Perhaps the earliest lineal predecessor of the modern Marine Corps was the creation and evolution of marines dating back to the European naval wars, during the Second Hundred Years' War (1689–1815) of the 17th and 18th century, particularly the Second Anglo-Dutch War (1665–67). The monarchies of Netherlands, France, Spain, and England all contended with each other in control over territorial water, which would increase naval organization and stability. James II of England, the brother of King Charles II, was confirmed as Lord High Admiral, an office that has authoritative responsibility over the British Crown's Navy. The position at this time was exercised by a single person, usually an Admiral to oversee the structure and institution of naval affairs. As France and the Netherlands were opting to train seamen for infantry combat, England instead in 1664 formed a special regiment, the Duke of York and Albany's Maritime Regiment of Foot, or also known as the "Lord High Admiral's Regiment", the progenitors of the modern Royal Marines. This maritime infantry regiment was directed to be under the complete control of the Admiralty. The Lord High Admiral's Regiment saw action in the Franco-Dutch War (1672–1678), and the Third Anglo-Dutch War (1672–74). However, due to the Glorious Revolution of 1688, King James II was overthrown by British Parliament, leading to the disbandment of the regiment.
Two years later, two new regiments were formed, the 1st and 2nd Regiment of [Royal] Marines, their functions assumed the same roles as the subsequent marine regiments in the past; however the ensuing wars of the Second Hundred Years' War, like the Royal Navy, the marine regiment would quickly dissolve only to be reassembled during the events of war. The general military service type of "marines" first appeared throughout the Dutch and French wars, but the majority of the marine infantry regiments were perpetually drawn from the British Army; all the regiments had little permanence.
By 1702, the British government assembled six maritime regiments of foot for combative naval service with the fleet against Spain, during the War of the Spanish Succession (1702–1714). But unlike the earlier campaigns from previous regiments of the past, in which the earlier British marines had fought as detachments aboard ships; in 1704, these marines found themselves fighting ashore the beaches of Gibraltar and Spain as part of an amphibious assault landing force, with the help of Dutch forces under the command of Prince George of Hesse-Darmstadt. By the time the war ended, once again the marine regiments were disbanded, or returned to fill the ranks of the British Army.
Twenty-five years later in 1731, an incident involving master mariner Robert Jenkins, an English captain of a British merchant ship whom allegedly had his ear severed by Spanish coast guardsmen off the coast of New Granada (modern countries of Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Panama), initiating the War of Jenkins' Ear (1739–1742). This affair and a number of similar incidents sparked a war against the Spanish Empire. Meanwhile, two companies of Marine Boatmen drawn from the Georgia Militia, commanded by Captains Mark Carr and Noble Jones under General James Oglethorpe, helped in defeating an amphibious landing attempted by the Spanish on St. Simons Island in the Battle of Gully Hole Creek and the Battle of Bloody Marsh.
The British government formed ten regiments of marines for a naval campaign against the Spanish colonies in the West Indies and north coast of South America. Admiral Edward Vernon, a British naval officer, was given command of a squadron of five vessels. And again, most of the marines were drafted from the British Army. The British Admiralty requested that its American colonies form a regiment of three thousand men for naval service aboard Admiral Edward Vernon's fleet. Edward Vernon can be considered by many military history enthusiasts the first naval fleet commander over American marines. The American colonial marines were raised in the colony of Virginia and from other Middle Colonies, under the command of Governor William Gooch. Although it may have been composed of men from surrounding colonies intent for a Crown commission, it was also used as a dumping ground for its debtors, criminals, scoundrels, and vagrants. This "four-battalion" regiment, the 43rd Regiment of Foot, better known as "Gooch's Marines", has a lineage that can be traced to the origin of the United States Marine Corps.
On 21 November 1739, Admiral Vernon, along with Sir Gooch and his marines, headed toward the West Indies and successfully captured the Spanish colonial possession of Portobelo (present-day Panama). However, because of the conditions of its service—thinned by diseases, bad weather, and a near-mutinous crew— the regiment had only three hundred of its most trustworthy men serve ashore in Vernon's unsuccessful deadly amphibious assault against the strategic defenses on the colonial seaport of Cartagena, forcing a retreat to Jamaica. As a successful method in social purification, the only remaining 10-percent survived the disastrous Cartegena expedition. Thereafter, Vernon's fleet returned to the United Kingdom of Great Britain toward the end of 1742. Like their British components, the colonial marines disbanded as a regiment. One of the regiment's surviving officers, marine captain Lawrence Washington, a half-brother of George Washington, served aboard Admiral Vernon's flagship HMS Princess Caroline. The future patriot General George Washington later named his estate Mount Vernon in honor of his half-brother's commander.
Time again, the recall of reforming maritime regiments was in need when the War of Jenkins' Ear had escalated into the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–1748), which brought another set of ten British marine regiments into naval service. The remaining independent companies within the British marine regiments merged with another regiment in 1746; by the end of the war it too was dissolved, their officers placed on half pay.
In 1755, British Parliament allowed the marines to be institutionalized on some grounds of permanence as they were insistent in building their own military force, particularly its naval fleet under the Admiralty. Thus, the Corps of Royal Marines was born; over five thousand marines were recruited and were assembled into fifty independent companies, assigned as "divisions" to three large English naval bases.
During the Seven Years' War (1756–1763), also known as the French and Indian War in the colonies, the marines were then appropriately dispersed amongst the Royal navy warships, the Royal Marines played an integral part in successful naval expeditions. These ship detachments soon formed expeditionary battalions that fought ashore Canada, Cuba, and the Philippines. Now being strictly under the control of the Admiralty, the marines were used exclusively for expeditions and raids, becoming so essential to the maritime strategy of Prime Minister William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham. Their primary mission in ship-to-ship combat and ship seizures were to pick off officers with expert musketry, to repel boarders with skilled bayonetry, and to augment as gun crew members when necessary. Also, they played a major part of a ships landing party for operations ashore, raiding naval bases, stores, etc, etc. But during cruising conditions, the marines policed and enforced ship regulations about fires, thievery, and unlawful conduct by sailors, to include prevention and deterrence against a mutinous crew. By the end of the war, the Corps of Royal Marines remained an important force within the Royal Navy. On the eve of the American War of Independence, roughly 4,500 marine officers and enlistees were still in existence. It was the same quantum of traditions by the British marines that influenced the likelihood from the rebelled American colonies in establishing its own legion of [Continental] marines, adopting the same ethics and traditions alike.