter's principal military adviser, and was made to move out of his traditional office above the arch at Horse Guards and into the War Office. Nevertheless, in 1888 he is still described as having responsibility for all personnel and matériel issues for the army and auxiliary forces, and in 1895 he took on the responsibilities of chief of staff.[11]

The post was finally abolished by recommendation of the Esher Report, set up in the wake of the Second Boer War, which established the office of Chief of the General Staff.[11]

Appointees

The following table lists all those who have held the post of Commander-in-Chief of the Forces or its preceding positions. Ranks and honours are as at the completion of their tenure:
+ denotes people who died in office.

No. Portrait Name Took office Left office Time in office Ref
Parliamentary General-in-Chief Command
1
Sir Thomas Fairfax
Fairfax, ThomasCaptain General
Sir Thomas Fairfax
(1612-1671)
164516504-5 years[4]
2
Oliver Cromwell
Cromwell, OliverCaptain General
Oliver Cromwell
(1599-1658)
165016532-3 years[5]
General-in-Chief Command
1
George Monck, 1st Duke of Albemarle
Monck, GeorgeCaptain General
George Monck, 1st Duke of Albemarle
(1608-1670)
3 August 16603 January 1670 +9 years, 153 days[12]
Position vacant
(3 January 1670 - 30 March 1674)
2
James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth
Scott, JamesGeneral
James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth
(1649-1685)
30 March 16741 December 16795 years, 246 days[13]
Position vacant
(1 December 1679 - 3 June 1690)
3
John Churchill, 1st Earl of Marlborough
Churchill, JohnGeneral
John Churchill, 1st Earl of Marlborough
(1650-1722)
3 June 169030 April 1691331 days[9]
4
Meinhardt Schomberg, 3rd Duke of Schomberg
Schomberg, MeinhardtGeneral
Meinhardt Schomberg, 3rd Duke of Schomberg
(1641-1719)
30 April 169116910 years[10]
Position vacant
(1691 - 24 April 1702)
(3)
John Churchill, 1st Earl of Marlborough
Churchill, JohnGeneral
John Churchill, 1st Earl of Marlborough
(1650-1722)
24 April 170217118-9 years[9][14]
5
James Butler, 2nd Duke of Ormonde
Butler, JamesGeneral
James Butler, 2nd Duke of Ormonde
(1665-1745)
1 January 171117142-3 years[15]
(3)
John Churchill, 1st Earl of Marlborough
Churchill, JohnGeneral
John Churchill, 1st Earl of Marlborough
(1650-1722)
171417227-8 years[1]
Position vacant
(1714 - 1 January 1744)
6
John Dalrymple, 2nd Earl of Stair
Dalrymple, JohnField Marshal
John Dalrymple, 2nd Earl of Stair
(1673-1747)
1 January 174417440 years[16]
7
George Wade
Wade, GeorgeField Marshal
George Wade
(1673-1748)
174417450-1 years[17]
Position vacant
(1745 - 1745)
8
Prince William, Duke of Cumberland
Duke of Cumberland, Prince WilliamGeneral
Prince William, Duke of Cumberland
(1721-1765)
174524 October 175711-12 years[18]
9
John Ligonier, 1st Earl Ligonier
Ligonier, JohnField Marshal
John Ligonier, 1st Earl Ligonier
(1680-1770)
24 October 175717591-2 years[19]
Position vacant
(1759 - 13 August 1766)
10
John Manners, Marquess of Granby
Manners, JohnLieutenant-General
John Manners, Marquess of Granby
(1721-1770)
13 August 176617692-3 years[20]
Position vacant
(1769 - 19 March 1778)
11
Jeffery Amherst, 1st Baron Amherst
Amherst, JeffreyField Marshal
Jeffery Amherst, 1st Baron Amherst
(1717-1797)
19 March 177829 March 17824 years, 10 days[21]
12
Henry Seymour Conway
Conway, HenryField Marshal
Henry Seymour Conway
(1721-1795)
29 March 178221 January 179310 years, 298 days[22]
Commander-in-Chief
1
Jeffery Amherst, 1st Lord Amherst
Amherst, JeffreyField Marshal
Jeffery Amherst, 1st Lord Amherst
(1717-1797)
January 1793February 17952 years, 31 days[23]
2
Prince Frederick, Duke of York
Duke of York, Prince FrederickField Marshal
Prince Frederick, Duke of York
(1763-1827)
3 April 179525 March 180913 years, 356 days[24]
3
Sir David Dundas
Dundas, DavidGeneral
Sir David Dundas
(1735-1820)
180918111-2 years[25]
(2)
Prince Frederick, Duke of York
Duke of York, Prince FrederickField Marshal
Prince Frederick, Duke of York
(1763-1827)
29 May 18115 January 1827 +15 years, 221 days[26]
4
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
Wellesley, ArthurField Marshal
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
(1769-1852)
22 January 182722 January 18281 year, 0 days[27]
5
Rowland Hill, 1st Lord Hill
Hill, RowlandGeneral
Rowland Hill, 1st Lord Hill
(1772-1842)
22 January 182815 August 184214 years, 205 days[28]
(4)
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
Wellesley, ArthurField Marshal
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
(1769-1852)
15 August 184214 September 1852 +10 years, 30 days[29]
6
Henry Hardinge, 1st Viscount Hardinge
Hardinge, HenryField Marshal
Henry Hardinge, 1st Viscount Hardinge
(1785-1856)
28 September 18525 July 18563 years, 281 days[30]
7
Prince George, Duke of Cambridge
Duke of Cambridge, Prince GeorgeField Marshal
Prince George, Duke of Cambridge
(1819-1904)
5 July 18561 November 189539 years, 119 days[31]
8
Garnet Wolseley, 1st Viscount Wolseley
Wolseley, GarnetField Marshal
Garnet Wolseley, 1st Viscount Wolseley
(1833-1913)
1 November 18953 January 19015 years, 63 days[32]
9
Frederick Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts
Roberts, FrederickField Marshal
Frederick Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts
(1832-1914)
3 January 190112 February 19043 years, 40 days[33]

