First-rate

From Academic Kids

This is one of six ratings (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th) in the rating system of the Royal Navy.
Missing image
Turner,_A_first-rate_taking_in_stores.jpg
A first-rate taking in stores by J. M. W. Turner (pencil and watercolour, 1818).

First-rate was the designation used by the Royal Navy for its largest ships of the line, those mounting 100 guns or more, typically on three gundecks.

First-rate vessels carried over 850 crew and displaced in excess of 2,000 tons.

In the original rating system from the 1670s, first-rates were ships of exactly 100 guns, but as time passed, ships were built with more guns, and they too were called first-rates.

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Battleship1.jpg
A first-rate from about 1845

Although nominally very powerful, first-rates tended to be slow and invariably expensive to operate. For stability, the lowest gundeck had to be very close to the water, and in anything but calm water the gunports had to be kept closed, rendering the entire deck useless. As a result, the few first-rates were typically reserved as commanding admirals' flagships.

These being the most powerful ships of the navy, it was common to compare them with the navies of other nations, and frequently one sees the largest ships of those navies being referred as first-rates, even though only the Royal Navy used the formal six-step rating system.

The most famous (and only surviving) first-rate is HMS Victory, Admiral Nelson's flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar.




The term first-rate has passed into general usage as an adjective used to mean something of the best or highest quality available.

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