Hardy, Francis (1751–1812), biographer and MP, was son and heir of Henry Hardy, esq., of Dublin. He was educated by Thomas Ball of Dublin before entering TCD in 1766 (BA, 1771) and the Middle Temple, London, in 1772; he was called to the English bar in 1777. He practised as a lawyer in Dublin but was not particularly successful on account of his modest manner and lack of energy. Nevertheless he made some influential friends in the late 1770s such as the earl of Charlemont (qv) and the earl of Granard (qv), and was elected MP for the borough of Mullingar (1783–1800). Jonah Barrington (qv) recalled that he had been returned to parliament ‘by the interest of Earl Granard and faithfully followed the fortunes of that nobleman, through all the political vicissitudes of Ireland’ (Historic memoirs, ii, 221). Hardy's parliamentary record largely mirrored that of Lord Granard and his clique, but he was given some latitude by his patrons to think for himself, and was respected for his integrity and intellect. He was on friendly terms with the most noted Patriots of the day, such as Henry Grattan (qv), and generally opposed the government, voting against the commercial propositions (1785), but in favour of a regency (1789), John Ponsonby (qv) as speaker (1790), Grattan's motion to abolish the Dublin police (1791), and catholic emancipation (1793). In July 1792 Wolfe Tone (qv) wrote that he rode out to Grattan's and dined there with ‘Gog and Hardy’. In parliament Hardy was described as having a strong deep voice but was small and fat with penetrating eyes, and some MPs even compared him to Charles James Fox. He opposed the act of union but did not seek another constituency when his borough was abolished. After retiring from politics in 1800 he took to the country and was able to spend more time reading and visiting Grattan, who lived nearby at Tinnehinch, Co. Wicklow. For most of his life Hardy lived in quite straitened circumstances, but he was granted the sinecure offices of stamp commissioner (1806) and then commissioner of appeals (1807), worth £600 a year, which he held until his death.
He was noted as a scholar with a particular interest in the classics and was among the founding members of the RIA in 1786. In 1788 he gave a public discourse at the academy on the ‘Agamemnon’ of Aeschylus. When Lord Charlemont died in 1799 a number of his closest allies expressed an interest in writing his biography. Hardy was recommended to take on the task by Richard Lovell Edgeworth (qv) and received the help of Charlemont's relatives. In 1810 Hardy published Memoirs of the political and private life of James Caulfield, earl of Charlemont (1810; 2nd ed. 1812, with minor additions and corrections). During his research Hardy was given access to a large cache of letters in the possession of Dr Alexander Haliday (qv), but there is a sense that some of the most revealing personal correspondence was not available at the time. This means that the account of Charlemont's life is skewed towards the political. Given Hardy's interest in the classics, it is surprising that he did not examine Charlemont's travels in the Near East and his artistic patronage in Dublin in greater detail. The whole memoir is reverential in tone, but Hardy did recognise that Charlemont was a poor public speaker and, as a Patriot, was not in favour of making concessions to catholics. Jonah Barrington maintained that Hardy ‘overrated Lord Charlemont as a soldier and a statesman’, that he ‘palliates Lord Clare, and makes Lord Rockingham an old gentlewoman’ (Historic memoirs, ii, 221). Hardy is an intriguing figure who never reached the top echelons of politics or the law and did not have the wealth to indulge his interests, yet still managed to cultivate some of the leading political figures in Ireland in the period 1780–1810. His biography is impressive in its scale and does capture an ‘end of era’ in Ireland: the flourish of patriotism among sections of the protestant elite in the twenty years prior to the act of union. Hardy is not known to have married, and resided at Aungier St. and Grafton St., Dublin, and at Cookstown, near Bray, Co. Wicklow. He died 26 July 1812 and is buried at Kilcommon church, Co. Wicklow.