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Sir Henry Hardinge, first Viscount Hardinge of Lahore (1785-1856)

This article was written by Henry Manners Chichester and was published in 1890

Sir Henry Hardinge, field-marshal, born at Wrotham, Kent, on 30 March 1785, was third son of Henry Hardinge, rector of Stanhope, Durham (a living then worth £5,000 a year), by his wife Frances, daughter of James Best of Park House, Boxley, Kent. Nicholas Hardinge was his grandfather. His brothers were Charles, rector of Tunbridge, Kent, who succeeded his uncle Richard in the family baronetcy; Richard, a major-general, K.H., who served with the royal artillery in the Peninsula, and was aide-de-camp to his brother in the Waterloo campaign; and Captain George Nicholas.

Henry was gazetted in July 1799 to an ensigncy in the queen's rangers, a small corps in Upper Canada, his commission dating from 8 October 1798. He purchased a lieutenancy in the 4th foot on 25 March 1802, and was at once placed on half-pay. He was brought on full pay in the 1st Royals in 1803; exchanged to the 47th foot, and became captain by purchase in the 57th foot on 7 April 1804. Hardinge joined the senior department of the Royal Military College, then at High Wycombe, on 7 February 1806, and left, after passing his examination, on 30 November 1807. He was appointed deputy assistant quartermaster-general of a force under General Brent Spencer, which left Portsmouth in December 1807. This force visited Ceuta and Gibraltar, made a prolonged stay at Cadiz, and joined Sir Arthur Wellesley in Portugal in time to take part in the actions at Roliça and Vimeira.

In the latter engagement Hardinge was wounded, but was able to take part in the retreat to and battle of Corunna the year after, and was beside Sir John Moore when that officer received his fatal wound. Hardinge's activity during the embarkation next morning attracted the attention of General William Carr Beresford, who commanded the rear-guard, and probably led to his appointment to the Portuguese staff soon after. On 13 April 1809 he was promoted to major on particular service in Portugal, and became lieutenant-colonel on 30 May 1811. As deputy quartermaster-general of the Portuguese army — of which Benjamin d'Urban was quartermaster-general — Hardinge was present at the operations on the Douro, at Busaco, and at Albuera (22 May 1811). Napier credited him with having changed the fortune of the day at Albuera. The victory was finally achieved by a charge of the fusilier brigade under Sir Galbraith Lowry Cole, and Napier, in the original edition of his ‘History of the War’, amplifying a report by D'Urban, which Hardinge pointed out to him, asserted that Hardinge, on his own responsibility, had ‘boldly ordered’ Cole's advance, by which the day was won. When Napier repeated the statement in his sixth volume (1840), letters written on behalf of Cole stated that, though Beresford, who was in chief command, gave no orders at all, Cole had made up his mind to charge before Hardinge approached him on the subject. Hardinge adhered to the opinion that the movement was due to his urgent pressure on Cole. Napier, in the later edition of his history and elsewhere, described Hardinge as having strongly urged, instead of having ordered, Cole to advance.

Hardinge, whose name is misspelt ‘Harding’ in the lists of the Portuguese staff in the ‘Army Lists’ of that period, also served at the first and second sieges of Badajoz, at Salamanca, and at Vittoria, where he was severely wounded. He was present at the blockade of Pampeluna and in the fighting in the Pyrenees, and commanded a Portuguese brigade at the storming of the heights of Palais, near Bayonne, in February 1814. He received the gold cross and five clasps for Douro, Albuera, Badajoz, Salamanca, Vittoria, Pyrenees, Nivelle, Nive, and Orthez, and in after years the Peninsular medal, with additional clasps for Roliça, Vimeira, Corunna, Ciudad Rodrigo, and Toulouse. He was promoted from the Portuguese staff to be lieutenant-colonel, without purchase, in the 40th foot on 12 April 1814, and on 25 July following was transferred as captain and lieutenant-colonel to the 1st foot-guards, now Grenadier guards, in which corps he remained until 1827. On 2 January 1815 he was made K.C.B.

