This three-quarter length portrait shows Richards standing to right. He wears an admiral of the fleet’s full dress uniform, with the ribbon and star of the GCB.
He was the first captain of HMS ‘Devastation’ in 1873, the Navy’s first mastless capital ship, where he remained until 1877. He then became Commodore of the Cape Station and commanded a small Naval Brigade against the Zulus in 1879. As Flag Officer in 1895 he created another brigade to fight in Burma. He is most notable for preparing an important report on naval manoeuvres and requirements in the event of war. This largely prompted the Naval Defence Act of 1889 and revolutionised the navy. Among other things, it laid down the principle that the Navy should be equal to the combined force of any other two Navies. As First Sea Lord from 1893 to 1899 he was able to see the changes carried through. His six years in office marked a period of regeneration and modernisation. He was also the force behind the extensions to the home dockyards and the creation of new ones abroad. The portrait marks the end of Richards’s time as First Sea Lord and is signed and dated ‘A.S Cope 1900’. It was painted by subscription in the fleet and presented to the nation the same year it was given to the Greenwich Hospital Collection.
Where to see this painting?
National Maritime Museum
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