Robert Walpole
Overview
Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford, KG
Order of the Garter
The Most Noble Order of the Garter, founded in 1348, is the highest order of chivalry, or knighthood, existing in England. The order is dedicated to the image and arms of St...

, KB
Order of the Bath
The Most Honourable Order of the Bath is a British order of chivalry founded by George I on 18 May 1725. The name derives from the elaborate mediæval ceremony for creating a knight, which involved bathing as one of its elements. The knights so created were known as Knights of the Bath...

, PC (26 August 1676 – 18 March 1745), known before 1742 as Sir Robert Walpole, was a British
Kingdom of Great Britain
The former Kingdom of Great Britain, sometimes described as the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain', That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England, shall upon the 1st May next ensuing the date hereof, and forever after, be United into One Kingdom by the Name of GREAT BRITAIN. was a sovereign...

 statesman
Statesman
A statesman is usually a politician or other notable public figure who has had a long and respected career in politics or government at the national and international level. As a term of respect, it is usually left to supporters or commentators to use the term...

 who is generally regarded as having been the first Prime Minister of Great Britain
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the Head of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister and Cabinet are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Sovereign, to Parliament, to their political party and...

.
Although the position of "Prime Minister" had no recognition in law or official use at the time, Walpole is nevertheless acknowledged as having held the office de facto
De facto
De facto is a Latin expression that means "concerning fact." In law, it often means "in practice but not necessarily ordained by law" or "in practice or actuality, but not officially established." It is commonly used in contrast to de jure when referring to matters of law, governance, or...

because of his influence within the Cabinet
Cabinet of the United Kingdom
The Cabinet of the United Kingdom is the collective decision-making body of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, composed of the Prime Minister and some 22 Cabinet Ministers, the most senior of the government ministers....

.

A Whig who was first elected in 1701, Walpole served during the reigns of George I
George I of Great Britain
George I was King of Great Britain and Ireland from 1 August 1714 until his death, and ruler of the Duchy and Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg in the Holy Roman Empire from 1698....

 and George II
George II of Great Britain
George II was King of Great Britain and Ireland, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and Archtreasurer and Prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire from 11 June 1727 until his death.George was the last British monarch born outside Great Britain. He was born and brought up in Northern Germany...

.
Unanswered Questions
Quotations

All those men have their price.

Reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919), stating "'All men have their price' is commonly ascribed to Walpole", and citing Coxe, Memoirs of Walpole, Vol. iv, p. 369: "Flowery oratory he despised. He ascribed to the interested views of themselves or their relatives the declarations of pretended patriots, of whom he said, 'All those men have their price'".

Anything but history, for history must be false.

Walpoliana, No. 141.

The gratitude of place-expectants is a lively sense of future favours.

Reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919), stating "Hazlitt, in his Wit and Humour, says, 'This is Walpole’s phrase'". Compare: "La reconnaissance de la plupart des hommes n'est qu'une secrète envie de recevoir de plus grands bienfaits" (translated: "The gratitude of most men is but a secret desire of receiving greater benefits"), François de La Rochefoucauld, Maxim 298.

Encyclopedia
Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford, KG
Order of the Garter
The Most Noble Order of the Garter, founded in 1348, is the highest order of chivalry, or knighthood, existing in England. The order is dedicated to the image and arms of St...

, KB
Order of the Bath
The Most Honourable Order of the Bath is a British order of chivalry founded by George I on 18 May 1725. The name derives from the elaborate mediæval ceremony for creating a knight, which involved bathing as one of its elements. The knights so created were known as Knights of the Bath...

