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THE 3rd LORD HARDINGE OF PENSHURST, who has died aged 75, was born into a family with a tradition of royal service; he himself, though, made his career in publishing, as a shrewd editor of crime fiction.

Hardinge joined Collins in 1951 and, as detective stories were a particular hobby, was put in charge of their crime list, which included Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh. Later in the decade he had a brief spell at Longman, supervising a more general list, before returning to Collins.
In 1968, he went to Macmillan, where he was entrusted with establishing a crime list He duly discovered Colin Dexter and Ellis Peters. Other authors with whom he worked, before he retired in 1986, included Nina Bawden, M M Kaye and Julian Symons.

Hardinge had a practitioner's interest in his authors. As he wrote several crime novels himself, under the name George Milner. Among them were Stately Homicide (1953), Shark Among Herrings (1954) and The Crime Against Marcella (1963).

They were good enough for him to be invited to join the select Detection Club, a precursor of the Crime Writers' Association.

He was also involved with Booker McConnell, the food conglomerate. Devising for them a scheme in the Luc 1960s to buy up the copyright the works of various best-selling authors, including Ian Fleming, Agatha Christie and Denis Wheatley. The writers exchanged high taxation on their occasional royalties for a steadier salary, until the loophole was closed by the Treasury in 1970. The firm also employed him as a consultant when setting up the Booker Prize in 1970. It was initially judged on a rather informal basis, with Hardinge supplying much of the literary expertise, until a more formal prize committee was established in the mid-1970s.

Hardinge's quiet exterior and naval efficiency sometimes disguised, but never obliterated, a keen sense of humour. His leading characteristics, which he obstinately heeded regardless of personal cost, were an unimpeachable honour and unyielding integrity on points of principle. These were very much inherited traits.

George Edward Charles Hardinge was born on Oct 31 1921, the elder son of the 2nd Lord Hardinge of Penshurst and his wife Helen, daughter of Lord Edward Cecil. The barony of Hardinge of Penshurst was created in 1910 for George's grandfather, himself a son of the 2nd Viscount Hardinge, when he was appointed Viceroy of India. He had previously been a diplomat, and accompanied King Edward VII on his tour of European capitals, including the celebrated visit to Paris in 1904. He subsequently served as (after the First World War) in Paris. His son, Alexander Hardinge, who succeeded to the title in 1944, won the MC in the First World War and in 1920 was appointed assistant private secretary, to King, George V. In 1936 he became principal private secretary to King Edward VIII. It thus fell to him to warn the King that the Government would react adversely to his plans to marry Mrs Simpson, He did not flinch - although the King thereafter excluded him from the negotiations which led to the Abdication.

George Hardinge grew up on the Balmoral estate at Altnaguibsaich, a lodge built by Queen Victoria at the foot of Lochnagar, where there were still hip baths and oil lamps, as well as an early dishwasher that had to be pumped by hand. There he learned to love fishing, whiling away hours in the manufacture of nightlines for Loch Muick. Young George was particularly close to his maternal grandmother Violet. Lord Edward Cecil's widow, who had married Viscount Milner in  1921. Violet Milner was the daughter of Admiral Frederick Maxse. and, after Eton, George Hardinge went to the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth.

By  1941 he was a midshipman in the battleship King George V. Subsequently he was serving in the Mediterranean in the cruiser Naiad when she was torpedoed and sunk by U 565 off Mersa Matruh on March 11 1942. Picked up by the destroyer Jervifs and landed at Alexandria, he was  on board the submarine depot ship Medway when she was torpedoed and sunk by U372 on passage to Haifa on June 30.

Hardinge   was   men   invited   by the celebrated Captain "Shrimp" Simpson,   of   the   Malta-based "Fighting Tenth" Submarine Flotilla, to become his  secretary. Having been sunk twice, Hardinge acted on the principle that "Third time must be lucky" and took passage to Malta in a submarine.

In 1944 he served in HMS Ferret, the naval base at Londonderry. Promoted to Acting Lieutenant Commander at only 23. Hardinge's last appointment was as secretary to the naval attache in Paris. He retired from the Navy in 1947.

Before he joined Collins. Hardinge tried his hand for several years at market gardening. The venture was not a success.

In 1976 he published a delightful fishing autobiography, An Incompleat Angler, in which he described his piscatorial peregrinations - in Ireland, on the Aaro in Norway, at Shin in Sutherland, and on the Spey. Lord Hardinge of Penshurst married first, in 1944 (dissolved in 1962) Janet Balfour, who died in 1970; they had three sons, the eldest of whom, Julian, born in 1945, succeeds as 4th Baron. He married secondly, in 1966, Margaret Trezise; they had a son.



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