Thomas Rumbold

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Sir Thomas Rumbold, 1st Baronet (15 January 1736 – 11 November 1791) was a British administrator in India and politician who sat in the House of Commons between 1770 and 1790. He served as Governor of Madras from 1777 to 1780. He became infamous for his corruption and, for in effect stealing, the ring of the Nawab of Arcot. [1] He brought home from India 1.5 million pagodas (a pagoda was worth eight shillings) or about £600,000 (at that time) and was a classic example of a nabob. Attempts were made to investigate the misdemeanour by Henry Dundas but the case did not make much headway due to rampant corruption with Dundas himself receiving bribes. [2]

British Raj British rule on the Indian subcontinent, 1858–1947

The British Raj was the rule by the British Crown on the Indian subcontinent from 1858 to 1947. The rule is also called Crown rule in India, or direct rule in India. The region under British control was commonly called India in contemporaneous usage, and included areas directly administered by the United Kingdom, which were collectively called British India, and those ruled by indigenous rulers, but under British tutelage or paramountcy, called the princely states. The whole was also more formally called the Indian Empire. As India, it was a founding member of the League of Nations, a participating nation in the Summer Olympics in 1900, 1920, 1928, 1932, and 1936, and a founding member of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945.

The House of Commons is the elected lower house of the bicameral parliaments of the United Kingdom and Canada and historically was the name of the lower houses of the Kingdom of England, Kingdom of Great Britain, Kingdom of Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Southern Ireland. Roughly equivalent bodies in other countries which were once part of the British Empire include the United States House of Representatives, the Australian House of Representatives, the New Zealand House of Representatives, and India's Lok Sabha.

Pagoda (coin) gold coin used by India, Britain, France, and the Netherlands

The pagoda was a unit of currency, a coin made of gold or half-gold minted by Indian dynasties as well as the British, the French and the Dutch. It was subdivided into 42 fanams. The pagoda was issued by various dynasties in medieval southern India, including the Kadambas of Hangal, the Kadambas of Goa, and the Vijaynagar Empire.



Rumbold was the third son of William Rumbold, an officer of the East India Company's naval service. He joined the Company's service as a writer at the age of 16, then transferred to the Company's military service. Promoted to Captain in 1757, he served as Clive's aide-de-camp at the Battle of Plassey. He subsequently transferred back to the Civil Service, becoming chief at Patna in 1763 and a member of the Bengal Council from 1766 to 1769; he was mentioned as a possible Governor of Bengal in 1771, but Warren Hastings was appointed.

Robert Clive British East India Company military officer

Robert Clive, 1st Baron Clive,, was the first British Governor of the Bengal Presidency. He began as a British military officer and East India Company (EIC) official who established the military and political supremacy of the EIC by seizing control of Bengal and eventually the whole of the Indian subcontinent and Myanmar. He is credited with seizing control of a large swathe of South Asia and parts of Southeast Asia and the wealth that followed, for the Company, in the process turning himself into a multi-millionaire. Together with Warren Hastings he was one of the key early figures setting in motion what would later become British India. Blocking impending French mastery of India, and eventual British expulsion from the continent, Clive improvised a military expedition that ultimately enabled the EIC to adopt the French strategy of indirect rule via puppet government. Hired by the EIC to return a second time to India, Clive conspired to secure the Company's trade interests by overthrowing the Ruler of Bengal, the richest state in India. Back in England, he used his loot from India to secure an Irish barony from the then Whig PM, Thomas Pelham-Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle, and a seat for himself in Parliament, via Henry Herbert, 1st Earl of Powis, representing the Whigs in Shrewsbury, Shropshire (1761–1774), as he had previously in Mitchell, Cornwall (1754–1755).

Battle of Plassey 1757 battle of the Seven Years War

The Battle of Plassey was a decisive victory of the British East India Company over the Nawab of Bengal and his French allies on 23 June 1757, under the leadership of Robert Clive which was possible due to the defection of Mir Jafar Ali Khan. The battle helped the Company seize control of Bengal. Over the next hundred years, they seized control of the entire Indian subcontinent and Myanmar.

Patna Metropolis in :Bihar, India

Patna, also known as Pataliputra, is the capital and largest city of the state of Bihar in India. Patna is the second-largest city in Eastern India after Kolkata. It had an estimated city population of 1.68 million in 2011, making it the 19th largest city in India. With over 2 million people, its urban agglomeration is the 18th largest in India. Patna also serves as the seat of Patna High Court.

