Mariana Starke: Father is Worsted by Robert Clive

Fort St George in the 18th century

Although Mariana Starke’s grandfather, John Starke, was never an employee of the East India Company, both his sons, Richard and John, were.  Richard Starke (1719 – 93) – yet to be the father of Mariana – sailed from London in 1734 as a passenger in the Onslow to Fort St George, taking with him wine, a chest of apparel and an escritoire. In Fort St George he could have resumed contact with his mother’s family, the Empsons.

On 29 December 1735 Richard Starke entered ‘the service of the Honourable Co on the coast of Coromandel as ‘Writer Entertained’. A 1736 note made clear that it was ‘out of regard for his father’ that he was ‘taken into our service’, a 10 May 1737 dispatch confirming that ‘Mr Richard Starke is so usefull a hand in the Secretary’s Office’. During the following years his father sent out to him several boxes ‘of apparel’ and in 1746 ‘two boxes of books’, in 1747 one box of books and a hat, in 1750 one box of pamphlets and pens, in 1752 a box of books and in 1753 a pair of scales, a lanthorn and books. In April 1747 Richard was joined as a writer in the EIC by his younger brother, John Starke (aged 22), who sailed out on the Houghton with one chest, one escritoire, and a bundle of bedding

A dispatch from Fort St George to England, dated 22 February 1749, stated that Richard Starke, who had been ‘upper searcher at Madras – now appointed to that position at Cuddalore [i.e. Fort St David]. By 2 November 1749 he had been appointed ‘second’ at Fort St George – that is ‘under deputy governor’ and in February 1752 he succeeded Mr Prince as deputy governor of Fort St David, formally taking office on 31 July 1752.

Fort St David, about a mile from Cuddalore, was a small fortified town, near to the sea and, by all accounts, a very comfortable billet. In The Life of Lord Clive Sir George Forrest quotes the following description of the area: ‘The country within the boundaries is very pleasant, and the air fine, having seldom any fogs. In the district are many neat houses with gardens; the latter were laid out with much good taste by the gentlemen, who either had been, or were in the company’s service. These gardens produce fruits of different sorts, such as pine-apples, oranges, limes, pomegranates, plantaines, bananoes, mangoes, guavas, (red and white,) bedams (a sort of almond), pimple-nose, called in the West Indies, chadocks, a very fine large fruit of the citron-kind, but of four or five times it’s size, and many others. At the end of each gentleman’s garden there is generally a shady grove of cocoanut trees.’

Ruined remainder of Fort St David. Courtesy of

Clearly it was all too comfortable to last. First we hear that John Starke, who was also working at Fort St David, under the Paymaster, received a peremptory dismissal for which no reason was given; a dispatch from London to Madras, 31 Jan 1755 merely noted: ‘The services of John Starke are dispensed with.’.’ Having no further occasion for the service of Mr John Starke he is upon receipt of this to be accordingly discharged from the Company’s service’.

A year later Richard Starke was compelled to write the following letter, dated 19 August 1756:

‘Honourable Sir and Sirs [to the President and Governors of Fort St George] I am to acquaint you that agreeable to your orders of the [lacuna] June I have delivered over the charge of the settlement of Fort St David to Col Robert Clive and as I imagine by the Company’s having been pleased to supersede me, by the appointment of that Gentleman so much my junior in their service, my conduct cannot have been so agreeable to them as I can assure Your Honour etc I have endeavoured to make it, I am to desire permission to resign their employ and return to Europe. Richard Starke.’

To the letter was subsequently appended a brief note: ‘In which the Board acquiesce’.

A dispatch of 21 November 1756 gave further information. ‘Starke handed over charge to Clive, returned to Madras in August, and requested leave to resign the service as he had been superseded by Clive.’  A further dispatch, 20 October 1757, gave a list of the passengers sailing to England on the Norfolk, among whom were Richard and John Starke.

