Sir Charles Le Hardy (1704)

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Admiral Sir Charles Le Hardy (1716-1780) was the son of Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Le Hardy and Elizabeth Burchett.

There is considerable confusion over his earlier ancestry, however. An 18-page obituary in the Naval Chronicle for 1808 states that his father was the son of Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Le Hardy, who was, therefore, the younger Sir Charles' grandfather. However, this seems most unlikely because Sir Thomas was born in Jersey in 1666 and the elder Sir Charles in Guernsey in 1680. Balleine's A Biographical Dictionary of Jersey states that they were cousins and that Charles 'entered the Navy at 15 in 1695 as a volunteer on the Pendennis which his cousin Thomas commanded'.

The confusion probably stems from the fact that Thomas was the son of Jean Le Hardy, Solicitor-General, who was in turn the son of another Jean, also Solicitor-General. Thus this earlier Jean was grandfather of both Thomas and his cousin Charles.

Admiral Sir Charles Hardy

Early service

Born in Portsmouth in 1714, he entered the Navy in 1731, and received his commission as Lieutenant in 1737. In 1741 he was promoted Captain, and given command of the Rye, and spent a year cruising off the coast of Georgia. In 1744 he commanded the Jersey , and in June that year was appointed Governor of Newfoundland. He only held this post for a few months, and then was recalled to England.

On the return voyage some of the ships in his convoy were captured. For this he was court-martialled, but honourably acquitted. In 1745, still in the Jersey, he had a three-hour fight with a French man-of-war, La Sainte Esprit, in the Straits of Gibraltar, and crippled her, but she escaped into Lisbon.

For the next two years he continued in the Mediterranean. In 1755 he was knighted and appointed Governor of New York. It was a time of intense political agitation. The previous Governor had committed suicide in despair of being able to quell the rising spirit of independence. And Le Hardy hated his job, and kept importuning the Home Government to entrust him with some naval expedition.

In 1757 he was promoted Rear-Admiral of the Blue, and ordered to put out to sea with all the ships he could collect to escort the transports that were to attack Louisburg. His fleet was caught in a hurricane and many of the ships were dismasted, and all he could do was to bring the crippled vessels back to England.

In 1758 he was made Rear-Admiral of the White, and ordered back to New York to make arrangements for a second attack on Louisburg. During the blockade of Louisburg his flagship, the Royal William, sank four French men-of-war, the Apollo, the Fidete, the Chevre, and the Biche, and captured the Echo. In 1759 as Vice-Admiral of the Blue he was Second in command of the Channel Fleet under Sir Edward Hawke, and for the next three years his squadron and Sir Edward's took turns in the ceaseless watch off Brest to prevent the shattered remnant of the French Navy putting out to sea.

In 1762 he was promoted Vice-Admiral of the White, and in 1767 was one of the supporters of the canopy at the Duke of York's funeral. In 1770 he was Admiral of the Blue, and in 1771 was appointed Governor of Greenwich Hospital. In 1774 he was elected MP for Portsmouth. In 1778 he became Admiral of the White, and in 1779 he was made Commander-in-Chief of the Channel Fleet. This appointment was severely criticised. The Earl of Bristol moved a vote of censure in the House of Lords, declaring that:

"The Government has driven so many distinguished officers from the Service that it is now under the necessity of dragging forth Sir Charles Hardy from that repose which was suited to his time of life in the government of Greenwich Hospital, and compelling him at an age unfit for active service to undertake a task that may require the greatest activity ever displayed by a British seaman".

On this cruise Le Hardy had on board the Victory Benjamin Thompson, an Americal expert in ballistics, who obtained permission to accompany the fleet that he might make experiments in improving naval guns, and his diary has been reprinted. Of Le Hardy he wrote:

"Though he is sometimes a little positive, he is good-natured to a fault, and it would make you die of laughing to see him kick my hat about the deck, and attempt to be facetious and playful."

On 8 May 1780 he had an apoplecticfit at Portsmouth and died.  

Further biography

Sir Charles Hardy

Early career

Born at Portsmouth, Charles Hardy joined the Royal Navy as a volunteer in 1731.

He became a captain on 10 August 1741. He was appointed governor and commander-in-chief of Newfoundland in 1744, but there is no evidence that he ever visited Newfoundland. The next year he commanded HMS Torrington, assisting in the protection of the convoy which brought reinforcements from Gibraltar to the newly captured fortress of Louisbourg.

He was knighted in 1755 and served as British Administrative Governor of New York from 1755 to 1757. During his term he was made Rear Admiral of the Blue.

Seven Years War

In 1757, under the command of Vice Admiral Francis Holburne, Hardy escorted Lord Loudoun and his army from New York to Halifax, intending to attack the French fortress of Louisbourg, but the attack was cancelled. The next year, he was second in command under Admiral Edward Boscawen at the Siege of Louisbourg.

That autumn, he and James Wolfe attacked French posts around the mouth of the St Lawrence River and destroyed all of the French fishing stations along the northern shores of what is now New Brunswick and along the Gaspé peninsula. He also participated in Hawke's victory at the Battle of Quiberon Bay in 1759. He became Member of Parliament for Rochester in 1764.

