Born in London, he joined the navy in 1720, but did not see fighting until the Battle of Toulon, 1744. during the War of the Austrian Succession he was promoted to Rear Admiral in 1747 and in the same year captured six ships of a French squadron off La Rochelle. In the Seven Years War, Hawke replaced John Byng as commander in the Mediterranean in 1756 and was appointed an Admiral. Rochefort 1757. April 1758.
He directed the blockade of Brest for six months. Driven off station by a storm the French fleet under Hubert de Brienne, Comte de Conflans, took advantage and left port. On November 20 1759 he traced the French warships to Quiberon Bay and during a gale he won a sufficient victory, combined with Edward Boscawen's success at Lagos Bay, to remove the French invasion threat.
He then retired from active duty, given the honourary rank of Vice-Admiral of Great Britain in November 1765, he was made First Lord of the Admiralty in December 1766 and served until January 1771. He was made a baron in 1776.