The brainchild of famous warship designer Sir William White, the Royal Sovereigns set new standards for firepower, armour and speed. The main armament of four 343mm guns was housed in two barbettes, rather than turrets, at either end of the ship. The choice of barbettes permitted a high freeboard for seaworthiness, one of the outstanding features of the design. An enhanced secondary armament of ten 152mm quick firing guns was adopted, mounted along the sides of the ship. The increasing power of such weapons made them more important in battle than larger guns with a slower rate of fire.
The main armour belt extended over two-thirds the length of the ship and was longer and deeper than in previous battleships, while the lighter armour above the belt was based on tests conducted on the old ironclad Resistance. Despite the larger hull, speed was increased to a maximum of 17½ knots making them the fastest capital ships afloat.
When the 14,150-ton Royal Sovereign was completed in 1892, she was the largest warship in the world. In delivering ships of unparalleled fighting efficiency, White dispelled the notion that guns and torpedoes were more effective in defence than attack and confirmed the pivotal role of the battleship.
During her career Royal Sovereign served in the Channel Squadron and the Mediterranean Fleet. Since a large number of the class were built, the Royal Sovereigns operated in uniform squadrons greatly increasing their effectiveness. This had not been possible with capital ships since the age of sail, because of the variety of types during the ironclad era. Placed in reserve in 1907, Royal Sovereign was paid off into the Material Reserve in 1909. She was sold for scrap on the eve of the First World War.
Length 410 feet 6 inches overall, beam 75 feet, draught 28 feet, displacement 14,262 load 14,860 tons deep..
2 shaft Vertical Triple Expansion, 9,000 ihp, 16kts
18-14in belt, 17-11in barbettes, 3-2.5in decks.
4 x 13.5in 30 cal BL (2 x 2), 10 x 6in 40 cal QF (12 x 1), 16 x 6pounder QF (16 x 1), 12 x 3pounder (12 x 1), 7 x 18in TT