Robert Clive, (29th September 1725 to 22nd November 1774)

Early Life

Robert Clive was born on 29th September 1725 AD, at Styche, near Market Drayton in Shropshire, the eldest son of Richard and Rebecca Clive. His mother, Rebecca Gaskell, came from a Manchester family, a lady remarkable for her virtues, her talents, and her sterling good sense. His father, Richard, was one of the lesser country gentry, a group whose position was beginning to be eroded by the encroachments of the large estates. Richard Clive, finding the income from the old family estate of Styche too small for the support of a large family, followed the profession of the law. He appears to have been a man of hasty, sometimes violent, temper, who never appreciated his son's merits.

Robert Clive, who was the eldest son, was sent to Hope Hall before he was three years old, and for several years was trained and educated in Mr. Bayley's family. When not more than four or five he had two severe attacks of fever, which appear to have left a constitutional weakness that was the source of much trouble in after life. His school life commenced while he was still very young at Dr. Eaton's private school at Lostocke in Cheshire. At the age of eleven he was removed to the care of the Rev. Mr. Burslem at Market Drayton, with whom he remained a few years, and then, after a brief public school experience at Merchant Taylors', he went to a private school kept by Mr. Sterling at Hemel Hemstead in Hertfordshire.
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First Journey to India (1744 AD)

On 15th December 1742, Robert was chosen a writer at a meeting of the Court of Directors of The East India Company. He was then seventeen. There was no immediate prospect of large and quick fortunes in India, but the Company was solidly prosperous, and conditions in Madras and Calcutta were both more spacious and more healthy than they had been earlier; it was known that reasonable wealth could be acquired over a term of years by legitimate private trade. So Roberts father took a risk in sending his son to India, hoping that something might turn up to repair the family fortunes. Clive landed in Madras (India) on 1th June 1744, at Fort St. George. Clive settled down in the secretarial office, copying despatches and other documents. The East India Company obtained its charter from Elizabeth I on the last day of 1600 AD, giving it a monopoly of all trade between India and Britain. The Company was directed from London and managed its Indian trade through presidents or governors and councils of the three main settlements.

In 1740 AD the War of the Austrian Succession began with the seizure of Silesia by King Frederick II of Prussia. Ever since the death of the Emperor, Charles the Sixth, war had been imminent, and as early as 1741 the fertile brain of La Bourdonnais had conceived the idea of capturing Madras, and firmly establishing French predominance in India by assembling an overwhelming naval force in the Indian seas. During the continuance of peace the French governors of Pondicherry, Pierre Benoit Dumas and Joseph Francois Dupleix, made all possible preparation for the struggle. By 1742 AD France and Britain found themselves on opposite sides, thus raising the question of their relations in India. For the British, the fominant fear was that of the rising french trade in India. In 21st September 1746 AD the French under their governor Joseph Francois Dupleix took over madras. The proud spirit of the young civilian could ill bear the humiliating position at Madras. With several others Clive escaped to fort St David, where he became a volunteer in repulsing the French attack. The British were now confined to Fort St David. Clive was then 21, among his new friends were Edmund Maskelyne, his future brother-in-law, Joseph Fowke and John Dalton. Clive by his conduct before Pondicherry (Madras) won promotion to lieutenant on 1st March 1749 AD.

In 1751 Clive offered to lead an expedition to relieve Trichinopoly (Tiruchirappalli), where Mahommed Ali Wallajah, the British supported nawab, was besieged by Chanda Sahib the Nawab of the Carnatic, of French support. With only 200 European and 300 Indian troops, plus three fieldpieces, Clive seized Arcot, Chanda Sahib's capital, thereby diverting 10,000 of Chanda Sahib's men from Trichinopoly. His conduct during the siege made Clive famous in Europe. The Prime Minister Pitt the Elder described Clive, who had received no formal military training whatsoever, as the "heaven-born general".
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His Marriage

In late June 1752 Clive met Margaret Maskelyne, the sister of his friend Edmund Maskelyne, at fort St David. She was, seventeen, fresh and good-looking. It was later said that Clive first saw her portrait in Edmund Maskelyne's room and declared that he would marry her and no one else in the world. It was a match of deliberation and attraction rather than romance, but it seems to have turned into a partnership of good feeling. Margaret remained loyal to Robert throughout his life. On Sunday morning, February 18, 1753, five days after he had leave to take his passage for England, Robert Clive was married to Miss Margaret Maskelyne in the small, picturesque St. Mary's church[1] within the walls of Fort St. George. His bride, besides grace and beauty, combined practical sagacity with a love for music and letters. On the evening of March 23, 1753, Clive and his bride sailed from Madras on board the Bombay Castle. Clive settled in a house in Queen Square, and was soon drawn into the whirlpool of London fashionable life.

