Alec Hardinge, 2nd Baron Hardinge of Penshurst
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The Lord Hardinge of Penshurst
Hardinge in 1916
|Private Secretary to the Sovereign|
|Monarch||Edward VIII (1936–1936)|
George VI (1936–1943)
|Preceded by||Clive Wigram|
|Succeeded by||Alan Lascelles|
|Born||17 May 1894|
|Died||29 May 1960(aged 66)|
Major Alexander Henry Louis Hardinge, 2nd Baron Hardinge of Penshurst, GCB, GCVO, MC, PC (17 May 1894 – 29 May 1960) was Private Secretary to the Sovereign during the Abdication Crisis of Edward VIII and during most of the Second World War.
Background and earlier life
Hardinge was born in 1894, the son of Charles Hardinge (who was created Baron Hardinge of Penshurst in 1910 and served as Viceroy of India from 1910 to 1916). He was commissioned into the Grenadier Guards and fought in the First World War, alongside his brother, rising to the rank of Lieutenant and winning the Military Cross. In 1920, he became Assistant Private Secretary to George V and was promoted Captain. On 8 February 1921, he married Helen Gascoyne-Cecil (a daughter of Lord Edward Gascoyne-Cecil and his wife, Violet) and they had three children. In 1929 he was promoted Major.
Hardinge served as Assistant Private Secretary up until George V's death in 1936.
Private Secretary to Edward VIII and George VI
He was promoted to Private Secretary upon the accession of Edward VIII that same year, contributing to some delicate negotiations between the new king and the British government in the run up to the king's abdication in December 1936; he continued in this role under George VI until his early retirement in 1943. Significantly, as Brandi McCarry's commentary has pointed out, Hardinge's ultimate loyalty lay with the King in Parliament rather than personally with a monarch in conflict (and especially when the conflict was between the Sovereign and "his" Parliament). This was particularly reflected in Hardinge's warning letter to Edward, received on 13 November 1936, which showed evidence of prior consultation with Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, who, with his cabinet, had serious misgivings about the suitability of Mrs Wallis Simpson as the possible spouse of the monarch. The precise nature and extent of his loyalty were thus constitutional--doing what he thought was right in his post as Private Secretary to the Sovereign.
In 1936 Hardinge also retired from the Army. Hardinge's elder brother, Edward, had died from wounds received in action in 1914, and so Hardinge succeeded as Baron Hardinge of Penshurst on the demise of his father in 1944.
Death and legacy
Hardinge died in 1960 and his title was inherited by his son, George.
His wife Helen wrote his biography Loyal to Three Kings, William Kimber, London 1967.
- Hardinge of Penshurst, Baron (UK, 1910), genealogy
- Hardinge, Charles, first Baron Hardinge of Penshurst (1858–1944), diplomatist and viceroy of India
The Earl of Cromer
| Assistant Private Secretary to the Sovereign
| Private Secretary to the Sovereign
|Peerage of the United Kingdom|
| Baron Hardinge of Penshurst