David Beatty, 1st Earl Beatty


David Beatty, 1st Earl Beatty : biography

17 January 1871 – 11 March 1936

Despite further rumours that he would resign, Beatty remained in office when the Conservatives took power in the autumn of 1924.Roskill 1980, pp343-8 Supported by the First Lord of the Admiralty William Bridgeman, he clashed with the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Winston Churchill, once again over the number of cruisers required by the Royal Navy. At this stage of his career Churchill was opposed to what he saw as excessive defence spending. This may seem odd in light of his previous and subsequent reputation, but in the 1920s no major war seemed to be on the horizon.Roskill 1980, pp351-3 Beatty also at this time pressed hard for the return of responsibility for naval aviation from the newly formed Royal Air Force to the Royal Navy.

In 1926 Beatty was considered for the post of Governor General of Canada but was rejected by the Colonial Secretary Leo Amery as he had “no manners and an impossible American wife”.Roskill 1980, pp355

By the time of his retirement from the Royal Navy in July 1927Heathcote, p. 27 a great deal of time was being spent preparing for the Coolidge Conference in Geneva, although Beatty did not himself attend as he had to remain in London to supervise the deployment of naval and marine forces against nationalist unrest in China and Egypt. On his last day in office (30 July) he attended a Cabinet at which Bridgeman reported the breakdown of the Geneva Conference as the Americans refused to accept any gun smaller than 8-inch for their cruisers, and after leaving office he congratulated Bridgeman that the Americans had not been able to achieve “command of the sea at any cost”.Roskill 1980, pp358 Beatty was appointed a member of the Privy Council on 25 July 1927. Stephen Roskill wrote that whilst Beatty and his disciple Chatfield deserve some praise for the Royal Navy’s comparative readiness in 1939, his main achievement was to maintain the morale of the Navy at a time of serious defence cuts. Without his strong leadership events like the Invergordon Mutiny of 1931 might have been seen.Roskill 1980, pp360

Beatty spent much of his life (when not at sea) in Leicestershire, and lived at Brooksby Hall and Dingley Hall. On 11 March 1936 he acted as a pallbearer at the funeral of his old commander Admiral John Jellicoe: he had been advised not to leave his bed, but he went anyway saying, "What will the Navy say if I fail to attend Jellicoe’s funeral?" Later that day he developed a chill and died.

At Beatty’s funeral his coffin was draped in the Union Flag flown by his flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth in 1919. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Cosmo Lang, said “In him something of the spirit of Nelson seemed to have come back”. The Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, called in the House of Commons for a public memorial to Beatty to be erected, but no action was taken until after the Second World War, when busts of Beatty and Jellicoe were unveiled in Trafalgar Square on 21 October (Trafalgar Day) 1948.Roskill 1980, pp368

Beatty had requested in his will that he would like to be buried next to his wife Ethel at Dingley: however he was actually buried at St Paul’s Cathedral and therefore the double grave at Dingley Church only contains his wife’s body.Roskill, p. 366


Honours and awards

(ribbon bar, as it would look today)



  • Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO)-17 November 1896
  • Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (GCB)-31 May 1916 (KCB: 19 June 1914; CB: 19 June 1911)
  • Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO)-25 June 1917 (KCVO: 17 June 1916 Member Fourth Class (present-day Lieutenant)(MVO): 28 April 1905)
  • Member of the Order of Merit (OM)-3 June 1919
  • Earl Beatty, Viscount Borodale of Wexford in the County of Wexford, Baron Beatty of the North Sea and of Brooksby in the County of Leicester-18 October 1919


  • Order of Majid, 4th Class (Nishan-i-Majidieh) of the Ottoman Empire-3 October 1898
  • Order of St George, Fourth Class of the Russian Empire-25 August 1916
  • Grand Officer of the Military Order of Savoy of the Kingdom of Italy-11 August 1917
  • Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun of the Empire of Japan-29 August 1917
  • Grand Cross of the Legion d’Honneur of France-23 May 1919 (Grand Officer-15 September 1916)
  • Croix de Guerre of France-15 February 1919
  • Grand Cross of the Order of the Star of Romania of the Kingdom of Romania-17 March 1919
  • Grand Cross of the Order of the Redeemer of the Kingdom of Greece-21 June 1919
  • Distinguished Service Medal (United States)-16 September 1919
  • Grand Cordon with Brilliants of the Order of the Precious Brilliant Golden Grain of the Republic of China – 22 January 1920
  • Grand Cordon of the Order of the Paulownia Flowers of the Empire of Japan – 20 January 1922