Robert Clive

Member of The Hundred

Robert Clive (First Baron Clive)
Other names
Clive of India
Birth and death
1725 - 1774
Profession details
Army officer
Related place
Hamish Hines and Jonathan Seal

Life in Elmbridge

Upon the death of the Duke of Newcastle, Thomas Pelham-Holles, in 1768, the Duke's wife sold the Claremont estate to Robert Clive in an attempt to help clear her husband's debts. Although only fifty years old, the house became politically and aesthetically unfashionable, resulting in its demolition. The famous architect Capability Brown was employed by Clive to build the current Palladian mansion, although Clive's suicide in 1774 meant he never saw the new Claremont completed.

Life outside Elmbridge

Born in Market Drayton in 1725, Clive was a somewhat unruly youth, acquiring notoriety in his hometown for mischief and adventure that lent itself to many local myths. One tale depicts a young Clive climbing the local church tower, before proceeding to scare his townspeople from on top of a gargoyle. Clive's relatively short adulthood can be categorised by the three trips that he was to make to India between the 1740's and 1760's. His first journey saw him sent out as a writer with the East India Company, however he soon gained recognition for his military exploits, most notably from Major Stringer Lawrence, for his performance against the French at the Siege of Arcot in 1751.

Each time he returned to India his position of authority within the Company continued to rise. By the end of the Seven-Years War with the Treaty of Paris in 1763, Britain had emerged as a significant administrator in some parts of India, most notably the Bengal region. Clive was installed as Governor of Bengal between 1757 and 1760, and again from 1765 to 1766. He is widely regarded as the founder of British India, implemented wide reform within the Company, along with his contemporary William Hastings. This can be seen as part of an attempt to increase the legitimacy of the Company's rule in Bengal following bouts of famine in the region as well as the East India Company's own fears of bankruptcy that haunted them at the beginning of the 1770's.

His suicide in 1774 followed a long history of depression and attempted suicides that chequered his early adulthood. Both during his life and posthumously, Clive's reputation has dichotomised, with much dependent on prevailing attitudes towards the British Empire. As H. V. Bowen notes, attitudes have "ranged from wholehearted praise for the bold man of action through to outraged condemnation of his greed, corruption, and double standards". However what is undoubted is his legacy towards British India, cementing his position as an architect of imperialism that saw British interests in India maintained for over 150 years more after his death.

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