, PC (26 August 1676 – 18 March 1745), known before 1742 as Sir Robert Walpole, was a British
Kingdom of Great Britain
The former Kingdom of Great Britain, sometimes described as the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain', That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England, shall upon the 1st May next ensuing the date hereof, and forever after, be United into One Kingdom by the Name of GREAT BRITAIN. was a sovereign...

 statesman
Statesman
A statesman is usually a politician or other notable public figure who has had a long and respected career in politics or government at the national and international level. As a term of respect, it is usually left to supporters or commentators to use the term...

 who is generally regarded as having been the first Prime Minister of Great Britain
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the Head of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister and Cabinet are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Sovereign, to Parliament, to their political party and...

.
Although the position of "Prime Minister" had no recognition in law or official use at the time, Walpole is nevertheless acknowledged as having held the office de facto
De facto
De facto is a Latin expression that means "concerning fact." In law, it often means "in practice but not necessarily ordained by law" or "in practice or actuality, but not officially established." It is commonly used in contrast to de jure when referring to matters of law, governance, or...

because of his influence within the Cabinet
Cabinet of the United Kingdom
The Cabinet of the United Kingdom is the collective decision-making body of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, composed of the Prime Minister and some 22 Cabinet Ministers, the most senior of the government ministers....

.

A Whig who was first elected in 1701, Walpole served during the reigns of George I
George I of Great Britain
George I was King of Great Britain and Ireland from 1 August 1714 until his death, and ruler of the Duchy and Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg in the Holy Roman Empire from 1698....

 and George II
George II of Great Britain
George II was King of Great Britain and Ireland, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and Archtreasurer and Prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire from 11 June 1727 until his death.George was the last British monarch born outside Great Britain. He was born and brought up in Northern Germany...

. His tenure is normally dated from 1721 when he obtained the post of First Lord of the Treasury
First Lord of the Treasury
The First Lord of the Treasury is the head of the commission exercising the ancient office of Lord High Treasurer in the United Kingdom, and is now always also the Prime Minister...

; others date it from 1730 when, with the retirement of Lord Townshend
Charles Townshend, 2nd Viscount Townshend
Charles Townshend, 2nd Viscount Townshend Bt, KG, PC was a British Whig statesman. He served for a decade as Secretary of State, directing British foreign policy...

, he became the sole and undisputed leader of the Cabinet. The "longer" version of the tenure is generally upheld by the contemporary press, most notably that of the opposition, who focused far more attention upon Walpole than his counterpart. Walpole continued to govern until his resignation in 1742 prompted by the Battle of Cartagena
Battle of Cartagena de Indias
The Battle of Cartagena de Indias was an amphibious military engagement between the forces of Britain under Vice-Admiral Edward Vernon and those of Spain under Admiral Blas de Lezo. It took place at the city of Cartagena de Indias in March 1741, in present-day Colombia...

 disaster, making his administration the longest in British history. Because of his homely ways and strong Norfolk
Norfolk
Norfolk is a low-lying county in the East of England. It has borders with Lincolnshire to the west, Cambridgeshire to the west and southwest and Suffolk to the south. Its northern and eastern boundaries are the North Sea coast and to the north-west the county is bordered by The Wash. The county...

 roots, he was often known to both friends and detractors as the "fat old Squire of Norfolk."

Early life and family

Walpole was born in Houghton Hall
Houghton Hall
Houghton Hall is a country house in Norfolk, England. It was built for the de facto first British Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, and it is a key building in the history of Palladian architecture in England...

, Norfolk
Norfolk
Norfolk is a low-lying county in the East of England. It has borders with Lincolnshire to the west, Cambridgeshire to the west and southwest and Suffolk to the south. Its northern and eastern boundaries are the North Sea coast and to the north-west the county is bordered by The Wash. The county...

 in 1676. His father, Robert Walpole, was a Whig politician who represented the borough of Castle Rising
Castle Rising
Castle Rising is a village and civil parish in the English county of Norfolk. It is best known as the location of Castle Rising Castle, which dominates the village...

 in the House of Commons
House of Commons of England
The House of Commons of England was the lower house of the Parliament of England from its development in the 14th century to the union of England and Scotland in 1707, when it was replaced by the House of Commons of Great Britain...

