HMS Prince Albert (1864)

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Career RN Ensign
Name: HMS Prince Albert
Builder: Samuda Brothers, Cubitt Town, London
Laid down: 29 April 1862
Launched: 23 May 1864
Completed: 23 February 1866
Fate: Broken up, 1899
General characteristics
Displacement: 3,687 long tons (3,746 t)
Length: 240 ft (73 m) p/p
Beam: 48 ft 1 in (14.66 m)
Draught: 18 ft 9 in (5.72 m) light
20 ft 6 in (6.25 m) deep load
Propulsion: One-shaft Humphreys & Tennant horizontal
2,130 ihp (1,588 kW)
Sail plan: Fore and aft steadying sail only
Speed: 11.26 knots (12.96 mph; 20.85 km/h)
Complement: 201
Armament: • 4 × 9-inch (229 mm) muzzle-loading rifles
Armour: Belt: 4.5 in (110 mm) amidships, 3.4 in (86 mm) ends
Turrets: 10 in (250 mm) front, 5 in (130 mm) sides and rear
Deck: 0.75–1.2 in (19–30 mm)

HMS Prince Albert was designed and built as a shallow-draught coast-defence ship, and was the first British warship designed to carry her main armament in turrets[1]. The ship was named after Albert, Prince Consort, the late husband of Queen Victoria. At her wish Prince Albert remained on the "active" list until 1899, a total of 33 years, by which time she had long ceased to be of any military value.


The Board of Admiralty, in coming to decisions on the structure and dimensions of this ship, were faced with conflicting demands for stability, armour, gun-power, rig, speed and range. Captain Cowper Coles, a long-time advocate of turret-mounted armament, had produced a proposal in 1859 which, while not being accepted as produced, formed the basis for the design concept of Prince Albert.

Freeboard was fixed at 7 feet (2.1 m) to ensure adequate stability, while affording the armament a command at least comparable to that obtained in contemporary broadside ironclads. The armament was disposed in four armoured turrets, each containing one heavy gun and each on the centre-line. The guns carried were the heaviest and most powerful available at the time, the 9-inch (230 mm) calibre muzzle-loading rifle. The absence of a poop and forecastle limited the activity of the ship in rough weather, but allowed end-on fire over the bow and stern from the after and foremost turrets.

Unlike the turrets in the contemporary American monitors, the turrets were rotated by hand-powered rack-and-pinion; eighteen men could turn a turret through 360 degrees in about a minute.

Service history

Prince Albert was commissioned at Portsmouth and was almost immediately withdrawn from service for trials and alterations, which lasted until 1867. She passed thereafter into the first division, Devonport Reserve. She formed part of the Particular Service Squadron formed in August 1878, after which she remained in reserve. She was re-commissioned for the Jubilee Review in 1887 and took part in naval manoeuvres in 1889. Prince Albert was relegated to Dockyard Reserve in 1898.


  1. The first completed turret ship was HMS Royal Sovereign, converted from a ship-of-a-line and commissioned in 1864.


  • Oscar Parkes British Battleships ISBN 0-85052-604-3
  • Conway All the World's Fighting Ships ISBN 0-85177-133-5