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Sir  Thomas Masterman Hardy (1769–1839), by Richard Evans, 1833–4Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy (1769–1839), by Richard Evans, 1833–4
Hardy, Sir Thomas Masterman, baronet (1769–1839), naval officer, second son of Joseph Hardy of Portesham, Dorset, and his wife, Nanny, daughter of Thomas Masterman of Kingston, Dorset, was born at Martin's Town, near Dorchester, on 5 April 1769. In 1781 he entered the navy on the brig Helena, but he left her in April 1782 and for the next three years was at school, though on the books of the guardships Seaford and Carnatic. He was afterwards a few years in the merchant service, but in February 1790 he was appointed to the Hebe. From her he was moved to the sloop Tisiphone with Captain Anthony Hunt, whom he followed to the frigate Amphitrite in May 1793, and in her went to the Mediterranean. On 10 November 1793 he was promoted lieutenant of the frigate Meleager (Captain Charles Tyler), attached during the following years to the squadron off Genoa under the immediate orders of Horatio Nelson, whose acquaintance Hardy reportedly then first made. In June 1794 Captain George Cockburn succeeded to the command of the Meleager, and in August 1796, on being transferred to the Minerve, took Hardy with him. Hardy was still there in December 1796, when Nelson hoisted his broad pennant on her, and was with her in her encounter with the Sabina. When the Sabina surrendered, lieutenants Culverhouse and Hardy were sent to her with the prize crew; and the gallant way in which they afterwards drew the Spanish squadron away from the Minerve, defending the prize until dismasted, earned the praise of Nelson. Culverhouse and Hardy became prisoners of war, but they were exchanged, rejoining the Minerve at Gibraltar. On 10 February 1797, as the frigate was passing through the straits with the Spanish fleet in chase, Hardy jumped into the jolly boat to save a drowning man. The boat was carried by the current towards the leading Spanish ship. ‘By God,’ said Nelson, ‘I'll not lose Hardy! Back the mizen topsail!’ This bold measure caused the Spanish ship to hesitate and shorten sail, enabling the boat to reach the frigate in safety. The Minerve rejoined the fleet three days later and served at the battle of Cape St Vincent on the 14th.

In May 1797 the Lively and Minerve, looking into the Bay of Santa Cruz, discovered there a French brig of war, the Mutine, which was cut out on the 29th by the boats of the frigates under the command of Hardy, who was at once promoted by Lord St Vincent to command the prize. On 5 June 1798 Hardy, in the Mutine, joined Nelson near Elba, announcing the approach of reinforcement under Captain Thomas Troubridge; and he was present at the battle of Abu Qir Bay, immediately after which he was promoted to the Vanguard, Nelson's flagship [see also ]. In the Vanguard, and afterwards in the Foudroyant, Hardy continued with Nelson at Naples and Palermo until October 1799, when he was appointed to the frigate Princess Charlotte, in which he returned to England. In 1801 he was again with Nelson as flag captain in the San Josef, and afterwards in the Baltic in the St George; and although the size of the St George prevented her taking part in the battle of Copenhagen, Hardy the night before sounded close up to and around the enemy's ships. His soundings were correct, and it was by deviating from his route, on the pilots' advice, that some of the ships grounded. On Nelson being relieved by Vice-Admiral Charles Morice Pole, Hardy remained in the St George and returned in her to England. He was then appointed to the Isis, and in the following spring to the Amphion, in which, in May 1803, he took Nelson out to the Mediterranean, moved with him to the Victory in July, and continued as flag captain during the long blockade of Toulon and the pursuit of the combined fleet to the West Indies. He was still in command of the Victory when Nelson again embarked on her on 14 September 1805, and in the absence of a captain of the fleet acted virtually as such before and at the battle of Trafalgar. With Captain Henry Blackwood he witnessed Nelson's last will, was with Nelson when the latter was shot, and was frequently with him during his dying hours. It was to him that Nelson's dying words, ‘Kiss me, Hardy’, were addressed (R. Southey, Life of Nelson, 1813, ch. 9). Nelson's body was sent home in the Victory, and at the funeral on 9 January 1806 Hardy carried the ‘banner of emblems’.

On 4 February Hardy was created a baronet, and in the spring was appointed to the Triumph, which he commanded for three years on the North American station under Sir George Cranfield Berkeley, whose daughter, Anne Louisa Emily, he married at Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1807. They subsequently had three daughters: Louisa-Georgina, Emily-Georgina, and Mary-Charlotte. In May 1809 he was appointed to the Barfleur, in which Berkeley hoisted his flag as commander-in-chief at Lisbon, and he continued in that post until September 1812. In August 1812 he was appointed to the Ramillies, in which he was again sent to the North American station. On 25 June 1813, while in command of a squadron off New London, blockading an American squadron under Captain Stephen Decatur, he captured a schooner, apparently laden with provisions. Hardy, possibly remembering an attempt made thirty-seven years before, ordered her to be secured alongside another prize, and while this was being done she blew up, killing a lieutenant and ten seamen: she was an explosion vessel.