Thus ended, rather ignominiously, Richard Starke’s Indian career, ousted by the very much more wily and ambitious Robert Clive. I am sure that a reading might be made of The Sword of Peace in the light of Mariana’s close knowledge of these events.

In 1759 Richard Starke married Mary Hughes, the 23-year-old daughter of  Isaac Hughes, a merchant of Crutched Friars in the City of London, and  Yewlands House, Banstead. Mariana, born in the last week of September 1762, was their first surviving child; I think a first son had died soon after birth. UPDATE (6 April 2014) I’ve just found a news report  in ‘The Public Advertiser’ of 21 June 1762, to the effect that this young boy, aged 20 months, had died the previous week after falling out of the coach in which he was ‘taking an airing’ with some women servants and was then run over by the vehicle’s wheels.

Richard’s father, John Starke, died in a year later, in October, 1763. His will reveals some family dissension. Richard and his sister, Martha, appear to have been involved in a lawsuit, presumably involving John, the result being that, although John Starke left Hylands House at Epsom to Richard, the main part of his wealth was to bypass Richard, to be settled on Richard’s children. Thus, by the time she was a year old, Mariana Starke was living in a large, pleasant house in Epsom, where her father, who never again took up employment, could maintain a position in society on account of his Indian EIC service and, while probably not overburdened with great wealth, could live with a certain nabob style.


All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere and are my copyright. An article may not be reproduced in any medium without my permission and full acknowledgement. You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement.



, , , , , , ,

  1. #1 by charles mitchell on November 7, 2015 - 6:30 pm

    Hi , Just stumbled across this. Richard Starke was my wife’s GT ++ Grandfather. His son, also Richard Starke married Elizabeth Ravenscroft, and lived mainly in the Castle House , Laugharne. The family lived there until 12 years ago

    • #2 by womanandhersphere on November 8, 2015 - 10:57 am

      Many thanks for your message. I tried some years ago to make contact with Laugharne Starkes – tho’ it was after the sale of Castle House and I had no success. I suppose you have no family papers or artefacts connected to Mariana Starke? I must continue the ‘Mariana’ posts on this blog. I’ve been rather waylaid lately by other strands of research. Did my info on (Governor) Richard Starke tell you anything you didn’t know?
      Best wishes

      • #3 by Charles on November 8, 2015 - 12:05 pm

        Hi Elizabeth

        I was not aware that they had settled in Epson.

        I have 2 diaries by Mary Starke, dated 1794. Not easily to read and not sure which Mary Starke it is.

        I have a transcript of another diary which describes the Epson house and mentions Marianne who wrote novels and plays, one performed in haymaker 1788. Comedy called “the sword of peace or a voyage of love” A Miss Farren in the cast. Also travels in Europe, a financial success and the publisher John Murray gave her a travelling carriage. Must be daughter of Laugharne Richard Starke as mentions he let the castle house after death of his wife , her mother. Goes on to say MarMariane moved to a flat in Italy, after death of her mother, in a house now hotel cuecamella. Says she got permission to excavate Pompeii.

        There is a bot more, mentions her death and left most to a Mrs fanshawe.

        But I guess you know all this.

        I will look through papers and see if any more.

        Best wishes


      • #4 by womanandhersphere on November 8, 2015 - 7:14 pm

        Charles – Thank you so much for this wonderful information. I’ve been out all day but, if it’s OK with you, will email you tomorrow to indulge in a ‘Mariana’ disscussion.
        Best wishes

      • #5 by charles mitchell on November 8, 2015 - 12:38 pm

        I have 2 diaires from a Mary Starke dated 1794. Hard to read but mention Italy. Also a transcript of a diary by a daughter of Richard Starke(Laugharne) which mentions Mariana- her play, being given a Carriage after the success of Travels in Europe by Publisher and her move to flat in Italy and then death.

  2. #6 by charles mitchell on November 8, 2015 - 7:50 pm

    Drop me an email and will scan in the pages and email over. Charles

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: