Captain Hardinge’s Coaster, 1806
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Diameter: 14cm (5.5in)
Silver. Of circular form, with a cavetto edge with a gadrooned rim. Wooden inset base with felt lining. The centre engraved with a crest of honourable augmentation for acts of gallantry at sea -, viz. 'a hand fess wise couped above the wrist habited in naval uniform, holding a sword erect, surmounting a Dutch and a French flag in saltier, on the former inscribed ‘Atalanta’ on the latter ‘Piedmontaise’ the blade of the sword passing through a wreath of laurel near the point and a little below through another of cypress.’
Captain George Nicholas Hardinge, R.N. (1781-1808) was naval officer of rare intellect and good manners. Leaving Eton in favour of the sea, he served as a midshipman at the siege of Toulon and the reduction of Corsica under Captain Charles Tyler. He followed Tyler into the captured French frigate Minerve, renamed HMS St Fiorenzo, thence to HMS Diadem in which they saw action at the Battle of the Hyères Islands and in operations with the Neapolitan Fleet. Here Hardinge came to the notice of Sir William Hamilton who introduced him introduced Hardinge to the study of history and the arts. Hardinge next joined Tyler in the 38-gun HMS Aigle. which was wrecked off the African coast on 18 July 1798. Coming to the attention of Earl St Vincent, Hardinge was next appointed him to the 74-gun HMS Theseus which was severely damaged by an accidental explosion in May 1799. Hardinge returned to Britain where he was transferred to the 80-gun HMS Foudroyant under Captain Edward Berry, and on returning to the Mediterranean he was involved in the battle which led to the capture of the 80-gun French ship Guillaume Tell on 30 March 1800. Hardinge remained in the Mediterranean after this, serving under Captain Sir Sidney Smith aboard the 80-gun HMS Tigre. He was involved in the operations of the Egyptian Campaign, and was promoted to lieutenant on 15 October 1800, subsequently receiving the Turkish Gold Medal.
Promoted to the rank of commander in 1802, he was appointed to the command of the bomb vessel HMS Terror which was severely damaged in an attack go Granville. Hardinge next took command of HMS Scorpion, 18-guns, in the North Sea and in 1804 he led 60 men in a daring cutting-out operation against two Dutch ships. During hand to hand fighting on board the Atalante The Dutch captain was able to disarm Hardinge, but other members of the crew came to his aid. Seeing that his opponent was outnumbered Hardinge called upon the Dutch captain to surrender, but he refused and the British were forced to kill him. 'He fell covered with honourable wounds', as Hardinge later recounted. The British duly secured the Atalante, and attempted to attack the second Dutch ship, but found that she had moved out of range.
Hardinge was rewarded with promotion to post-captain and the award of a Lloyds Patriotic Fund Sword. However he was unable to find a satisfactory command and had to settle with a return to the now elderly Fiorenzo on the East Indies Station. He made a number of uneventful patrols in the Indian Ocean, but on 6 March 1808 he came across three East Indiamen being followed by the 40-gun French frigate Piémontaise. He turned to confront the Frenchman, who attempted to escape. St Fiorenzo chased the Piémontaise for the next several days, with intermittent fighting as the French turned to engage their pursuer, before sailing away again. They were finally brought to a decisive battle on 8 March, where after an hour and twenty minutes of fierce fighting, they surrendered. French losses amounted to 48 dead and 112 wounded, while the British lost 13 dead and 25 wounded. Captain Hardinge was among the dead, killed by grapeshot shortly before the Piémontaise surrendered. He was buried with full military honours and monuments to his memory were erected in St. Thomas Cathedral, Bombay and St Paul's Cathedral, London. In 1809 Majesty George III granted to the Hardinge family an augmentation to their coat of arms commemorating both the victory over Piemontaise and Hardinge's earlier victory over Atalanta.
Funerary monument to Hardinge in St. Thomas Cathedral, Mumbai