American writer and adventurer: b. San Francisco, 1854; d. El Paso, Tex., 10 Feb. 1898.
According to some accounts he was born in France and descended from an old Catholic Royalist family of Irish origin, whose ancestors had emigrated to France with the Stuarts. He received his education at the Jesuit College of Namur, Belgium, the French Military Academy of Saint Cyr, and at Leipzig. In Paris (1878) he founded Le Triboulet, a satirical journal that frequently brought him into collision with prominent people and the authorities owing to his violent attacks against the Republican government.
After passing through a number of libel actions — for which he had to pay dearly — and fighting a series of duels, Harden-Hickey was expelled from France in 1880 by decree of the Minister of the Interior. He had adopted or inherited — it is not clear which — the title of “baron,” and was celebrated as a skilful fencer. About 1889, while making a trip round the world in a sailing vessel, he touched at the island of Trinidad, a desolate, uninhabited little rock in the South Atlantic, 700 miles from Rio de Janeiro.
Returning to the United States, he married a daughter of John H. Flagler, the Standard Oil magnate, in 1891. In 1894 he set into operation a scheme to found a principality on Trinidad, and adopted the title of “James I, Prince of Trinidad.” In January 1895, however, a British warship called at the island and reannexed it to the British Empire, to which it had once belonged. Protestations raised by the Brazilian government led to the island being handed over to Brazil in 1896.
Harden-Hickey met his death by an overdose of a drug with — it is supposed — suicidal intention. He was an accomplished linguist and wrote most of his works in French, among them being ‘Sampiers’; ‘Mémoires d'un gommeux’; ‘Près du gouffre’; ‘Un Amour Vendéen’; ‘Aventures merveilleuses de Nabuchodonosor Nosebreaker’; ‘Bernard de Ventador’; and ‘Euthanasia,’ an essay on suicide.
Encyclopedia Americana, 1920