Sir Charles Hardy
@1714-80. He was born at Portsmouth, the son of Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Hardy who died in 1744, and of his wife, Elizabeth Burchett, the daughter of an M.P. He was the elder brother of John Hardy who commanded the Torrington in 1745-6 and retired as a rear-admiral, and his elder brother Josiah was the governor of New Jersey from 1761-3.
On 4 February 1731 Hardy entered the navy, serving at Newfoundland as a volunteer aboard the Salisbury 50, Captain George Clinton, and on 26 March 1737 he was commissioned lieutenant of the Swallow 60, Captain Thomas Graves. He was subsequently appointed on 16 May 1738 to the Augusta 60, Captain Hon. John Byng, and on 14 September 1739 to the Kent 70, Captain Thomas Durell.
He was promoted commander of the Rupert’s Prize 8 on 9 June 1741, and was posted to the Rye 20 on 10 August, serving off the Carolinas and Georgia prior to this vessel being repaired at Deptford in the summer of 1744. Hardy then joined the Jersey 60, but in February 1745 he was tried for the loss of some merchant ships out of a Newfoundland convoy. He was acquitted, having also apparently spent two months unsuccessfully attempting to reach the station to which he had been appointed commander-in-chief, thereby failing to take up the post. Later in the year he went out to the Mediterranean where he fought the French sail of the line St. Esprit 74 on 26 July for two hours, forcing her to flee, very much cut up, into Cadiz. After escorting the trade to Louisbourg he returned to serve in the Mediterranean during 1746, and he left his command later that year.
From January 1755 to late 1757 he was the governor of New York with his flag on the Nightingale 20, Captain James Campbell, and from June 1757 the Sutherland 50, Captain Edward Falkingham. During this period he was knighted on 20 April 1755 and advanced to the rank of rear-admiral on 4 June 1756. In 1757 he was instructed to co-operate with the army commander-in-chief, General Lord Loudon, in an attack upon Cape Breton, but the insufficient force available, together with the late arrival of reinforcements under Vice-Admiral Francis Holburne to whom he became second-in-command aboard the Invincible 74, Captain John Bentley, allowed the French time to organise a defence. In early 1758 he commanded the blockade of Louisbourg, and he then assisted Admiral Hon. Edward Boscawen at its reduction, transporting the colonial force with his flag aboard the Captain 70, Captain John Amherst, and then transferring during the action to the Royal William 84, Captain Thomas Evans. Thereafter he commanded seven sail of the line in the destruction of French settlements in the area.
From June to October 1759 Hardy flew his flag in the home fleet aboard the Foudroyant 80, Captain Richard Tyrell, and on 20 November he was second-in-command to Admiral Sir Edward Hawke at the Battle of Quiberon Bay with his flag aboard the Union 90, Captain Thomas Evans. He remained under the orders of Hawke in Quiberon Bay and the Bay of Biscay for the remainder of the war, some times commanding the fleet in his superior’s absence. Hardy was promoted vice-admiral on 14 February 1759, and from September to December 1762 flew his flag aboard the Hero 74, Captain Hon. Samuel Barrington.
He served as M.P for Rochester from 1764-8, and was promoted admiral on 18 October 1770. In July 1771 he was appointed governor of Greenwich Hospital in succession to Admiral Holburne, and from 1771 -1780 was the M.P for Plymouth as a supporter of the government.
In March 1779, despite the fact that he was not in good health, Hardy was recalled from his post at Greenwich to become the commander-in-chief of the Channel fleet with his flag aboard the Victory 100, Captain Henry Collins. The curious return to active employment arose through the refusal of younger and worthier officers to serve the incumbent administration. At the time Hardy had not been to sea for sixteen years and had never enjoyed the position of a commander-in-chief. To assist him the Admiralty appointed the brilliant Captain Richard Kempenfelt as his captain of the fleet.
On 9 July a royal proclamation was issued warning the country to face invasion from the Franco/Spanish allies, and throughout August Hardy, with never more than forty-six ships, found himself opposed to an enemy of nearly seventy that was looking to clear the Channel for an invasion by an allied army assembling at Havre and St Malo. On the 16th, whilst the allies were parading off Plymouth, Hardy settled for a defensive position off the Scilly Isles. Eight days later the allies were forced out of the Channel by the weather, and Hardy was able to avoid giving battle and retreat to Spithead on 3 September. At this time the allied fleet was the subject of much sickness and disrepair, and there was some conjecture as to whether Hardy was wrong in not offering them a battle. The populace watching the manoeuvres from the shore were particularly upset that he did not allow an engagement, and some of the seamen in the fleet went so far as to shield the eyes of their ship’s figurehead from the perceived disgrace. What could not be disputed was that Hardy had displayed a great strength of character in refusing to be coerced into an action, and that he had eventually seen the allied plans of invasion brought to nought.
Hardy was never to have another opportunity of fighting an action, for on 18 May 1780, having retired for the winter but hoisted his flag aboard the Victory the day before, he was struck dead by an apoplectic fit.
He was married twice, firstly in July 1749 to Mary Tate of Northants, who died childless in the following year leaving him Delapré Abbey which he sold in 1756, and secondly on 4 January 1759 to Catherine Stanyan, by whom he had three sons and two daughters, and through whom he inherited an estate of Rawlins Manor, Oxfordshire. Of his sons the eldest, Temple, rose to the rank of captain in the navy, and another, Charles, was killed in action aboard the Cerberus 32, Captain Robert Man, on 4 June 1781.
A sincere, popular, good-natured, relaxed and modest man, Hardy was praised for uniting the fleet in 1779 following the political divisions caused by the Keppel / Palliser affair. Nevertheless, although Kempenfelt described him as a good man, he opined that Hardy was totally inadequate for the position of commander-in-chief, and some claimed that the morale of the fleet plumbed new depths because of his failings in this regard