Hardy served as governor of Greenwich Hospital from 1771 to 1780. In 1778, he was made Admiral of the White. In 1779 he became Commander-in-Chief of the Channel Fleet, remaining in that post until his death in May 1780.

Personal life

In 1749 he married Mary Tate and in 1759, following her death, he married Catharine Stanyan. The couple had three sons and two daughters. Sir Charles Hardy died at Spithead. He bequeathed £3,000 to each of his sons and £4,000 to each daughter, as well as leaving his estate at Rawlins, Oxfordshire, to his eldest son, Temple Hardy. By Catharine's death in 1801, only Temple survived of the three sons. Hardy's brother, Josiah, was a merchant and Governor of New Jersey from 1761-63.

From the Naval Chronicle

In the spring Sir Charles Hardy was preparing to resume the command but, unfortunately, an apoplectic fit suddenly carried him off, at Portsmouth, on 8 May 1780, and the country was thus deprived of a very active and able commander. He was buried a few days after, with the customary honours due to his rank; the whole fleet, during the procession, remaining with their colours half-staff up and firing minute guns.

Of this respected and much regretted officer, Charnock thus briefly sums up the character:

”Brave, prudent, gallant and enterprising, without the smallest ostentatious display of his noble qualities – generous, mild, affable and intelligent – his virtues commanded the most profound respect, enabling him to pass through days when the rage and prejudice of party blazed with a fury nearly unquenchable, without exciting envy or dislike, without even furnishing to the most captious man of party the smallest ground of reprehension or complaint”.

From Dictionary of Canadian Biography

Sir Charles Hardy, naval officer, colonial administrator, and office-holder.

Early career

Charles Hardy entered the Royal Navy in 1731 under his father’s patronage; he was promoted lieutenant six years later and captain in 1741. His early years at sea were spent in American waters; from 1741 to 1743 he served off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia. Appointed governor of Newfoundland on the outbreak of war with France in 1744, Hardy failed to take up his post and was tried by court martial for neglect of duty. He was exonerated, however, after it was shown that he had unsuccessfully battled contrary winds for 63 days before returning to port. The following year, in command of the Torrington, he helped convoy reinforcements from Gibraltar to the newly captured fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island. He served off the coasts of Spain and Portugal from 1746 until the peace in 1748, when he was placed on half-pay.

New York

In 1755 Hardy was knighted and appointed governor of New York. The post became one of considerable importance since, in preparation for war with France, London decided that year to make New York City the arsenal of British arms in North America. A rather self-effacing man, Hardy proved to be an effective governor. He was especially useful to Lord Loudoun, commander-in-chief in North America, who expressed his gratitude for “the assistance and friendship I have met with from him on every occasion”. In the spring of 1757 Hardy suggested that a trade embargo be laid on the British colonies in order to ensure an adequate supply of transports for Loudoun’s planned attack upon Louisbourg and to prevent the French learning of the British plan from captured ships. The embargo affected shipping from Nova Scotia to Virginia and was the cause of many complaints from the business community, probably because it was enforced more effectively than any other embargo in colonial America.

In June Hardy convoyed the transports intended for the siege of Louisbourg to Halifax, Nova Scotia. He had been promoted rear-admiral in 1756, and at Halifax he became second in command to Vice-Admiral Francis Holburne. The presence in Louisbourg harbour of a large French naval force under Comte Dubois de La Motte, intelligence about which came in part from Hardy’s observations, led to the cancellation of the expedition. Hardy had advised against it in any case, arguing that the season was too advanced for British ships to keep their stations off Île Royale. His opinion was well founded since in September a hurricane wreaked havoc in Holburne’s fleet cruising off Louisbourg.

Louisbourg siege

In July 1758, as second in command to Vice-Admiral Edward Boscawen, Hardy took part in the successful siege of Louisbourg and the following month convoyed three regiments under Wolfe to the Baie de Gaspé and the lower St Lawrence River. The force did considerable damage, burning about 200 fishing boats and numerous stages, storehouses, lines, and nets; the hamlet of Mont-Louis, taken by surprise, was razed. Hardy, however, did not agree with Wolfe’s proposal to sail farther up the river, and he turned back. He was probably fearful of the dangerous navigation and anxious to return to Louisbourg in case he had received orders to sail to England.

Channel Fleet

From 1759 to 1762 Hardy served in home waters as second in command to Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Hawke and to Boscawen; in November 1759 he participated in Hawke’s celebrated success off Quiberon Bay, France. He was promoted vice-admiral in 1762 and two years later was elected to parliament from Rochester, a seat he held until 1768. In 1771 he was returned for Plymouth and was appointed governor of Greenwich Hospital at £1,000 per annum. Seven years later he became, through seniority, admiral of the fleet.

When Admiral Augustus Keppel resigned the command of the Channel fleet in 1779, no active officer would agree to succeed him, and Hardy was drawn out of his long retirement. His ships were greatly outnumbered by a Franco-Spanish fleet which appeared in the Channel in August and he was forced to retreat, but the enemy neither attacked nor attempted to capture a bridgehead for the 40,000 troops waiting in France to invade England. The following May, on the very day Hardy resumed the command, he was seized “with an inflamation of the bowels (a disorder to which he was much subject) and expired on 18 May.” In his will he left an annuity of £1,000 to his wife, and his seat at Rawlins, Oxfordshire, to his eldest son.

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