References

  1. ^ a b c d Roper, Michael (1998). The Records of the War Office and Related Departments, 1660-1964. Kew, Surrey: Public Record Office.
  2. ^ Forbes, Major-General A. (1929). A History of the Army Ordnance Service. Volume II: Modern History. London: The Medici Society. pp. 20-21.
  3. ^ Hughes, Matthew; Seligmann, Matthew (1990). Leadership in Conflict: 1914-1918. Barnsley, S. Yorks.: Leo Cooper. p. 249.
  4. ^ a b Lingard, John (1829). A History of England from the First Invasion by the Romans. XI. Baldwin and Cradock. p. 447.
  5. ^ a b c  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Fairfax of Cameron, Thomas Fairfax, 3rd Baron". Encyclopædia Britannica. 10 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 131-132.
  6. ^ Gaunt 1996, p. 155
  7. ^ Journals of the House of Commons, volume eight. London: HM Stationery Office. 1813. p. 847.
  8. ^ Roberts, George (1844). The Life, Progresses and Rebellion of James, Duke of Monmouth. London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans. p. 36.
  9. ^ a b c "John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/5401. Retrieved 2014.
  10. ^ a b "Meinhardt Schomberg, 3rd Duke of Schomberg". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/24825. Retrieved 2014.
  11. ^ a b c Raugh, Harold E. (2004). The Victorians at War, 1815-1914: an Encyclopaedia of British Military History. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO Inc.
  12. ^ Hutton, Ronald (2004). "George Monk". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/18939. Retrieved 2014.
  13. ^ "James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/24879. Retrieved 2014.
  14. ^ "John Churchill, 1st duke of Marlborough". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 2019.
  15. ^ "No. 4948". The London Gazette. 3 January 1711. p. 1.
  16. ^ "John Dalrymple, 2nd Earl of Stair". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/7053. Retrieved 2014.
  17. ^ Heathcote 1999, p. 286
  18. ^ Speck, W. A. (2004). "Prince William, Duke of Cumberland". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/29455. Retrieved 2014.
  19. ^ Heathcote 1999, p. 203
  20. ^ Massie, Alastair W. (2004). "John Manners, Marquess of Granby". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/17958. Retrieved 2014.
  21. ^ Heathcote 1999, p. 25
  22. ^ Heathcote 1999, p. 94
  23. ^ "Jeffery Amherst, 1st Baron Amherst". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/443. Retrieved 2014.
  24. ^ Glover 1963, p. 128
  25. ^ "Sir David Dundas". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/8247. Retrieved 2014.
  26. ^ "No. 16487". The London Gazette. 21 May 1811. p. 940.
  27. ^ "No. 18327". The London Gazette. 23 January 1827. p. 153.
  28. ^ "Rowland Hill". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/13298. Retrieved 2014.
  29. ^ "No. 20130". The London Gazette. 16 August 1842. p. 2217.
  30. ^ "No. 21362". The London Gazette. 28 September 1852. p. 2573.
  31. ^ Heathcote 1999, p. 142
  32. ^ "No. 26676". The London Gazette. 1 November 1895. p. 5923.
  33. ^ "No. 27263". The London Gazette. 4 January 1901. p. 83.

Sources

  • Gaunt, Peter (1996), Oliver Cromwell, Blackwell, ISBN 0-631-18356-6CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Glover, Richard (1963). Peninsular Preparation: The Reform of the British Army 1795-1809. Cambridge University Press.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Heathcote, Tony (1999). The British Field Marshals 1736-1997. Pen & Sword Books Ltd. ISBN 0-85052-696-5.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

External links


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