. His mother was Mary Walpole (née Burwell) and he was the third of seventeen children, eight of whom died during infancy. Walpole holds the record amongst Prime Ministers for the greatest number of siblings.

Walpole entered Eton College
Eton College
Eton College, often referred to simply as Eton, is a British independent school for boys aged 13 to 18. It was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI as "The King's College of Our Lady of Eton besides Wyndsor"....

 as a scholar in 1690 and matriculated at King's College, Cambridge
King's College, Cambridge
King's College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England. The college's full name is "The King's College of our Lady and Saint Nicholas in Cambridge", but it is usually referred to simply as "King's" within the University....

 in 1696. In 1698 he left the University of Cambridge after the death of his only remaining elder brother, Edward, so that he could help his father administer the family estate. Walpole had planned to become a clergyman but abandoned the idea when, as the eldest surviving son in the family, he became the heir to his father's estate.

On 30 July 1700, Walpole married Catherine Shorter (died 20 August 1737), with whom he later had two daughters and four sons:
  • Robert Walpole, 2nd Earl of Orford
    Robert Walpole, 2nd Earl of Orford
    Robert Walpole, 2nd Earl of Orford , was a British peer, styled as The Lord Walpole from 1723 to 1745.-Family:He was the eldest son of the King's First Minister, now regarded as the first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole , and his first wife Catherine...

     (1701–31 March 1751), who married Margaret Rolle (17 January 1709–13 January 1781), later the 15th Baroness Clinton
    Baron Clinton
    Baron Clinton is a title in the Peerage of England. It was created in 1298 for John de Clinton. The peerage was created by writ, which means that it can descend through both male and female lines. The first Baron's great-great-great-grandson, the fifth Baron, fought on the Yorkist side in the Wars...

    , on 26 March 1724 and had one son.
  • Katherine Walpole, (13 May 1703–22 October 1722), who died unmarried at Bath, Somerset
    Somerset
    The ceremonial and non-metropolitan county of Somerset in South West England borders Bristol and Gloucestershire to the north, Wiltshire to the east, Dorset to the south-east, and Devon to the south-west. It is partly bounded to the north and west by the Bristol Channel and the estuary of the...

    .
  • Horatio Walpole (1704–24 July 1704)
  • Mary Walpole (c. 1705–2 January 1732), who married the 3rd Earl of Cholmondeley
    George Cholmondeley, 3rd Earl of Cholmondeley
    George Cholmondeley, 3rd Earl of Cholmondeley KB, PC , styled as Viscount Malpas from 1725 to 1733, was a British peer and Whig politician.-Life:...

     on 14 September 1723 and had two sons.
  • The Hon. Sir Edward Walpole
    Edward Walpole
    Sir Edward Walpole KB PC was a British politician, and a younger son of Sir Robert Walpole, Prime Minister from 1721 to 1742....

     (c. 1706–1784); he had an illegitimate daughter, Maria Walpole
    Maria, Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh
    Maria Walpole , the Countess Waldegrave and Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh, was a member of the British Royal Family, the wife of Prince William Henry, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh...

    , who later married into the British Royal Family
    British Royal Family
    The British Royal Family is the group of close relatives of the monarch of the United Kingdom. The term is also commonly applied to the same group of people as the relations of the monarch in her or his role as sovereign of any of the other Commonwealth realms, thus sometimes at variance with...

    , becoming the wife of Prince William Henry, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh
    Prince William Henry, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh
    Prince William, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh was a member of the British Royal Family, a grandson of George II and a younger brother of George III.-Early life:...

    , King George III's
    George III of the United Kingdom
    George III was King of Great Britain and King of Ireland from 25 October 1760 until the union of these two countries on 1 January 1801, after which he was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until his death...

     brother. Ancestor of Diana, Princess of Wales
    Diana, Princess of Wales
    Diana, Princess of Wales was the first wife of Charles, Prince of Wales, whom she married on 29 July 1981, and an international charity and fundraising figure, as well as a preeminent celebrity of the late 20th century...

