Robert Clive - Clive of India
Robert Clive was born on 29th September 1725 at Styche Manor near Market Drayton. He was the son of Richard, a lawyer.
Clive was a difficult child and quickly earned a formidable reputation as head of a gang of bullies who taunted teachers and pupils alike. He went to four schools in quick succession.
In later years Clives admirers would relish in stories of daring escapades perhaps the famous of which is the one where Clive is supposed to climbed to the top of Saint Marys church tower in Market Drayton.
Roberts parents must have been relived when he eventually found work as a writer for the East India Company, albeit on a modest salary of £5 per year, with very little prospects.
When Robert arived in Madras, he was feeling very depressed. The voyage was beset with storms and the work was dull. The exotic nature of the location was very quickly wearing off. Clive attempted to commit suicide twice, but the pistol failed to off.
When Clive arrived, there was no one European authority in the region, with the area shared by British, French and Dutch companies occuping poor trading stations near the coast. However a year after Robert had arrived, the French captured Madras. Robert escaped and found himself in the nearest English settlement. There he enlisted in the army and quickly built a reputation as a formidable skilled soldier in the field. He was quickly promoted through the ranks and in 1751 he was ordered to capture Arcot, a coastal garrison of prime stategic importance.
With little more than 500 poorly trained and educated troops, Clive surprised 1,200 sleeping native occupants and held the fort. The news of this victory travelled fast and so infuriated French backed Princes that they surrounded the town. Clive and his soldiers saw off attempts to capture the fort for several weeks before finally the attacking forces withdrew.
Clive had given Britain the prestige that was so definitely needed at the time. Clive returned home for a brief period before returning to India in 1756 at the rank of Lieutenant colonel. It was there that he married Margaret Maskelyn, sister of an East India Company colleague.
Shortly after reaching Madras, news reached Clive of the atrocities at the Black Hole of Calcutta.
An 18 foot square cell where 122 English settlers suffocated at the hands of the Subahdar of Bengal, the Nawab Siraj-ud-daula. In revenge the British army marched on Calcutta and drove Nawabs troops from the city.
With just over 1000 English troops and 2000 sepoys, Clive met the 50,000 strong enemy in the mango groves near a little village outside Calcutta called Plassey. In a decisive victory, the unruly native force was routed and Siraj-ud-daula killed. Bengall was now a British province and Clive its master.
In 1760 Clive returned home victorious and became interested in politics. He was elected member for Shrewsbury and received an Irish peerage (although allegedly Clive was furious at not having received and English title).
Corruption in Bengal's administration forced Clive to return and restore order. There was rumours of widespread bribery and corruption of officials by merchants. The newly established colony was fast getting a poor reputation.
In Britain, Clive's political enemies were gaining momentum. They had gathered ample ammunition with which to attack him. Clive's main weakness was was that despite his humble background, he had come home with a fortune larger than anyone else's.
At Clive's final homecoming in 1767 the town echoed to cries of 'traitor'. The press which had lauded Clive's achievements at Arcot and Plassey were now bringing jealous attention to his wealth. During a session in the houses of Parliament, a young MP named Charles James Fox demanded a public enquiry in Clive's finances. Clive was accused of acquiring personal wealth of £234,000 to the dishonor and detriment of the state.
Less than a year later, Clive died on 22nd November 1774 a broken man at his house in Berkeley square. (Clive owned two other mansions at Walcot, near Craven Arms and Claremont near Surrey). The cause of his death remains a mystery although popular rumour at the time was that he slit his throat or shot himself. Clive's family maintained that he overdosed on opium which he took regularly to relive the he was in due to a bowel disorder.
Throughout his life Clive was clearly a controversial figure, attracting both praise and criticism in almost equal measures.