Bengal at that time was famous for its textiles, cotton and silk, and its sugar and saltpetre were in demand. It was these which attracted Europeans in the 17th century, including the English. The British established their first factory in 1650-51 AD, at Hughli. In 1690 AD Job Charnock, a tough country character who sacrificed cocks to the goddess Kali, founded a new settlement in a swamp girdled site near Sutanuti, about 35 miles down-river. It got its name Calcutta from Kalikata, a village named after the goddess Kali on the site of the modern Bow Bazar. Here the English prospered. A local rebellion in 1696 AD enabled them to get permission to fortify the factory under the name of Fort William (after William III) and 4 years later it became the seat of a presidency under the name of Fort William-in-Bengal. In 1717 AD a Mughal grant gave the Company free trade in Bengal for its own commerce and the right of settlement in the interior for an annual payment of £10,000; further land was rented round Calcutta. Bengal's products had also attracted the French, the Dutch and the Danes. The French founded a station 25 miles up-river from Calcutta in 1688 AD at Chandernagore. The Dutch were based at Chinsurah (founded 1653 AD) three miles further upstream, and the Danes at Serampore (founded 1755 AD, also called Serampur, Srirampur, Srirampore, Shreerampur, Shreerampore), twelve miles north of Calcutta.
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Second Journey to India (1755 AD)

After running unsuccessfully for Parliament, Clive returned to India in 1755 as governor of Fort St. David and as lieutenant colonel in the royal army. Following this action Clive headed to his post at Fort St. David and it was there he received news of twin disasters for the English. Early in 1756, Siraj-ud-Daulla had succeeded his grandfather Alivardi Khan as Nawab of Bengal.

The foundations of the British empire in India were, it is said, laid by Robert Clive, known to his admirers as the "conqueror of India". Clive first arrived in India in 1744 AD as a civil servant of the East India Company; he later transferred to the military service of the Company and returned to England in 1753 AD, where he was able to follow a comfortable life-style. But his desire for extravagance and ostentatious displays of wealth, just as much as his electoral loss in his attempt to gain a seat in the House of Commons, opened him to the attacks of his creditors and political opponents. Meanwhile, in Bengal, where the British and the French were contesting for supremacy, the Company required the services of an able commander. Clive was eager to return to India; and soon the summons came. He arrived in India in 1756 AD and at once secured the British forces in Madras. He then moved to Calcutta, which had been captured by the Nawab of Bengal, Siraj-ud-Daulla (সিরাজ-উদ-দৌল্লা), and early in 1757 he recaptured Bengal. Later that year, on June 23rd, he defeated the Nawab, largely by means of bribes, at the Battle of Plassey পলাশী. The Battle of Plassey was the breakthrough of Clive's career. The successful Company's general of south India had become the master of Bengal, with all its potential wealth. The gurrilla leader had become an empire-builder.
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Third Journey to India (1765 AD)

In declining health Clive went to England in 1760. In 1762, Clive was raised to the Irish Peerage with the title of Baron Clive of Plassey. Additionally, he was created a Knight of the Bath in 1764. Emperor Shah Alam too adorned Clive with a string of titles which include Dilar Jang (Courageous in Battle), Saif Jang (The Sword in War), Mamiru ul Mamalik (The Grandee of the Empire), Sabdat ul Mulk (The Select of the Kingdom), and so on. In 1765, when administrative chaos and fiscal disorder brought the company near disaster in Bengal, he returned to Calcutta as governor and commander in chief. He went to Allahabad and obtained from the titular emperor the right of Dewani of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa for the East India Company in exchange for a regular payment of 2.6 million rupees. Clive limited the company to Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa, bringing these states under direct company control. He reformed the company's administrative practices, restored financial discipline while abolishing abuses, and reorganized the army. His efforts made the company sovereign ruler of 30 million people who produced an annual revenue of £4 million sterling.

