Charles Hardinge was born on 20th June 1858 the second son of Charles Hardinge, 2nd Viscount Hardinge of Lahore and Kings Newton and Lavinia Bingham. His grandfather was Field Marshall Henry Hardinge, 1st Viscount Hardinge, a former Governor-General of India.
He was educated at Cheam School, then in 1873 to Harrow School and then in 1876 to Trinity College, Cambridge before entering the diplomatic services in 1880. Over the next 25 years he held posts as first Secretary at Tehran in 1896, first Secretary at Saint Petersburg in 1898, Assistant Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs in 1903, Ambassador to Russia in 1904, and Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office in 1906.
In 1910 he was raised to the peerage as 1st Baron Hardinge of Penshurst, and appointed by the Asquith government as Viceroy of India, a position he held until 1916. He oversaw the visit of King George V in December 1911 and implemented the transfer of the capital of India from Calcutta to New Delhi. The political upheaval of the time led to Hardinge being wounded by a bomb at his state entry into Delhi in 1912, but his time is marked by a steady improvement in relations between the governemt and the nationalists through the implementation of the Morley-Minto reforms and the sympathy he expressed for the passive resistance movement led by Mohandas Gandhi. At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Charles Hardinge was able to deploy nearly all of the British troops in India as well as many native Indian troops to areas outside of India. In particular the British Indian Army was able to play a significant role in the Mesopotamian campaign.
Hardinge returned to his former post in England as Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office in 1916, serving with Arthur Balfour. In 1920 he became Ambassador to France before his retirement in 1922. Two volume of memoirs were published posthumously - Old Diplomacy in 1947 and My Indian Years, 1910-1916 in 1948.
In 1890 Charles Hardinge had married his cousin Winifred Selina Sturt (1868-1914) and together they had three children - Edward Charles (1892-1914), Alexander Henry Louis (1894-1960) who succeded him as Baron Hardinge of Penshurst and Diamond Evelyn Violet (1900-1927).
Charles Hardinge died on 2nd August 1944 at Oakfield, Penshurst and is buried at St. Peter's Church, Fordcombe beside his wife.
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