Henrietta Clive, Countess of Powis

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Lady Clive in 1777, by Sir Joshua Reynolds

Henrietta Antonia Clive, Countess of Powis (née Lady Henrietta Antonia Herbert; 3 September 1758 – 3 June 1830), was a British writer, mineral collector and botanist. Her time in India, while her husband was Governor of Madras, was inspirational to her for all three of these pursuits.


Lady Henrietta with her parents and brother in 1760

Born in Oakley Park, at Bromfield, Shropshire, into a landed and titled family, she was the daughter of Henry Herbert, 1st Earl of Powis, and Barbara, granddaughter of William Herbert, 2nd Marquess of Powis. Her family owned a property in London and significant estates in Wales and Shropshire. Her birthplace was sold to Robert Clive, 1st Baron Clive, in 1771, so Lady Henrietta spent her teenage years at the family's ancestral home, Powis Castle.[1][2]

Lady Henrietta married Lord Clive's eldest son and heir, Edward Clive, 1st Baron Clive, in 1784. The marriage was beneficial to both families; the bride's family had a prestigious name but considerable debts, while the groom accrued wealth built during Clive's military campaigns in India. The couple settled in Walcot Hall, at Lydbury North near Bishop's Castle, Shropshire. Their four children were:[1]

Lady Clive inherited the Herbert estates upon the death of her brother, George Herbert, 2nd Earl of Powis, in 1801, when the Earldom became extinct. Three years later, it was recreated in favour of her husband, making her Countess of Powis.

The Countess of Powis died at Walcot Hall in 1830 aged 71 and was buried at Bromfield Parish Church, near Oakley Park. Her husband survived her, dying in 1839.[3]

Mineral collection and botany[edit]

In 1798, Lord Clive was appointed Governor of Madras. Lady Clive followed him to India where she started collecting rocks and minerals,[1] as the first aristocratic woman to pursue that hobby.[2] As her collection was growing, Lady Clive contacted prominent collectors and mineral dealers, such as James Sowerby, John MacCulloch and the Countess of Aylesford. Her records show that many specimens had been given to her by her children. The minerals in Lady Clive's collection, numbering up to 1,000, are arranged systematically by chemistry, as was usual in the early 19th century.[1] In 1817, she organised her collection in two handwritten catalogues, using numbers to identify each specimen and helping the collection remain remarkably complete to this day. A quarter of the original collection is now kept at the National Museum Wales as one of the most important historic mineral collections,[1][2] having been donated by her great-grandson, George Herbert, 4th Earl of Powis, in 1929.[4]

Upon arriving in India, Lady Powis also created a garden and kept a record of the plants in the area of Mysore and the Carnatic region.[5]


Lady Clive's Journals are one of the very first written accounts of India by a British woman. Published as Birds of Passage, they were an important milestone in the emergence of female travel writers to join and challenge their male counterparts.[6]

Titles and styles[edit]

  • 1758–1784: Lady Henrietta Herbert
  • 1784–1804: The Right Honourable The Baroness Clive
  • 1804–1830: The Right Honourable The Countess of Powis


  1. ^ a b c d e Cotterell, Tom. The fabulous mineral collection of Lady Henrietta Antonia Clive, Countess of Powis. National Museum Wales, 2012
  2. ^ a b c Williams, Sally. Laid bare the passions and obsessions of Lady Henrietta, a 19th-century rock chick Wales Online 2010
  3. ^ The Complete Peerage, Volume X. St Catherine's Press. 1945. p. 653. 
  4. ^ The Fabulous Mineral Collection of Lady Henrietta Antonia Herbert, Countess of Powis
  5. ^ Hagglund, Betty (2011). "The Botanical Writings of Maria Graham" (PDF). Journal of Literature and Science. 4 (1): 44–58. Retrieved 23 November 2012. 
  6. ^ "Birds of Passage". Eland Books. Retrieved 12 September 2016. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Shields, Nancy K: Birds of Passage: Henrietta Clive's Travels in South India 1798–1801 Eland 2010 ISBN 1906011370

External links[edit]