Hardinge's abilities were soon recognised by Wellington. In the early days at Torres Vedras Wellington's letters to Beresford contain reiterated requests to send to headquarters ‘Hardinge or some other staff-officer who has intelligence, to whom I can talk about the concerns of the Portuguese army’. On the receipt of the news of Napoleon's return from Elba, Wellington, then at Vienna, instructed Hardinge, who was on leave from his battalion in Flanders, to obtain a passport from Prince Talleyrand, and place himself as near Napoleon as possible to report his movements. A month later, on Wellington's arrival in Brussels early in April 1815, Hardinge was sent to the headquarters of General Gneisenau, the Prussian chief of the staff, at Liège, to smooth matters there. Hardinge was confirmed in the appointment of British military commissioner at Blücher's headquarters, with the local rank of brigadier-general. He appears to have been offered the separate command of the Saxon troops, who were giving the Prussians much trouble. When in attendance on Blücher at Ligny during the battle of Quatre Bras on the afternoon of 16 June 1815, a stone, driven up by a cannon-ball, shattered his left hand so severely as to necessitate amputation at the wrist. Improper treatment of the wound, and the necessity of retiring with the Prussians on the 17th to avoid falling into the hands of the French, caused intense suffering, but Hardinge recovered sufficiently to resume his post with Blücher in Paris a fortnight later. On 24 February 1816 Hardinge was appointed an assistant quartermaster-general on the British staff, but remained as military commissioner at the headquarters of General Ziethen, commanding the Prussian contingent of the army of occupation, until the withdrawal of the allied troops from France in November 1818. At a grand review of the Prussians, held before the Duke of Wellington at Sedan, Hardinge was invested with the Prussian order of Military Merit, and received a sword of honour from Wellington.

Hardinge was returned to parliament for the city of Durham in the tory interest in 1820, and later in the same year was made an honorary D.C.L. at Oxford. He became colonel by brevet on 19 July 1821.

Hardinge was appointed clerk of the ordnance by the Duke of Wellington when master-general in 1823, and was again returned to parliament for Durham in 1826. After Wellington became prime minister, in January 1828, Hardinge, who had retired from the guards on half-pay on 27 April 1827, and who was at first proposed by the duke for Irish secretary, was appointed secretary at war, and held the post from July 1828 to July 1830. It was during this period he acted as second to the duke in his duel with Lord Winchilsea. Hardinge was Irish secretary from July to November 1830. He became a major-general on 22 July 1830. He was returned for the borough of Newport, Cornwall, at the elections of 1830 and 1831, and for Launceston in 1834, which borough he continued to represent until his departure for India. He was Irish secretary again during Sir Robert Peel's brief administration of December 1834 to April 1835.

In official life he is described as plain, straightforward, and just, and an excellent man of business. He was savagely abused by Daniel O'Connell, who called him a ‘one-handed miscreant.’ On Sir Robert Peel returning to office in September 1841 Hardinge again became secretary at war, a post he held until May 1844. At the war office he was popular as a just, upright, and considerate chief. He became a lieutenant-general on 22 Nov. 1841, on the same day as his future commander-in-chief in India, Hugh Gough, but far lower down the roll. In 1843 he was transferred from the colonelcy of the 97th, to which he had been appointed in 1833, to that of his old regiment, the 57th foot, of Albuera fame. In 1844 he was created a G.C.B. (civil division).

Hardinge was sent to India to replace his brother-in-law, Lord Ellenborough, as governor-general. The appointment was made at the suggestion of the Duke of Wellington, and was justified by the result. Few Indian rulers have left a better record. Hardinge, the first governor-general who went out by way of Egypt and the Red Sea, arrived in India 22 July 1844, and set to work with unremitting energy. Within a fortnight of his arrival he had to deal with the question of the prevailing anarchy and misrule in Oude. Shrinking from strong measures at the outset of his career, he confined himself to remonstrances and friendly warnings. A few weeks later he was confronted with the question of punishments in the native army; and, after a careful hearing of both sides, had the courage to annul the order of Lord William Cavendish Bentinck, abolishing corporal punishment in native regiments, although many experienced officers feared that its revival might lead to a general mutiny in the native army, then seething with discontent. He forbade Sunday labour in all government establishments throughout the country. His efforts in the cause of public education were afterwards acknowledged in an address presented to him at his departure, signed by five hundred native gentlemen in Calcutta. To Hardinge belongs the credit of having recognised the military and commercial significance of railways in India, and of having powerfully advocated schemes for their construction in the face of obstacles of every kind. The sod of the first railway (at Bombay) was cut in 1850 under the rule of Dalhousie.

Except some troubles in the South Mahratta country, peace prevailed during the first sixteen months of Hardinge's rule. In view of the disorder prevailing in the Punjaub he quietly augmented the garrisons on the north-west frontier, so that in November 1845 he had doubled the force there, having raised it to thirty thousand men and sixty-eight guns. On 11 December 1845 the Sikh army crossed the Sutlej, wherewith commenced the most important episode in Hardinge's administration — the first Sikh war. Waiving the right to the supreme command, which had been exercised by Cornwallis and Hastings, Hardinge offered to serve under Gough as second in command. It was a magnanimous act, and probably afforded the readiest solution of a delicate question, although it has been held that the objections to the arrangement outweighed the advantages. On 18 December Sir Hugh Gough defeated the Sikhs at Mudki with the loss of several thousand men and seventeen guns. As second in command Hardinge led the centre at Ferozshah on 21 December; he bivouacked with the troops, under fire, on the field, and commanded the left wing of the army in the long and bloody conflict of the morrow, which resulted in the withdrawal of the Sikhs behind the Sutlej. In the same capacity he was present when the Sikh entrenched camp at Sobraon was stormed, with heavy loss, on 10 February 1846. Three months after the commencement of the war the terms of peace were dictated to the Sikh durbar in Lahore. The autonomy of the Sikh nation, such as it was, was to be preserved; the Sikh army was to be reduced in numbers; its guns were to remain in the hands of the victors; certain portions of territory were to be annexed to the company's dominions; and a British resident (Henry Lawrence), with ten thousand men at his back, was established in Lahore. The arrangement was admittedly an experiment, but the force at Hardinge's disposal was not sufficient to justify annexation of the whole country.

