ABSTRACT

The factors relating to the foundation of the Royal Naval College Greenwich, and in particular the period from the closure of the buildings as a hospital in 1869 to the admission of the first students in 1873, have not been well understood. Perhaps because of the magnificence of the surroundings, the ancient association of the site with Britain’s maritime heritage and the fact that the College subsequently led a successful existence for more than 125 years, it has been assumed that the original decision to establish at Greenwich was a logical and popular one. The reality was rather different, and the exact conditions of foundation were wrapped in a complex process where political expediency was woven into the proper requirement for change and where the probity of leading politicians, including the First Lord of the Admiralty, George Goschen, and the Prime Minister, William Gladstone, was called into question. This chapter discusses the bona fide process of educational reform and the intrigue and political chicanery that accompanied the foundation of what was envisaged as Britain’s ‘naval university’ and considers its early, somewhat faltering, progress.1