    .
  • Horace Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford
    Horace Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford
    Horatio Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford was an English art historian, man of letters, antiquarian and Whig politician. He is now largely remembered for Strawberry Hill, the home he built in Twickenham, south-west London where he revived the Gothic style some decades before his Victorian successors,...

     (1717–1797)


After Lady Walpole died, Walpole married his mistress, Maria Skerritt, before 3 March 1738. They had been living openly together in Richmond
Richmond, North Yorkshire
Richmond is a market town and civil parish on the River Swale in North Yorkshire, England and is the administrative centre of the district of Richmondshire. It is situated on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and serves as the Park's main tourist centre...

, Houghton Hall
Houghton Hall
Houghton Hall is a country house in Norfolk, England. It was built for the de facto first British Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, and it is a key building in the history of Palladian architecture in England...

 and London society since about 1724, and she had borne him an illegitimate daughter whom he eventually had ennobled as Lady Maria Walpole. This daughter married Colonel Charles Churchill
Charles Churchill (of Chalfont)
Charles Churchill was the only son of Lieutenant-General Charles Churchill by the actress Anne Oldfield. His grandfather, also Charles Churchill, was a British army officer and brother of the 1st Duke of Marlborough....

 of Chalfont (1720–1812), a great-nephew of the 1st Duke of Marlborough, with whom she had two daughters. One of these daughters, Sophia Churchill, married Horatio Walpole, a great grandson of Robert Walpole and Mary Burwell who was also descended from the 1st Baron Burghley
William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley
William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley , KG was an English statesman, the chief advisor of Queen Elizabeth I for most of her reign, twice Secretary of State and Lord High Treasurer from 1572...

. The second Lady Walpole died of a miscarriage three months after the couple's marriage. As a couple they were commemorated as Polly and Macheath in John Gay's
John Gay
John Gay was an English poet and dramatist and member of the Scriblerus Club. He is best remembered for The Beggar's Opera , set to music by Johann Christoph Pepusch...

 The Beggar's Opera
The Beggar's Opera
The Beggar's Opera is a ballad opera in three acts written in 1728 by John Gay with music arranged by Johann Christoph Pepusch. It is one of the watershed plays in Augustan drama and is the only example of the once thriving genre of satirical ballad opera to remain popular today...

 which he wrote in 1728.

Early political career

Walpole's political career began in January 1701 when he won the general election in Castle Rising
Castle Rising (UK Parliament constituency)
Castle Rising was a parliamentary borough in Norfolk, which elected two Members of Parliament to the House of Commons from 1558 until 1832, when it was abolished by the Great Reform Act...

—the constituency once represented by his father who had died just three months earlier. He left Castle Rising in 1702 so that he could contest the neighbouring but more important borough of King's Lynn
King's Lynn (UK Parliament constituency)
King's Lynn was a constituency in Norfolk, known as Lynn or Bishop's Lynn prior to 1537, which returned two Members of Parliament to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom until 1885, and one member thereafter. Until 1918 it was a parliamentary borough, after which the name...

, a constituency that would re-elect him at every subsequent general election for the next forty years.

Like his father, Robert Walpole was a zealous member of the Whig Party which was then more powerful than the opposing Tory Party
Tory
Toryism is a traditionalist and conservative political philosophy which grew out of the Cavalier faction in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. It is a prominent ideology in the politics of the United Kingdom, but also features in parts of The Commonwealth, particularly in Canada...

. In 1705, Walpole was appointed a member of the Council of the Lord High Admiral
Admiralty
The Admiralty was formerly the authority in the Kingdom of England, and later in the United Kingdom, responsible for the command of the Royal Navy...

