What is the Lord High Admiral of Scotland?

The Lord High Admiral of Scotland was one of the Great Officers of State of the Kingdom of Scotland before the Union with England in 1707.

The office was one of considerable power, also known as Royal Scottish Admiralty, including command of the King’s ships and sailors and inspection of all sea ports, harbours, and sea coasts. The Admiral appointed judges to decide causes relating to maritime affairs, including both civil and criminal jurisdiction, and jurisdiction over creeks, fresh and navigable waterways. The duties were exercised through Vice-Admirals and Admirals-Depute, later called Judge Admirals.

Apart from occasional earlier references,[clarification needed] the office seems to have originated in the early 15th century and was once held by Sir Robert Logan of Grugar, later also of Restalrig and the Earls of Bothwell and the Dukes of Lennox. It was one of the heritable offices that Charles II gave to his illegitimate son Charles Lennox, 1st Duke of Richmond and Lennox.

The earliest surviving records of the Scottish High Court of Admiralty date from 1557, convened under the authority of the Earl of Bothwell, in Edinburgh or Leith. Although all maritime causes in Scotland below a river’s first bridge were in its view, it was inferior to the Court of Session, and its authority was contested by the Court of Justiciary in criminal matters. The Court was formally to be held, fenced, within the sea-flood and wherever it was actually held the Admiral would declare that to be the case. The judges were Bothwell’s two vice-admirals, men otherwise unknown who were almost certainly professional lawyers rather than mariners.

By the Act of Union 1707 all admiralty jurisdictions were placed under the Lord High Admiral of Great Britain or Commissioners of the Admiralty. Nevertheless, the Vice-Admiral of Scotland who received his commission from the Crown continued to appoint the Judge Admiral (until 1782) and Admirals-depute and to rank as an Officer of the Crown.

The Public Offices (Scotland) Act 1817 provided that no person thereafter appointed as Vice Admiral should receive a salary. The Admiralty Court in Edinburgh was abolished in 1830 and the Court of Session granted subject-matter jurisdiction.


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