The news of the British successes created a great impression at home. Hardinge received the thanks of parliament, and was raised to the peerage of the United Kingdom under the title of Viscount Hardinge of Lahore and of Durham, with a pension of £3,000 a year for his own and two succeeding lives. The East India Company gave him a pension of £5,000 a year.

Economy was paramount after the Sikh war, but many useful public measures were adopted, such as the works of the Ganges canal, planned under the Auckland administration; the establishment of the college at Roorkee for training civil engineers, European and native; the introduction of tea-culture; the preservation of native monuments of antique art, and others more fully developed in after years. A vigorous effort was made to suppress piracy in Malayan waters. In native states Hardinge used his influence to abolish suttee, female infanticide, and other practices already banished from the presidencies. The sepoys, whom Hardinge was wont to liken to the Portuguese soldiers, found in him a good friend. He increased the scale of native pensions for wounds received in action. Nor was he forgetful of the European troops. With him originated the practice of carrying the kits at the public expense in all movements of troops. He established the first sanitarium in the hills at Darjeeling, and aided Lawrence in the establishment of the asylum for soldiers' children at Kussaulie. He exercised a wise discernment in the choice of officers, both civil and military.

After three years in India Hardinge retired at his own request, and Lord Dalhousie relieved him on 12 January 1848. He quitted India in a time of profound peace. He was wrong in his anticipation that ‘it would not be necessary to fire a gun again there for seven years to come.’ But his sterling common sense and painstaking hard work undoubtedly strengthened the position of the English in India.

In August 1848 Hardinge was one of the two extra general officers selected for special service in Ireland under Sir Edward Blakeney. His services were not put in requisition. Greville, with some other apocryphal statements, asserts that the appointment was made by the queen and Lord John Russell without consulting the Duke of Wellington, who was consequently displeased (Greville Memoirs). In 1852 Hardinge was made master-general of the ordnance. On the death of the Duke of Wellington later in the year, Hardinge, still a lieutenant-general (he became a full general in 1854), succeeded at the Horse Guards with the local rank of general and the title of general commanding in chief the forces. His tenure of this high office proved the least satisfactory episode in his career. At the ordnance he increased the number of guns available for field service; at the Horse Guards he improved infantry small-arms, and attempted to bring troops together for purposes of instruction. But age was telling on him, and a feeling of loyalty to his departed chief rendered him unwilling to disturb routine arrangements that had been sanctioned by Wellington. When, in 1854, the Crimean war began, the manifest want of preparation on the part of the military authorities led to disasters for which Hardinge was blamed by public opinion with perhaps more severity than he personally deserved.

Hardinge was raised to the rank of field-marshal on 2 October 1855. Soon after the declaration of peace in the following year, when attending the queen at Aldershot to present the report of the Chelsea Board of Crimean Inquiry, he was stricken with paralysis. He rallied a little, but was unable to retain his post, in which he was succeeded by the Duke of Cambridge on 15 July 1856. He died at his seat, South Park, near Tunbridge Wells, on 24 September 1856, in his seventy-second year. He was buried in the little neighbouring church of Fordcombe, of which he laid the foundation-stone on his return from India, and which was mainly built at his cost.

On 10 December 1821 he married Lady Emily Jane James (née Stewart), half-sister of the second Marquis of Londonderry (Lord Castlereagh) and of the third marquis, and widow of John James, who died British minister-plenipotentiary to the Netherlands in 1818. Lady Hardinge died 17 October 1865, leaving two sons and two daughters. The elder son, Charles Stewart, second viscount (1822-1894), was for some time his father's private secretary, and was under-secretary of state for war in Lord Derby's second administration, 1858-9; he was succeeded on his death, 28 July 1894, by his son Henry Charles, third viscount, who was born in 1857 and married, in 1891, Frances, daughter of the Rev. Ralph Nevill. The younger son was General Sir Arthur Edward Hardinge (1828-1892).

Hardinge had the foreign decorations of the Tower and Sword in Portugal, the Red Eagle in Prussia, St. George in Russia, and William the Lion in the Netherlands.

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