George Hardinge (1781-1808) was the son of Rev. Henry Hardinge (1754-1820), rector of Stanhope, County Durham, and his wife Francis, daughter of James Best of Wrotham, Kent. Hardinge was educated at Eton and entered the Navy in 1793 as a midshipman on the 32 gun Meleager serving at Toulon and at the capture of Corsica. He obtained his lieutenancy during the Egyptian campaign of 1801 and was made master and commander in 1802. In 1804 he distinguished himself by the cutting out of the Dutch brig-corvette Atalante in Vlie Roads, which earned him his post rank as well as a sword of honour from the Lloyd's Patriotic Fund.
After being assigned to the frigate San Fiorenzo and while en route from Colombo to Bombay on 6 March 1808, he sighted the notorious French cruiser Piedmontaise 'which had long been the terror of the Indian Seas.' During the three-day battle which ensued between the two ships, Hardinge was killed by a grape-shot on 9 March, before the battle ended with surrender of the Piedmontaise. He was buried at Colombo with military honours.
The Lloyd's Patriotic Fund was established in 1803 by merchants, underwriters and other subscribers at Lloyd's, the result of a resolution 'That to animate the efforts of our defenders by sea and land it is expedient to raise by the patriotism of the community at large a suitable fund for their comfort and relief and for granting pecuniary rewards, or honourable badges of distinction, for successful exertions of valour or merit.' Before it was finished in 1809 the fund had spent some £21,274 on the awards, ranging from swords of honour to the patriotic vase, of which sixty-six were produced by the order of J.J. Angerstein of the Patriotic Fund for presentation to both Naval and Military officers. They were produced to the designs of John Flaxman for the Royal Goldsmiths Rundell Bridge and Rundell by top silversmiths of the day such as Benjamin Smith, as with the present example, and Paul Storr. Another example, applied with the inscriptions 'Britannia Triumphant' and 'Britons Strike Home' from the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum was exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts in their 1979 exhibition John Flaxman R.A. and is illustrated colour plate I and on page 142 of the exhibition catalogue. For three other examples awarded for Trafalgar, and noting variations in the vases, see the exhibition catalogue Nelson and Napoléon, Greenwich, 2005, p.250, no.288 1-3.