In January 1815 Hardy was nominated a KCB; he returned to England in June, and from 1816 to 1819 commanded the yacht Princess Augusta. On 12 August 1819 he was appointed commodore and commander-in-chief in South America, with his broad pennant in the Superb. The wars of independence and the different interests involved made the command one of difficulty and delicacy, and Hardy's tact won the approval of the Admiralty and the public. He returned to England at the beginning of 1824. On 27 May 1825 he became a rear-admiral, and in December 1826, with his flag in the Wellesley, he escorted the expeditionary force to Lisbon. On his return he commanded an experimental squadron from the Sibylle and later the Pyramus. On 21 October 1827 he struck his flag and was not employed again at sea.

In November 1830 Hardy joined the Admiralty board as first sea lord under Sir James Graham, and on 13 September 1831 he was appointed a GCB. Hardy refused to enter parliament and adopted a purely professional view of his duties; his absence from the House of Commons was a source of whig complaint. He favoured larger and more powerfully armed vessels of all classes, and the introduction of steam warships. Working with the surveyor of the navy, Sir William Symonds, he increased the sailing performance and fighting strength of the battle fleet, which his experience convinced him was the key to naval superiority. He left office in April 1834, when the post of governor of the Royal Naval Hospital at Greenwich fell vacant, in disgust at the excessive economies pursued by Graham. He was appointed governor of the hospital, the king agreeing on the understanding that in a war he would return to active service. The rest of his life was devoted to the pensioners under his care, improving their treatment and abolishing the yellow coat with red sleeves, worn as a punishment for drunkenness on a Sunday. He became a vice-admiral on 10 January 1837. He died on 20 September 1839 at the hospital and was buried on the 28th in its old cemetery. His widow and daughters survived him, but without male issue the baronetcy became extinct. An imposing memorial pillar was erected to his memory on Black Down, above Portesham, in Dorset. Hardy's enduring fame rests on his connection with Nelson, but his subsequent service afloat and at the Admiralty revealed a man of outstanding good sense and judgement, and this was reflected in his refusal to adopt a party political line on naval expenditure.

J. K. Laughton, rev. Andrew Lambert


A. M. Broadley and R. G. Bartelot, Nelson's Hardy: his life, letters and friends (1909) · A. D. Lambert, The last sailing battlefleet: maintaining naval mastery, 1815–1850 (1991) · C. J. Bartlett, Great Britain and sea power, 1815–1853 (1963) · C. K. Webster, Britain and the independence of Latin America (1938) · G. S. Graham and R. A. Humphreys, eds., The navy and South America, 1807–1823, Navy RS, 104 (1962) · W. James, The naval history of Great Britain, from the declaration of war by France, in February 1793, to the accession of George IV, in January 1820 [2nd edn], 6 vols. (1826) · J. H. Briggs, Naval administrations, 1827 to 1892: the experience of 65 years, ed. Lady Briggs (1898) · J. De Kay, The battle of Stonington (1990) · GM, 2nd ser., 12 (1839), 434, 650–52 · United Service Journal, 3 (1839), 383 · The dispatches and letters of Vice-Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson, ed. N. H. Nicolas, 7 vols. (1844–6) · J. Marshall, Royal naval biography, 2/1 (1824), 153


NA Scot., corresp. with Sir Alexander Cochrane; corresp. with Thomas, Lord Cochrane · NMM, letters; letters to J. C. Manfield; letters to Sir William Parker · Portsmouth Museums and Records Service, letters to Edward Thorne · Royal Naval Museum, Portsmouth, letters to Henry Chamberlain and Lady Chamberlain


oils, c.1801, NMM · A. W. Devis, oils, 1805–7, NMM · D. Pelligrini, portrait, 1809, NMM · R. Evans, oils, 1833–4, NMM [see illus.] · W. Behnes, marble bust, 1836, Royal Collection · W. Behnes, bust, 1843, Greenwich Palace Chapel · L. F. Abbott, oils, Gov. Art Coll. · I. Hill, group portrait, oils (Nelson's funeral procession from Greenwich to Whitehall; after C. A. Pugin), NMM · engraving (after Hill), NMM

Wealth at death  

under £25,000: GM