HMS Vengeance was laid down by Vickers at Barrow-in-Furness on 23 August 1898 and launched on 25 July 1899. Her completion was delayed by damage to the fitting-out dock, and she was not completed until April 1902. She was the first British battleship completely built, armed, and engined by a single company.
Vengeance and her five sister ships were designed for service in the Far East, where the new rising power Japan was beginning to build a powerful and dangerous navy, and to able to transit the Suez Canal. They were designed to be smaller (by about 2,000 tons), lighter, and faster than their predecessors, the Majestic-class battleships, although they were slightly longer at 430 feet (131 m). In order to save weight, Vengeance and her sisters carried less armor than the Majestics, although the change from Harvey armor in the Majestics to Krupp armor in Vengeance meant that the loss in protection was not as great as it might have been, Krupp armor having greater protective value at a given weight than its Harvey equivalent. Still, her armor was light enough to make her almost a second-class battleship. Part of her armor scheme included the use of a special 1-inch (2.54 mm) armored deck over the belt to defend against plunging fire by howitzers that France reportedly planned to install on its ships, although this report proved to be false.
Vengeance had four 12-inch (305-mm) 35-caliber guns mounted in twin turrets fore and aft; these guns were mounted in circular barbettes that allowed all-around loading. Unlike any of her sisters, whose guns could be loaded only at a fixed elevation, Vengeance had an improved mounting that also allowed loading at any elevation; her turret gunhouses also differed from those of her sisters in being Krupp-armored and flat-sided, Krupp armor plates being difficult to curve. Vengeance also mounted twelve 6-inch (152-mm) 40-caliber guns (sponson mounting allowing some of them to fire fore and aft) in addition to smaller guns, and four 18-inch (457-mm) submerged torpedo tubes.
Vengeance and the other Canopus-class ships were the first British battleships with water-tube boilers, which generated more power at less expense in weight compared with the cylindrical boilers used in previous ships. The new boilers led to the adoption of fore-and-aft funnels, rather than the side-by-side funnel arrangement used in may previous British battleships. The Canopus-class ships proved to be good steamers, consuming 10 tons of coal per hour at full speed, with a high speed for battleships of their time, a full two knots faster than the Majestics.
HMS Vengeance commissioned on 8 April 1902 at Portsmouth for service with the Mediterranean Fleet. In July 1903 she transferred to the China Station to relieve her sister ship Goliath, and underwent a refit at Hong Kong 1903-1904.
In 1905, the United Kingdom and Japan ratified a treaty of alliance, reducing the need for a large Royal Navy presence on the China Station and prompting a recall of all battleships from the station. Vengeance was recalled on 1 June 1905 and proceeded to Singapore, where she and her sister ship Albion rendezvoused with their sister ship Ocean and battleship Centurion. The four battleships departed Singapore on 20 June 1905 and steamed home in company, arriving at Plymouth on 2 August 1905. Vengeance paid off into the Devonport Reserve on 23 August 1905, and underwent a refit that lasted into 1906 during which her machinery was repaired.
On 15 May 1906, Vengeance commissioned for service in the Channel Fleet. She transferred to the Home Fleet on 6 May 1908, and on 13 June 1908 was damaged in a collision with the merchant ship SS Begore Head at Portsmouth. She moved to the Nore Division, Home Fleet, at the Nore in February 1909, where she became a parent ship to special service vessels, and grounded in the Thames Estuary on 28 February 1909 without damage. In April 1909, she became tender to the Chatham Dockyard gunnery school, where she acted as a gunnery drill ship.
On 29 November 1910, Vengeance suffered another mishap when she collided in fog with merchant ship SS Biter, suffering damage to her side, net shelf, and net booms. Vengeance then served in the 6th Battle Squadron based at Portland, then became a gunnery training ship at the Nore in January 1913.
On the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, Vengeance was assigned to the 8th Battle Squadron, Channel Fleet, for patrol duties in the English Channel and Atlantic transferring to the 7th Battle Squadron on 15 August 1914 to relieve battleship Prince George as flagship. She covered the landing of the Plymouth Marine Battalion at Ostend, Belgium, on 25 August 1914.
In November 1914 she transferred to West Africa for operations, against German Kamerun, then to Egypt to relieve armored cruisers Black Prince and Warrior as guard ship at Alexandria, then moved on to the Cape Verde-Canary Islands Station to relieve Albion as guard ship at Saint Vincent.
On 22 January 1915, Vengeance was selected to take part in the Dardanelles campaign. She stopped at Gibraltar that month to embark Admiral John de Robeck and become second flagship of the Dardanelles squadron, and arrived at the Dardanelles in February 1915.
Vengeance participated in the opening bombardment of the Ottoman Turkish entrance forts on 18 February and 19 February 1915, suffering some damage to her masts and rigging thanks to gunfire from the forts. She also took part in the main attack on the Narrows forts on 18 March 1915, supporting the main landings at Cape Helles in the Morto Bay area on 25 April 1915, and supported the ground troops during the Turkish attack on Allied positions at Anzac Cove on 19 May 1915. A submarine attacked her on 25 May 1915 without success.
By July 1915, Vengeance had boiler defects that prevented her from continuing combat operations, and she returned to the United Kingdom and paid off that month. She was under refit at Devonport until December 1915.
Vengeance recommissioned in December 1915 and left Devonport on 30 December 1915 for a deployment to The Cape and East Africa. While there, she supported operations leading to the capture of Dar es Salaam in 1916.
In February 1917, Vengeance returned to the United Kingdom and paid off. She was laid up until February 1918, when she recommissioned for use in experiments with anti-flash equipment for the fleet's guns. She completed these in April 1918, and then was partially disarmed, with four 6-inch (152-mm) main-deck casemate guns removed and four 6-inch (152-mm) guns being installed in open shields on the battery deck. She then became an ammunition store ship in May 1918.
Vengeance was placed on the sale list at Devonport on 9 July 1920, and was sold for scrapping on 1 December 1921. She had an eventful trip to the scrapyard. After she departed Devonport under tow on 27 December 1921 en route Dover, her tow rope parted in the English Channel on 29 December 1921. French tugs located her and towed her Cherbourg, France. From there she was towed to Dover, where she finally arrived for scrapping on 9 January 1922.