MGM 2007 - The Clive Of India Museum At Powis Castle, Wales

By Rose Shillito | 10 May 2007
Photo shows small round painting of man in 18th century dress and wig

Precious portrait miniature of the famous soldier Clive of India, who paved the way for the reign of the British Raj in India from 1858. Courtesy The Clive of India Museum

The glory, pomp and splendour of the British Raj is brought vividly to life in a magnificent newly extended collection of Indian artefacts at The Clive of India Museum at Powis Castle, Wales.

Ten additional items, donated by the Castle’s family, are being shown for the first time to celebrate Museums and Galleries Month in Wales for May 2007. Now on permanent display, the mementos boost the Museum’s collection to around 300 precious objects.

Among the new treasures is an exceptional portrait miniature of Robert Clive, the son of a Shropshire squire who became the military leader of the Honourable East India Company and founder of Britain’s Indian Empire.

The rare miniature love token would have been given by Clive to his wife Margaret Maskellyne to keep him close while he was away on duty.

Lord Clive paved the way for British rule in India when he defeated the Nawab of Bengal at the Battle of Plassey in June 1757 – the British Raj reigned over the Indian subcontinent between 1858 and 1947.

Photo shows ornately embellised silver casket on silver tray

Just part of the spectacular Durbar set, a ceremonial dining set used by the Clives for grand entertaining. Courtesy The Clive of India Museum

In 1784, Lord Clive, son and heir of Clive of India, married into the Powis Herbert family, whose family seat is Powis Castle, bringing the Clives’ vast fortune and art collections to the Castle.

An exquisite Durbar set reveals the extragavance and glamour of life in the Clive household. This silver and gilt ceremonial dining set would have been used for grand banquets and occasions, reflecting the prestige of Clive’s position and wealth.

The set includes rose water sprinklers (used to sprinkle over guests), spice boxes and caskets used to hold fresh betel leaves.

Photo shows intricately bejewelled object with long pipe attached

Clive of India's magnificent huqqa or opium smoking pipe, bejewelled with rubies, diamonds and emeralds. Courtesy The Clive of India Museum

An essential accoutrement in the daily life of an 18th century nobleman, and one especially associated with the rulers of the Raj, is the huqqa or 'hubble bubble' opium smoking set.

This one – used by Clive of India himself – is a particularly fine example, fashioned in silver, gilt and enamel and set with a glittering array of rubies, diamonds and emeralds.

While the huqqa represents the ruler at leisure, this steel elephant goad conveys the day-to-day working life of Clive of India. This object, which acted as a kind of prod and was used by the rider to guide an elephant, offers an intriguing insight into the minutiae of Indian culture.

The items acquired by Robert Clive were originally intended for his villa at Claremont in Surrey and arrived at Powis Castle in 1801 when the castle and estate was inherited by Clive’s grandson, Edward Clive.

Photo shows coat of chain mail with a kind of metal truncheon

Chain mail and steel elephant goad, which Robert Clive used to keep a sometimes excitable form of transport under control. Courtesy The Clive of India Museum

The Clive of India Museum was opened in 1987 by Countess Mountbatten of Burma.

“We are delighted to be able to display these exquisite items to the public in the context of the Museum, which recalls the architecture of India,” said Margaret Gray, House and Collections Manager at Powis Castle.

She continued: “This September will mark the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Clive Museum, so the additions are an excellent way of celebrating. They are incredible pieces, ‘necessities’ to any Indian nobleman during the 18th century, adding to the exotica of this collection.”

An Indian weekend will be held from September 15 to 16 2007 to mark the 20th anniversary.

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