Robert Clive, Clive of India

From troublesome youth to MP for Shrewsbury

Born on 29th September 1725 at Styche Manor near Market Drayton in Shropshire. Clive could politely be described as a ‘difficult child’. Amongst his exploits he led a gang of bullies who extorted money from shop-keepers, he taunted teachers and pupils alike. Inevitably he was expelled from each of his four schools in quick order. However many admired his reckless courage perhaps the most famous demonstration of which was his climb to the top of Saint Marys church tower in Market Drayton.

No doubt to the relief of his parents and many of the gentlefolk of Shropshire, he took up a modest position with the East India Company based near Madras and far away from Shropshire. After a less than auspicious beginning, circumstances soon changed and he found himself enlisting in the army where he quickly developed a reputation as a skilled soldier working up through the ranks. He successfully captured a fort defended by force nearly twice the size of his own and held off several attempts to retake the fort.

Clive returned to Shrewsbury for a brief period before returning to India in 1756 with the rank of Lieutenant colonel. In revenge for the infamous Black Hole incident, the British army marched on Calcutta and drove Nawabs troops from the city. With just over 1000 English troops and 2000 sepoys, Clive defeated the 50,000 strong enemy near a little village outside Calcutta called Plassey.

It was a decisive victory and in 1760 Clive returned to Shrewsbury 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).

Clive had many political enemies and the fact that despite his humble beginnings he had amassed a personal fortune added to their envy. in 1767 His final return to Shrewsbury was greeted with accusations of being a traitor and profiteer. Clive died on 22nd November 1774 a broken man.

Clive was and remains a controversial figure, attracting both praise and criticism in almost equal measures.


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