Robert R. Rea


The naming of ships, like the naming of babies, may depend upon the most whimsical of circumstances, yet in both instances some significance is apt to lie behind the name. Just as the adoption of a long-hallowed family name displays a pride of ancestry, the attachment of a place-name to a ship reflects a certain territorial pride. So it was with the great battleships of the United States Navy that bore such names as Florida and Alabama — the latter now enshrined in Mobile Bay. It is a matter of considerable historical curiosity, however, to find the name of Florida among the ships of Great Britain’s navy. Territorially, the connection between Britain and Florida was brief, 1763-1783, but that was time enough to christen a number of His Majesty’s ships Florida, and just as the memory of a British Florida remained alive in the minds of ambitious empire-builders, so the Royal Navy retained the name until that much-contested land was clearly destined to become a part of the United States. Directly or indirectly, each of these British Floridas played a part in Florida’s history. An account of the Royal Navy Floridas is, therefore, both an essay in British naval history and in the international aspects of Florida history.