 (then Prince George of Denmark, the husband of Queen Anne
Anne of Great Britain
Anne ascended the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland on 8 March 1702. On 1 May 1707, under the Act of Union, two of her realms, England and Scotland, were united as a single sovereign state, the Kingdom of Great Britain.Anne's Catholic father, James II and VII, was deposed during the...

), a body which oversaw naval affairs. His administrative skills having been noticed, Walpole was promoted by Lord Godolphin
Sidney Godolphin, 1st Earl of Godolphin
Sir Sidney Godolphin, 1st Earl of Godolphin, KG, PC was a leading English politician of the late 17th and early 18th centuries...

 (the Lord High Treasurer
Lord High Treasurer
The post of Lord High Treasurer or Lord Treasurer was an English government position and has been a British government position since the Act of Union of 1707. A holder of the post would be the third highest ranked Great Officer of State, below the Lord High Chancellor and above the Lord President...

 and leader of the Cabinet) to the position of Secretary at War
Secretary at War
The Secretary at War was a political position in the English and later British government, with some responsibility over the administration and organization of the Army, but not over military policy. The Secretary at War ran the War Office. It was occasionally a cabinet level position, although...

 in 1708; for a short period of time in 1710 he also simultaneously held the post of Treasurer of the Navy
Treasurer of the Navy
The Treasurer of the Navy was an office in the British government between the mid-16th and early 19th century. The office-holder was responsible for the financial maintenance of the Royal Navy. The office was a political appointment, and frequently was held by up-and-coming young politicians who...

. Walpole's service in these offices made him a close advisor of the Duke of Marlborough
John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough
John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, Prince of Mindelheim, KG, PC , was an English soldier and statesman whose career spanned the reigns of five monarchs through the late 17th and early 18th centuries...

, the commander of British forces in the War of the Spanish Succession
War of the Spanish Succession
The War of the Spanish Succession was fought among several European powers, including a divided Spain, over the possible unification of the Kingdoms of Spain and France under one Bourbon monarch. As France and Spain were among the most powerful states of Europe, such a unification would have...

 and a dominant force in British politics. Robert Walpole himself quickly became one of the most important members of the Cabinet.

Despite his personal clout, however, Walpole could not stop Lord Godolphin and the Whigs from pressing for the prosecution of Henry Sacheverell
Henry Sacheverell
Henry Sacheverell was an English High Church clergyman and politician.-Early life:The son of Joshua Sacheverell, rector of St Peter's, Marlborough,...

, a minister who preached anti-Whig sermons. The trial was extremely unpopular with much of the country, causing the Sacheverell riots, and was followed by the downfall of the Duke of Marlborough and the Whig Party in the general election of 1710. The new ministry, under the leadership of the Tory Robert Harley
Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Mortimer
Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer KG was a British politician and statesman of the late Stuart and early Georgian periods. He began his career as a Whig, before defecting to a new Tory Ministry. Between 1711 and 1714 he served as First Lord of the Treasury, effectively Queen...

, removed Walpole from his office of Secretary at War but allowed him to remain Treasurer of the Navy until 2 January 1711. Harley attempted to entice him to join the Tories, but Walpole rejected the offers, instead becoming one of the most outspoken members of the Whig Opposition. He effectively defended Lord Godolphin against Tory attacks in parliamentary debate, as well as in the press.

Angered by his political attacks, the Tories sought to ruin and discredit him along with the Duke of Marlborough. In 1712, they alleged that he had been guilty of corruption as Secretary at War; these charges, however, stemmed from political hatred rather than fact. Walpole was impeached by the House of Commons and found guilty by the overwhelmingly Tory House of Lords
House of Lords
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

; he was then imprisoned in the Tower of London
Tower of London
Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, more commonly known as the Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London, England. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the City of London by the open space...

 for six months and expelled from Parliament. The move, however, backfired against the Tories, as Walpole was perceived by the public as the victim of an unjust trial. His own constituency even re-elected him in 1713, despite his earlier expulsion from the House of Commons. Walpole developed an intense hatred for Robert Harley (by then Earl of Oxford and Mortimer
Earl of Oxford
Earl of Oxford is a dormant title in the Peerage of England, held for several centuries by the de Vere family from 1141 until the death of the 20th earl in 1703. The Veres were also hereditary holders of the office of master or Lord Great Chamberlain from 1133 until the death of the 18th Earl in 1625...