In 1769 Rumbold returned to Britain with a large fortune, knowing the importance of parliamentary influence in the internal politics of the East India Company. He was elected to Parliament in 1770, initially as MP for New Shoreham, a notoriously corrupt and expensive borough where he probably bribed extensively. He received the majority of the votes, but so many were disallowed by the returning officer on grounds of bribery that he was defeated; however, on petition the result was overturned and Rumbold declared duly elected. Initially he voted with the opposition but by 1773 had joined his former commander, Clive, in supporting the government and its conduct of Indian affairs. [3]

New Shoreham, sometimes simply called Shoreham, was a parliamentary borough centred on the town of Shoreham-by-Sea in what is now West Sussex. It returned two Members of Parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons of England from 1295 to 1707, then to then House of Commons of Great Britain until 1800, and finally to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom from 1801 until it was abolished by the Redistribution of Seats Act 1885, with effect from the 1885 general election.

In various parliamentary systems, a returning officer is responsible for overseeing elections in one or more constituencies.

At the next election, in 1774, Rumbold was embroiled in another election-bribery scandal at Shaftesbury: he and Sir Francis Sykes were initially declared elected, but their defeated opponent petitioned to have the result overturned and produced copious evidence of corruption. Rumbold and Sykes were both shown to have bribed at a rate of 20 guineas (£21) a man, the total spent amounting to several thousand pounds. The Commons Committee not only overturned the election result, but ordered that Sykes, Rumbold, and a long list of other inhabitants of the town should be prosecuted by the Attorney General for bribery and perjury. However, the prosecution never took place, and the Commons was eventually persuaded to reverse its condemnations of Sykes and Rumbold so that both were able to stand for the same borough at the next general election, in 1780. [3]

1774 British general election

The 1774 British general election returned members to serve in the House of Commons of the 14th Parliament of Great Britain to be held, after the merger of the Parliament of England and the Parliament of Scotland in 1707. Lord North's government was returned with a large majority. The opposition consisted of factions supporting the Marquess of Rockingham and the Earl of Chatham, both of whom referred to themselves as Whigs. North's opponents referred to his supporters as Tories, but no Tory party existed at the time and his supporters rejected the label.

Shaftesbury was a parliamentary constituency in Dorset. It returned two Members of Parliament to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom from 1295 until 1832 and one member until the constituency was abolished in 1885.

Sir Francis Sykes, 1st Baronet (1732–1804) was an English country landowner and politician who sat in the House of Commons between 1771 and 1804. He was sometime Governor of Kasimbazar in India, being styled an English nabob by his peers.

In the meanwhile, Rumbold continued his career in India. He had been a director of the East India Company in 1772 and again from 1775 to 1777, and in June 1777 he was appointed Governor of Madras. During his governorship, British troops occupied Guntur (then French), which shortly afterwards was annexed to Madras, and also captured Pondichéry and Mahé; reporting the capture of Pondicherry to Lord North in October 1778 he declared that he had "happiness to succeed in fulfilling the wishes of his Majesty's ministers", and asked for a suitable reward. He was created first baronet of Wood Hall (referring to Woodhall Park, his Hertfordshire estate) on 27 March 1779.

Guntur Metropolis in Andhra Pradesh, India

Guntur ; is a city and the administrative headquarters of Guntur district in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. Guntur city is the 24th most densely populated city in the world and 11th in India. Situated 40 miles (64 km) to the north of the Bay of Bengal, on the Eastern Coastal Plains. The city forms a part of the Andhra Pradesh Capital Region, administered by APCRDA. It is a municipal corporation and also the headquarters of Guntur East and Guntur West mandals in Guntur revenue division. As of 2011 census of India the city is the third most populous in the state with a population of 670,073. Guntur is classified as a Y-grade city as per the Seventh Central Pay Commission. It forms a part of Visakhapatnam-Guntur Industrial Region, a major industrial corridor in the country. The city is known for its chilli, cotton and tobacco exports and has the largest chilli market yard in Asia.

Mahé, India Geographical Area in Puducherry, India

Mahé, also known as Mayyazhi, is a small town at the mouth of the Mahé River and is surrounded by the State of Kerala. The Kannur District surrounds Mahé on three sides and Kozhikode District from one side.

Frederick North, Lord North Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1770 to 1782

Frederick North, 2nd Earl of Guilford,, better known by his courtesy title Lord North, which he used from 1752 to 1790, was Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1770 to 1782. He led Great Britain through most of the American War of Independence. He also held a number of other cabinet posts, including Home Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Cartoon depicting Thomas Rumbold ("Nabob Rumbled") bribing Henry Dundas Nabob rumbled.jpg
Cartoon depicting Thomas Rumbold ("Nabob Rumbled") bribing Henry Dundas

However, Sir Thomas was also responsible for negotiations with Haidar Ali, and was unable to dissuade him from invading the Carnatic or to prevent him from succeeding. He resigned the governorship for reasons of ill health in 1780, and was subsequently dismissed from the service of the company by the court of directors, who held him responsible for the Carnatic invasion and the Second Anglo-Mysore War. A parliamentary enquiry was also imminent, and he was anxious to be in the Commons to defend himself, but he had once more been unseated for electoral corruption (having won the 1780 election at Shaftesbury in his absence the result had been overturned again), and had to buy himself a seat at Yarmouth (Isle of Wight). (While bribing voters was illegal, paying the patron of a pocket borough for a nomination as MP was still legal at this period.)

