Hardinge, Lord

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HARDINGE, LORD (1858–1944), viceroy of India (1911–1916). Liberal Lord Charles Hardinge of Penshurst served as viceroy of India from 1911 to 1916. His first major act was to recommend the reunification of Bengal, announced by King George V on 12 December l911 at his grand Delhi durbar coronation. Not only was provincial Bengal's heartland reunited, but the capital of British India would be removed from Bengal's Calcutta (Kolkata), to be resurrected in New Delhi, on the historic ruin-strewn plains around Old Delhi, where no fewer than nine previous capitals of North India, including that of the Great Mughals, had flourished and fallen. When Viceroy Hardinge entered Old Delhi atop his royal elephant in 1912, he was wounded by a terrorist's bomb, thrown from a high window into his howdah. His wife never fully recovered from the shock, dying soon afterward. One other viceroy, Lord Mayo, had been assassinated by a Pathan prisoner in 1872. Lord Hardinge stoically carried on, however, until the Mespot disaster in World War I prompted his departure from India.

In early August 1914, when Lord Hardinge declared India at war with Germany, he hardly anticipated the all but universal support in response, declarations of loyalty to the British Raj loudly proclaimed by all of India's some six hundred princes, as well as most of its people, Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh alike. Within the first month of war, two British Indian divisions and a cavalry brigade embarked from Karachi's port to Marseille, bolstering the Western Front on the very eve of the fiercest German assault against Ypres; thousands of Indian troops were killed, several heroes among them posthumously honored with Victorian Crosses. Soon after Turkey joined the Central Powers before the end of 1914, Indian troops were shipped to the Persian Gulf, easily capturing Basra as they started up the road toward Baghdad, which they never reached. The "Mespot" (Mesopotamian) disaster that all but destroyed India's army at Kut before they surrendered in April 1916 would soon force Britain's secretary of state for India, Austen Chamberlain, to resign, leading to Viceroy Hardinge's replacement by Horse Guard double Captain Viscount Chelmsford.

Hardinge returned home to rejoin Whitehall's Foreign Office, where his public career had begun in 1906, serving for the remaining years of World War I as permanent undersecretary of state for foreign affairs. He was one of Britain's most brilliant and accomplished diplomats, and one of India's most sympathetic viceroys.

Stanley Wolpert

See alsoBengal ; Chelmsford, Lord


Ellinwood, DeWitt C., and C. D. Pradhan, eds. India and World War I. Delhi: Manohar, 1978.

Hardinge, Charles, Baron Hardinge of Penshurst. My Indian Years: 1910–1916. London: J. Murray, 1948.

Lucas, Sir Charles. The Empire at War, vol. 5. London: Oxford University Press, 1920.

Wolpert, Stanley. A New History of India. 7th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.