Yorke, Philip (1757–1834), 3rd earl of Hardwicke , lord lieutenant of Ireland, was born 31 May 1757 in Bloomsbury, London, son and heir of Charles Yorke, lawyer (lord chancellor for three days before his death, 20 January 1770), and his first wife, Catherine, daughter and heir of William Freeman of Aspeden, Hertfordshire. Yorke was educated at Harrow 1770–71 and Queens’ College, Cambridge, where he graduated (MA 1776), after which he embarked on a grand tour. Through the patronage of his uncle, Philip Yorke, 2nd earl of Hardwicke, he became MP for Cambridgeshire (1780–90). An independent, he temporarily aligned himself with the whigs, but was more drawn towards the government. On 7 May 1782 he was the leading speaker against Pitt's motion for a committee on parliamentary reform, and on 18 February 1783 voted with the government for peace preliminaries with America. From this point onwards he appears to have become increasingly estranged from the Foxite whigs. In February 1787 he supported petitions by protestant dissenters for relief from the test and corporation acts, and on 10 March 1789, at Pitt's request, seconded the address of congratulation to the king on his recovery from temporary insanity. On 16 May 1790 he entered the house of lords as 3rd earl of Hardwicke. He was colonel of the Cambridgeshire militia and was in Dublin with his regiment during the closing stages of the 1798 rebellion. On 17 March 1801 he was appointed lord lieutenant of Ireland under the premiership of Addington. He arrived in Dublin 25 May 1801 and held the post until 21 November 1805.
He was the first lord lieutenant of Ireland to take office after the union and as a result encountered distinct political problems. The scope of his powers was under question. The newly appointed Irish commander-in-chief, Gen. Sir William Meadows, was given instructions implying that he could act without reference to Hardwicke, and there was a clash between Hardwicke and the home secretary, Thomas Pelham (qv), who felt the allocation of patronage should be transferred to him. This was alleviated when Pelham resigned in August 1803 and was replaced by Charles Yorke, Hardwicke's younger brother, although as late as 1805 William Pitt, as prime minister, dispensed Irish patronage without consulting Hardwicke. Hardwicke also found himself faced with a long list of political debts incurred by his predecessor, Lord Cornwallis (qv), in the course of carrying through the union. As a result any jobs that became available had to be given to union supporters, and not by Hardwicke's own choice. From 1804 he compiled a list of union supporters he considered worthy of office and gave them patronage as it became available. However, patronage was also given to some of the most outspoken anti-unionists, including William Conyngham Plunket (qv) and Charles Bushe (qv).
He favoured catholic relief and accepted his post as lord lieutenant on the understanding that the issue would be raised at a suitable time. However, on taking office he believed it was his duty to prevent any discussion of the question or related ones such as the matter of state provision for catholic clergy, so the years 1801–3 saw little movement on the catholic question, but he sought to establish good relations by administering patronage to prominent catholics. In 1805 Hardwicke dismissed John Giffard (qv) from his post in the customs administration for his part in organising a protest against a petition for catholic relief. However, after the rebellion (23 July 1803) of Robert Emmet (qv) he grew more suspicious of catholic intentions and dismissed the condemnation of Emmet by the catholic archbishop John Troy (qv) as ‘the greatest piece of craft, dissimulation, and hypocrisy that I ever read’ and claimed it had been written before the rising broke out (MacDonagh, 325–6). The Irish administration was attacked for its laxity and negligence during the rebellion, and though publicly denying it, Hardwicke admitted privately that he had been caught unawares by the rising. The Irish government was ignorant of most of the preparations prior to 16 July 1803, and an emergency meeting of the privy council was only called on 23 July 1803. Although Emmet admitted his guilt, his trial was prolonged to gain publicity for the government. William Cobbett attacked this ploy in his critique of the government's handling of the episode; the success with which he established the image of a callous administration, vilifying the essentially noble character of Emmet to disguise its own inefficiency, effectively removed the benefit that the Castle had hoped to derive from the trial.
John Foster (qv) was appointed chancellor of the Irish exchequer in May 1804 and used the position to challenge Hardwicke's right to approve salaries, gratuities, and pensions in revenue departments. In June 1805 Foster's bill for dividing the board of customs from the board of excise was stalled by Pitt because Hardwicke did not like the extension it gave to the authority of the treasury. Foster resigned in protest. Pitt tried to persuade Foster to remain, but Hardwicke in turn threatened to resign if a temporising compromise were reached with Foster. In October 1805 it was decided that Hardwicke should be removed and Foster reinstated. Hardwicke left Ireland in March 1806 and on his return was created high steward of Cambridge University, a position that he held until his death.
As a member of the house of lords Hardwicke consistently supported catholic emancipation and voted in its favour in 1829. He also gave his support to parliamentary reform in 1832. With his wife Lady Elizabeth Lindsay (1763–1858), daughter of James Lindsay, 5th earl of Balcarres, whom he married 24 July 1782 and who made Dublin castle the centre of Dublin's social life during his lieutenancy, he had four sons (none of whom survived him) and four daughters. He died 18 November 1834 at Tittenhanger, Hertfordshire, and was succeeded by his nephew Charles Philip Yorke (1799–1873). His wife survived him until 26 May 1858, when she died near Tittenhanger.