HARDY, Sir Charles (c.1714-80).
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Family and Education
b. c.1714, 2nd s. of V.-Adm. Charles Hardy by Elizabeth, da. of Josiah Burchett, M.P., sec. of the Admiralty. m. (1) July 1749, Mary, da. of Bartholomew Tate of Delapré, Northants., s.p.; (2) 4 Jan. 1759, Catherine, da. of Temple Stanyan, 3s. 2da. Kntd. 20 Apr. 1755.
Capt. R. N. 1741; r.-adm. 1756; v.-adm. 1759; adm. 1770.
Gov. New York 1755-7; gov. Greenwich Hosp. 1771- d.; c.-in-c. Channel fleet 1779-80.
After an unsuccessful expedition to Louisbourg in 1757, Hardy took part in its capture by Boscawen in 1758. In 1759 he was appointed second to Hawke in command of the Channel fleet; served at the battle of Quiberon Bay, and continued under Hawke till the end of the war.
In 1764 Hardy was returned unopposed for Rochester on the recommendation of Lord Halifax.1 He was classed by Rockingham in July 1765 as ‘contra’; voted for the Opposition motion for American papers, 18 Dec. 1765; and in the debate of 18 Feb. 1766 on the repeal of the Stamp Act, gave an account of the illicit trade of America ‘which the merchants and ministry by no means approved’;2 but he does not appear in the lists of those voting against the repeal, 22 Feb. 1766. Hardy voted with Opposition on the land tax, 27 Feb. 1767, and nullum tempus, 17 Feb. 1768. He does not seem to have tried to re-enter Parliament at the general election, but in 1771 was returned unopposed at Plymouth, and henceforth consistently supported North’s Administration.
On 9 Mar. 1779, towards the end of Keppel’s court martial, the King wrote to North that Hardy had ‘been with Lord Sandwich to offer in the most ardent manner his services’ and ‘rather than not serve would resign the government of Greenwich Hospital’;3 and on Keppel’s resignation he took over command of the Channel fleet. He was also offered a seat at the Admiralty Board, but, wrote North to Sandwich, 9 Apr. 1779,4
declines ... unless he can at the same time enjoy the commission of lieutenant-general of marines, as Sir Hugh Palliser did. He said that upon the return of peace he with his large family would feel very sensibly the diminution he would suffer by having exchanged the government of Greenwich Hospital for a seat at the Board of Admiralty. He added that he should be very happy to have both the offices ... I did not offer him the marines, so cannot say whether he would not accept of that employment, but the Admiralty he declined.
Hardy’s appointment as commander-in-chief was used by the Opposition as further ammunition against Sandwich and the Administration, and on 30 Mar. 1779 the Duke of Richmond declared in the House of Lords:5
The nation has lost Lord Howe and Admiral Keppel, the nation in their stead has got Sir Charles Hardy, the governor of Greenwich Hospital, whom they have dragged from his final retreat to the public service. What was the consequence? The whole body of officers was disgusted at so extraordinary arrangement of command.
Sir Charles Hardy had not been at sea for almost twenty years. He was arrived at a period of life little calculated for active service.
Hardy’s own senior captain, Richard Kempenfelt, wrote to his friend Charles Middleton on 6 Aug.:6
We are every day from morning to night plagued with minutiae, whilst the essentials are totally neglected. An odd obstinacy and way of negating everything proposed makes all advice useless. There is a fund of good nature in the man, but not one grain of the commander-in-chief ... My God, what have your great people done by such an appointment?
On the appearance of the combined Spanish and French fleets, superior in numbers to the British, Hardy, according to Charnock,7
prudently resolved to act merely on the defensive instead of risking an encounter, which, if unsuccessful, would have been productive at least of the greatest national alarm, if not actual misfortune. The event, if not glorious, was not unfortunate.
But Hardy was severely criticized, and in the House on 1 Dec. 1779 James Luttrell demanded an inquiry. Hardy, in his only reported speech during this Parliament, replied with a long account of the affair:8
On the whole he could affirm that although he did not force them to action, battle was offered to them, and if they declined it, it might with equal truth be said that the combined fleet fled from the British as the British from the combined fleet.
Hardy struck his flag at the close of the season but was about to resume command when he died on 19 May 1780.