Carnatic region region of southern India

The Carnatic region is the region of peninsular South India lying between the Eastern Ghats and the Western Ghats, in the modern Indian states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and southern Andhra Pradesh.

Second Anglo-Mysore War war

The Second Anglo–Mysore War was a conflict between the Kingdom of Mysore and the British East India Company from 1780 to 1784. At the time, Mysore was a key French ally in India, and the conflict between Britain against the French and Dutch in the American Revolutionary War sparked Anglo–Mysorean hostilities in India. The great majority of soldiers on the company side were raised, trained, paid and commanded by the company, not the British government. However, the company's operations were bolstered by Crown troops sent from Britain, and by troops sent from Hanover, which was also ruled by Britain's King George III.

Yarmouth was a borough constituency of the House of Commons of England then of the House of Commons of Great Britain from 1707 to 1800 and of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom from 1801 to 1832. It was represented by two members of parliament (MPs), elected by the bloc vote system.

Rumbold supported the establishment of a parliamentary committee of enquiry into the causes of the war in the Carnatic, and spoke repeatedly during the debates that followed. However, the committee did not call him to give evidence, and eventually passed a motion for his impeachment. He was alleged to have diverted a staggering £600,000 into his own pockets, and it was proved that he had been consistently remitting back to England sums three times as big as his salary. But Rumbold's defence was vigorous, no useful evidence to back the charges against him was forthcoming from India, and he was acquitted. Nevertheless, it seems to have been widely believed that he had bribed Henry Dundas and Richard Rigby, the members in charge of the proceedings against him.

Rumbold continued as an MP until 1790, and died the following year. [3]


Rumbold was buried at Watton-at-Stone, where there is a monument to him in the parish church. [4]

Rumbold was painted by:


His oldest son, William Richard Rumbold having pre-deceased him, he was succeeded as baronet by his son George, a diplomat. Another son, Charles, served as MP for Great Yarmouth. His daughter Elizabeth Anne attempted to restore the reputation of her father in a book published posthumously in 1868. [7]

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  1. Nechtman, Tillman W. (2010). Nabobs: Empire and identity in eighteenth century Britain. Cambridge University Press. p. 148.
  2. McLynn, Frank (2013). Crime and punishment in eighteenth century England. Routledge. p. 154.
  3. 1 2 3 "RUMBOLD, Thomas (1736-91), of Woodhall, Herts." History of Parliament Online. Retrieved 3 December 2017.
  4. "Church of St Andrew".
  5. "Sir Thomas Rumbold, Bt".
  6. "Sir Thomas Rumbold". Art UK. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  7. Rumbold, Elizabeth Anne (1868). A vindication of the character and administration of Sir Thomas Rumbold. London: Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer.


Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Peregrine Cust
John Purling
Member of Parliament for New Shoreham
With: Peregrine Cust
Succeeded by
Charles Goring
Sir John Shelley
Preceded by
William Chaffin Grove
Francis Sykes
Member of Parliament for Shaftesbury
With: Sir Francis Sykes
Succeeded by
Hans Winthrop Mortimer
George Rous
Preceded by
Hans Winthrop Mortimer
George Rous
Member of Parliament for Shaftesbury
With: Sir Francis Sykes
Succeeded by
Hans Winthrop Mortimer
Sir Francis Sykes
Preceded by
Edward Morant
Edward Rushworth
Member of Parliament for Yarmouth (Isle of Wight)
With: Edward Morant
Succeeded by
Edward Morant
Philip Francis
Preceded by
Welbore Ellis
John Purling
Gabriel Steward
William Richard Rumbold
Member of Parliament for Weymouth and Melcombe Regis
With: Welbore Ellis
John Purling
Gabriel Steward 1784–1786
George Jackson 1786–1788
Gabriel Steward 1788–1790
Succeeded by
Sir James Murray Pulteney
Richard Bempde Johnstone
Andrew Stuart
Thomas Jones
Political offices
Preceded by
John Whitehill
Governor of Madras
Succeeded by
John Whitehill
Baronetage of Great Britain
Preceded by
New creation
(of Woodhall)
Succeeded by
George Berriman Rumbold