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Members of the "working classes", however skilled, rarely made it to the officer ranks in the military, or management offices in the civil and commercial sectors.

It seems that in the Royal Navy they did have a problem of 'gentlemen and tarpaulins', where men coming from the commercial fleet ('tarpaulins', usually pressed to service during war) were better seamen and commanders than those of proper birth.

It was considered an obsolete problem by the early 18th century, when commissions required a proof of skill and a service in a lower rank. So, even if you were a gentleman, you had to join the Royal Navy as a young boy - a midshipman - and process trough the ranks. Provided you had the ability for sea and a patronage of an elder officer, who put your name forward at the right time.

Patronage would, of course, allow people to prefer relatives and peers, but since in the higher ranks career progress depended also on the whims of the Whitehall, people tried to bet on those most likely to progress into the level where they could return the support and loyalty.

Therefore, one of the tasks of a ship's captain was to make sure that the young officers learned to behave like gentlemen regardless of their background. They might end up as vice-admirals, after all.

by pelgus on Sun Nov 24th, 2019 at 12:01:08 PM EST
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