Six sailors from HMS Queen Elizabeth, Britain's largest and most powerful aircraft carrier, were reportedly arrested and taken into custody over drunk and disorderly behavior in Jacksonville, Florida, this week.

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Following in the wake of the U.S. Navy, a British warship recently challenged China's excessive claims to the disputed South China Sea, provoking a confrontation with the Chinese military and triggering outrage in Beijing.

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Photo via Associated Press

At the height of the British empire in the 19th century, the Royal Navy was renowned for its military might, a global force that imbued its sailors with a special form of geopolitical pride. A British tar was “a soaring soul, as free as a mountain bird,” according to Victorian rap duo Gilbert and Sullivan. “His energetic fist should be ready to resist a dictatorial word.”

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