The History of the Royal Navy can be traced back to before the ninth century AD. However, the present Royal Navy was formally created as the national naval force of the Kingdom of England in 1660, following the Restoration of King Charles II to the throne. In 1707 it became the naval force of the Kingdom of Great Britain after the Union between England and Scotland which merged the English Navy with the much smaller Royal Scots Navy, although the two had begun operating together from the time of the Union of the Crowns in 1603.
The English Navy had no defined moment of formation; it started out as a motley assortment of "King's ships" during the Middle Ages assembled only as needed and then dispersed, began to take shape as a standing navy during the 16th century, and became a regular establishment during the tumults of the 17th century. The Navy grew considerably during the global struggle with France that started in 1690 and culminated in the Napoleonic Wars, a time when the practice of fighting under sail was developed to its highest point.
The ensuing century of general peace saw considerable technological development, with sail yielding to steam and cannon supplanted by large shell-firing guns, and ending with the race to construct bigger and better battleships. That race, however, was ultimately a dead end, as aircraft carriers and submarines came to the fore and, after the successes of World War II, the Royal Navy yielded its formerly preeminent place to the United States Navy. The Royal Navy has remained one of the world's most capable navies, however, and currently operates a large fleet of modern ships.