The carrier was built by Harland & Wolff. The design was for a light cruiser and the keel was laid down in May 1915, the hull was launched on April 20, 1916 and the cruiser was commissioned in 1917. She saw little action and design flaws meant that Glorious was placed in the reserve fleet in February 1919. The vessel was converted to a carrier from 1924 and was re-commissioned on March 10, 1930.
The carrier joined the Mediterranean Fleet but with the invasion of Norway in April 1940 she was recalled to home waters. On April 23 she and HMS Ark Royal arrived in Norwegian waters. From June 5 Glorious took part in Operation Alphabet, the evacuation of Allied troops from Norway.
On June 8 the Glorious had taken on board a number of Gloster Gladiators and also Hawker Hurricanes, the first landing of modern aircraft without arrestor hooks on a carrier. Glorious left a larger convoy to proceed independently and while transiting through the Norwegian Sea to return to Scapa Flow the carrier and her two escorts, the destroyers HMS Acasta and HMS Ardent, were intercepted by the German battle-cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. The carrier and her escorts were quickly sunk with the loss of 1,519 men, there were only 41 survivors. The Scharnhorst was badly damaged by torpedo hit and both German vessels took a number of shell hits. The carrier was sunk roughly 170nm west of Harstad.