Clive, Robert Clive, Baron, 1725-1774

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Clive, Robert Clive, Baron, 1725-1774

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  • Clive, Lord, 1725-1774
  • Clive, of India, 1725-1774

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Robert Clive, governor of Bengal, was the eldest son of Richard and Rebecca Clive (nee Maskell) of Styche, Shropshire. He was born on 29 September 1725. In 1743 he was appointed a writer with the East India Company at Madras. He proved to be a quarrelsome colleague and suffered from 'melancholy' which was to plague him for most of his life. During his early years in Madras he twice attempted suicide and fought a duel. The outbreak of hostilities between Britain and France in southern India enabled him to reveal hitherto unsuspected military talent. By the end of his first period in India he had proved himself a guerrilla commander of genius; he had also amassed a considerable fortune, having been appointed a commissary for the supply of provisions to the troops in 1749. During his first stay in India he married Margaret Maskeleyne, daughter of Edmund Maskeleyne of Purton in Wiltshire.
After unsuccessfully standing for Parliament he was sent out again to India in 1755 as governor of Fort St. David with the reversion of the governorship of Madras. On his arrival in 1756 he almost immediately became involved with the affairs of Bengal which was ruled by the Mogul viceroys, and under whose protection the East India Company carried on its trade. The new nawab of Bengal, Siraj-ud-Daula, took Calcutta and Clive set out to relieve the city in October 1756, which he took in January 1757. Instead of returning to Madras he eliminated the French settlement of Chandernagore and installed Mir Jafar as nawab in place of the hostile Siraj-ud-Daula who was decisively defeated at the battle of Plassey in June 1757.
His first governorship of Bengal lasted until February 1760 by which time Mir Jafar's authority was unchallenged in Bengal and Bihar. Clive had also became a very wealthy man. He had received £234,000, a Mogul title and an estate or jagir worth about £30,000 a year. On his return to Britain he was created Baron Clive of Plassey in 1762, knighted in 1764 and also entered parliament as MP for Shrewsbury in 1760, a seat he held until his death in 1774. He also purchased extensive estates mainly in Shropshire, including Montford near Shrewsbury, in 1761, Walcot, near Bishop's Castle, in 1763, and Oakly Park in 1771.
Clive returned for his third and last stay in India in 1765 and became governor of Bengal for the second time. His services in Bengal were required because Mir Jafar had been ousted by Mir Kasim who in turn had been deposed in 1763. Shah Alam, the Mogul emperor, attacked again and the East India Company seemed to be on the verge of extinction. It was during this, his second governorship of Bengal, that his claim as a statesman rests. The Mogul emperor was pacified; Bengal was settled with a grant by the Mogul of the revenue administration or dewanee of Bengal to the East India Company which gave the company legal authority to collect the revenues of Bengal and Bihar; the East India Company was reformed and the instincts of its officers for plunder curtailed, if only for a while; and military discipline restored.
Clive left India for the last time in February 1767. Soon after his return his enemies, returned nabobs and politicians, attacked him and tried to blame him as the instigator of corruption amongst the servants of the East India Company. He defended himself vigorously and successfully in parliament in 1772. However, the strain on his health proved too much. Already addicted to opium, he committed suicide at his house in London on 22 November 1774. He had several children; his eldest son and successor, Edward Clive, was created earl of Powis in 1804.

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