Hamilton entered the Navy in 1843 and served in the Virago on the Mediterranean Station. From 1850 to 1851 he served in the Assistance and from 1852 to 1854 in the Resolute in the Arctic expeditions searching for Sir John Franklin (q.v.). He was made a lieutenant in 1851. During the Crimean War he served in the Baltic in the Desperate, 1855 to 1856. After this he took part in the Second Chinese War in command of the Haughty, and was promoted to commander in 1857 for his services. In 1858 he commissioned the Hydra for service off the African coast but was sent instead to Halifax, serving on the North American and West Indies Station until 1868. During this time he was promoted to captain, 1862, and commanded the Vesuvius until 1864 and the Sphinx from 1865 to 1868. Hamilton then served in home waters. In 1875 he was appointed Superintendent of Pembroke Dockyard, became a rear-admiral in 1877 and in 1878 was made Director of Naval Ordnance. From 1880 to 1883 he was in command off the Irish coast. He became vice-admiral in 1884 and was Commander-in-Chief, China Station, from 1885 to 1888. He became an admiral in 1887. Hamilton was appointed Second, later First, Sea Lord, 1889 to 1891. From 1891 to 1894 he was President of the Royal Naval College, Greenwich. He retired in 1895 and wrote works on naval administration and historical subjects.
The papers were purchased by Sir Eric Miller and presented to the Museum in 1956. Hamilton's letterbooks, 1865 to 1868 and 1885 to 1887, official papers and correspondence, cover his career in outline and provide detailed information for some periods, notably his time as Commander-in-Chief on the China Station. Among the Arctic papers there are some orders from Sir Edward Belcher (q.v.), Captain Henry Kellett (1806-1875) and Captain Horatio T. Austin (ca.1800-1865). The letters which he received also include some references to his Arctic service but the majority relate to his work at the Admiralty and there are several from Lord George Hamilton (1845-1927), who was instrumental in the passing of the Naval Defence Act of 1889. There is a series of photograph albums and notes made by Hamilton for his articles on naval and historical subjects, as well as some service memoranda.
1829-01-01 - 1912-12-31
Hamilton, Richard Vesey
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Hamilton, Sir Richard Vesey, Admiral, 1829-1912 (VHM)