Hardinge, George Nicholas (DNB00)

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HARDINGE, GEORGE NICHOLAS (1781–1808), captain in the royal navy, born 11 April 1781, second son of Henry Hardinge, rector of Stanhope, Durham, and his wife Frances, daughter of James Best of Wrotham, Kent, was grandson of Nicholas Hardinge [q. v.] and elder brother of Henry Hardinge, first viscount Hardinge of Lahore [q. v.] He was early adopted by his uncle, George Hardinge [q. v.], attorney-general to the queen, and was sent to Eton, where he was in the lowest form (Eton School Lists, in which the name is spelt ‘Harding’). In 1793 he entered the navy; was midshipman of the Meleager, 32 guns, Captain Charles Tyler, at Toulon and the reduction of Corsica, and served under the same captain in the prize-frigate San Fiorenzo (late La Minerve), 40 guns. He was also present in the Diomede, 60 guns, in Hotham's action off Hyères and in various operations on the coast of Italy, and afterwards in the Aigle, 38 guns, in which he was wrecked on the Isle of Planes, near Tunis, 18 July 1798. He was in the Foudroyant, 80 guns, Captain Sir Edward Berry, at the capture of Le Guillaume Tell on 30 March 1800, and obtained his lieutenancy on board the Tiger, Commodore Sir Sidney Smith, off Alexandria, during the Egyptian campaign of 1801 (Turkish gold medal). In 1802 he became a master and commander, and in 1803 commanded the Terror bomb off Boulogne. Early in 1804 he was appointed to the Scorpion sloop, 18 guns, in which he highly distinguished himself by the cutting-out of the Dutch brig-corvette Atalante in Vlie Roads, Texel, 31 March 1804. For this gallant action, details of which will be found in James's ‘Naval History,’ iii. 264–6, Hardinge received post rank, and was presented by the committee of Lloyd's with a sword of three hundred guineas value. In August he was posted to the Proselyte, 20 guns, an old collier, and ordered to the West Indies with convoy; but his friends, ‘deprecating the effects of a West Indian climate on his very sanguine habit’ (Nichols, Lit. Illustr. iii. 70), obtained his transfer to the Valorous, which proved unfit for sea. Hardinge next accepted the offer of the Salsette frigate, said to be just off the stocks at Bombay. On his way out he served on shore at the capture of the Cape of Good Hope (where he did not command the marines, as stated by his biographer), and on arrival at Bombay found the Salsette only just laid down. He was promised command of the Pitt frigate (late Salsette), and in the meantime was appointed to the San Fiorenzo frigate, in which he made several short but uneventful cruises. The San Fiorenzo left Colombo to return to Bombay, and on her way on 6 March 1808, when off the south of Ceylon, sighted the famous French cruiser Piedmontaise in pursuit of some Indiamen. A three days' fight followed, in which both ships were handled with great gallantry and skill. Hardinge was killed by a grape-shot on the third day, when, after a well-contested action of 1 hour 20 minutes, the French ship hauled down her colours. Full details of the action are given in James's ‘Naval History,’ iv. 307–11, and a grave misrepresentation of the inferior armament of the English vessel is corrected (p. 311). The captures of the Atalante and Piedmontaise were among the actions for which the war medal was granted to survivors some forty years later. Hardinge, who appears to have been a brave and chivalrous young officer, was buried at Colombo with full military honours, and was voted a public monument in St. Paul's Cathedral, London.

[Foster's Peerage, under ‘Hardinge of Lahore;’ Foster's Baronetage, under ‘Hardinge;’ Nichols's Literary Illustrations, iii. 49–147, where is a very florid biographical notice founded on articles contributed, it is said, by Mr. George Hardinge to the Naval Chronicle (October and November 1808), Gent. Mag. (1808), and European Mag. (February 1810); James's Naval History, vols. i–iv.]

H. M. C.