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Arthur Herbert

Arthur Herbert, 1st Earl of Torrington (c. 1648 – 13 April 1716) was a British admiral and politician of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century. Cashiered as a rear-admiral by James II of England in 1688 for refusing to vote to repeal the Test Act, which prevented Catholics from holding offices, he brought the Invitation to William to The Haguemarker, disguised as a simple sailor. As a reward he was made commander of William's invasion fleet during the Glorious Revolution.

During the reign of William and Mary, he served as Lord High Admiral (1689) and then First Lord of the Admiralty (1689–1690). Torrington played an important role in the War of the Grand Alliance, commanding the English and Dutch fleets at the Battle of Beachy Headmarker (30 June 1690 O.S), a serious defeat for the allied fleet. He was imprisoned in the Tower of Londonmarker and court-martialled for failing to support the Dutch van squadron against the French, but was acquitted. Nevertheless he lost his position as First Lord of the Admiralty. The stories that Torrington was not a popular commander, because of his reputation of being a drunk and his habit of taking several prostitutes with him to sea, are in fact untrue.

In connection with his 1690 operations against the French, the Earl is credited with being the first to use the expression, 'fleet in being'. Torrington proposed avoiding a set battle, except under very favourable conditions, until the arrival of reinforcements. By maintaining his fleet in being, he would force the French to remain in the area and prevent them from undertaking other operations.


  1. Van Gent, T. (2000), 17 Zeventiende eeuwse admiralen en hun zeeslagen, Plantijn Casparie Hilversum/Koninklijke Vereniging van Marineofficieren, p. 90 see Peter Le Fevre (2000) 'Arthur Herbert Earl of Torrington 1648-1716 'A Fine Man ... Both in Courage and Conduct' in P. Le Fevre & R Harding Precursors of Nelson British Admirals of the Eighteenth Century

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