Robert Clive

[1st Baron Clive]

Biography of Robert Clive

Major-General Robert Clive, 1st Baron Clive (29 September 1725 – 22 November 1774), also known as Clive of India, was a British officer who established the military and political supremacy of the East India Company in Bengal. He is credited with securing India, and the wealth that followed, for the British crown. Together with Warren Hastings he was one of the key early figures in the creation of British India. He also sat as a Tory Member of Parliament in England.

Robert Clive was born at Styche, the Clive family estate, near Market Drayton in Shropshire, on 25 September 1725 to Richard Clive and Rebecca Gaskell Clive. The family had held the small estate since the time of Henry VII. The family had a lengthy history of public service: members of the family included an Irish chancellor of the exchequer under Henry VIII, and a member of the Long Parliament. Robert's father, who supplemented the estate's modest income as a lawyer, also served in Parliament for many years, representing Montgomeryshire. Robert was their eldest son of thirteen children; he had seven sisters and five brothers, six of whom died in infancy.

Clive's father was known to have a temper, which the boy apparently inherited. For reasons that have not been documented, Clive was sent to live with his mother's sister in Manchester while still a toddler. Biographer Robert Harvey suggests that this move was made because Clive's father was busy in London trying to provide for the family. Daniel Bayley, the sister's husband, reported that the boy was "out of measure addicted to fighting". He was a regular troublemaker in the schools he was sent to (and may have been expelled from). When he was older he and a gang of teenagers established a protection racket that vandalised the shops of uncooperative merchants in Market Drayton. Clive also exhibited fearlessness at an early age. He is reputed to have climbed the tower of St. Mary's Parish Church in Market Drayton and perched on a gargoyle, frightening those down below.

When Clive was nine his aunt died, and, after a brief stint in his father's cramped London quarters, returned to Shropshire. There he attended the Market Drayton Grammar School, where his unruly behavior (and improvement in the family's fortunes) prompted his father to send him to Merchant Taylors' School in London. His bad behavior continued, and he was then sent to a trade school in Hertfordshire to complete a basic education. Despite his early lack of scholarship, in his later years he devoted himself to improving his education. He eventually developed a distinctive writing style, and a speech in the House of Commons was described by William Pitt as the most eloquent he had ever heard.

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