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The Last Days

Clive had three problems, and never really got on terms with any of them.
  1. The first was psychological. He was a man of action, a spirit only ardent on the march. But in London there was no critical situation calling for heroic action, no great enterprise calling for inspired leadership.
  2. His second problem was his health. He had already had three serious breakdowns, besides lesser ones (at Madras, on his return to England in 1760 AD, and in Calcutta in late 1766 AD).
  3. And the third was the political problem.
Clive left India for the last time in February 1767. On 19th May 1773 AD he was charged illegally acquiring wealth while he was in power in India. Clive moved restlessly from place to place, now better, now worse. He disapproved the Regulating Act which had just been passed. When Hastings took over the revenue administration from Clive's appointed deputy, Muhammad Reza Khan, his attitude changed. There was not enough inner reserve to combat these disillusionments on top of his mounting disabilities. The attacks of the cruel malady which in the years of vigorous manhood clouded his intellect from time to time and struck him into melancholy, now became more requent. He Was also assailed by another disease, gall-stones, which caused him acute and continuous torture. "How miserable I am," he Wrote to Strachey, his most devoted comrade and friend. "I have a disease Which makes life insupportable, but which Doctors tell me won't shorten it an hour". A few months Were left him of life. The end came on 22nd November 1774 AD. The family was preparing to leave London for Bath. A thud was heard in an adjoining room and people rushed in to find Clive dead. Horace Walpole had a story that, agonized by pain, he took a double dose of laudanum against the doctor's orders. But it is second - or - third-hand and the version of throat-cutting seems more authentic. There seems no doubt that it was suicide. Clive's body was removed by night and buried without trace in the little parish church of Moreton Say outside the gates of Styche Park. Only a brass inside inside the door bears the inscription : Sacred to the memory of Robert, Lord Clive, K.B. Buried within the walls of the church. Born 29 September 1725. Died 22 November 1774. Primus in Indis.
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Family Tree :: Robert Clive

  • Richard Clive MP; Born: 1694, Baptised: Moreton Say, Shropshire, England 12th Feb 1694, Died: May 1771, Marriage: Rebecca Gaskell. he had 13 children.
    • Nathaniel Clive; Born: 1729 Baptised: St. Bartholemew Exchange, London, England 23rd May 1729
    • Rebecca Clive; Born: 1730, Baptised: St. Bartholemew Exchange, London, England 3rd Nov 1730, Died: 1825
    • Sarah Clive; Born: 1732, Baptised: St. Bartholemew Exchange, London, England 5th May 1732, Died: 1828
    • Judith Clive; Born: 1733, Baptised: London, England 12th Dec 1733, Died: post 1757, Marriage: All Hallows, London Wall, London, England 29th Jan 1757 Thomas Wolley
    • Frances Clive; Born: 1734, Baptised: St. Bartholemew Exchange, London, England 4th Mar 1734, Died: 3rd Oct 1798, Marriage: 7th Jul 1759 Matthew Wilson
    • Richard Clive; Born: 1736, Baptised: London, England 22nd Apr 1736, Died: ante 1741
    • George Clive; Born: 1738, Baptised: St. Bartholemew Exchange, London, England 9th Aug 1738
    • Anne (Nanny) Clive; Born: 1740, Baptised: St. Bartholemew Exchange, London, England 5th May 1740, Died: post 1766, Marriage: 1st Dec 1766 Hon. George Sempill
    • Richard Clive; Born: 1741, Baptised: St. Bartholemew Exchange, London, England 17th Jul 1741, Died: post 1757
    • Elizabeth Clive; Born: 1742, Baptised: Moreton Say, Shropshire, England 23rd Dec 1742
    • William Clive, MP for Bishops' Castle (1768). The Treble Almanac 1812 (Dublin) lists him in the Houe of Commons section: Bishop's castle, Shropshire Wm. Clive, esq; uncle to the earl of Powis (Southampton row, Styche, Salop), Born: 29th Aug 1745, Marriage: 25th Aug 1790 Elizabeth Clive Rotton [Born: 1765, Died: post 1806, Buried: Duffield, Derbyshire, England 6th Mar 1765]

References :
  • Lord Clive (1893) - By Sir Charles William Wilson 1836-1905
  • The life of Lord Clive (1918) - By Sir George Forrest 846-1926
  • The Story of Madras - By Glyn Barlow, M.A. (1921)

St Mary's Church

[1] When The East India Company first set foot in India, and set up a trading post in Fort St. George in Chennai, they also set up a church in the vicinity. The quaint St. Mary's Church was meant for the devout British residing in the vicinity, and dates back to 1678-80. It was in this very church that Robert Clive got married. St. Mary's Church also has the distinction of being the first Anglican Church in India.

The church was built with private contributions, the East India Company having no part in its building. The moving spirit behind the building of St Mary's was Governor Streynsham Master (1640 - 1724) who had been appointed to the post in 1678 after a number of years with the Company based in Surat on the west coast of India. The architect of St. Mary's Church was Edward Foule, whilst the plans were executed by William Dixon, Chief Gunner of the East India Company's Madras Establishment. The church is a typical fortified structure as one would expect a gunner's construction to be. But Dixon seems to have surpassed anything in this line. St Mary's is the ultimate bomb proof church with walls over five feet thick and a vaulted roof that is about four feet thick and not less than two feet at its thinnest point. The Sanctuary, Tower, Vestry and the Steeple were added in 1795 AD. Back


Page Updated : December 01, 2016 04:55 pm