) and Lord Bolingbroke
Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke
Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke was an English politician, government official and political philosopher. He was a leader of the Tories, and supported the Church of England politically despite his atheism. In 1715 he supported the Jacobite rebellion of 1715 which sought to overthrow the...

, the Tories who had engineered his impeachment.

Stanhope/Sunderland Ministry

Queen Anne died in 1714, to be succeeded by a distant German cousin George I
George I of Great Britain
George I was King of Great Britain and Ireland from 1 August 1714 until his death, and ruler of the Duchy and Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg in the Holy Roman Empire from 1698....

 under the Act of Settlement 1701
Act of Settlement 1701
The Act of Settlement is an act of the Parliament of England that was passed in 1701 to settle the succession to the English throne on the Electress Sophia of Hanover and her Protestant heirs. The act was later extended to Scotland, as a result of the Treaty of Union , enacted in the Acts of Union...

. George I distrusted the Tories who he believed opposed his right to succeed to the Throne. (The Act of Settlement had excluded several senior relatives of Anne on the grounds of their adherence to Roman Catholicism). Thus 1714, the year of George's accession, marked the ascendancy of the Whigs who would remain in power for the next fifty years. Robert Walpole became a Privy Councillor
Privy Council of the United Kingdom
Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, usually known simply as the Privy Council, is a formal body of advisers to the Sovereign in the United Kingdom...

 and rose to the position of Paymaster of the Forces
Paymaster of the Forces
The Paymaster of the Forces was a position in the British government. The office, which was established 1661 after the Restoration, was responsible for part of the financing of the British Army. The first to hold the office was Sir Stephen Fox. Before his time it had been the custom to appoint...

 in a Cabinet nominally led by Lord Halifax
Charles Montagu, 1st Earl of Halifax
Charles Montagu, 1st Earl of Halifax, KG, PC, FRS was an English poet and statesman.-Early life:Charles Montagu was born in Horton, Northamptonshire, the son of George Montagu, fifth son of 1st Earl of Manchester...

, but actually dominated by Lord Townshend (Walpole's brother-in-law) and James Stanhope
James Stanhope, 1st Earl Stanhope
James Stanhope, 1st Earl Stanhope PC was a British statesman and soldier who effectively served as Chief Minister between 1717 and 1721. He is probably best remembered for his service during War of the Spanish Succession...

. Walpole was also appointed chairman of a secret committee formed to investigate the actions of the previous Tory ministry. The individuals who had brought about Walpole's impeachment in 1712 were now themselves attacked for purely political reasons: Lord Oxford was impeached, and Lord Bolingbroke suffered from an act of attainder
Bill of attainder
A bill of attainder is an act of a legislature declaring a person or group of persons guilty of some crime and punishing them without benefit of a judicial trial.-English law:...

.

Lord Halifax, the titular head of the administration, died in 1715. Walpole, recognised as an assiduous politician, was immediately promoted to the important posts of First Lord of the Treasury
First Lord of the Treasury
The First Lord of the Treasury is the head of the commission exercising the ancient office of Lord High Treasurer in the United Kingdom, and is now always also the Prime Minister...

 and Chancellor of the Exchequer
Chancellor of the Exchequer
The Chancellor of the Exchequer is the title held by the British Cabinet minister who is responsible for all economic and financial matters. Often simply called the Chancellor, the office-holder controls HM Treasury and plays a role akin to the posts of Minister of Finance or Secretary of the...

; in this position, he introduced the sinking fund
Sinking fund
A sinking fund is a fund established by a government agency or business for the purpose of reducing debt by repaying or purchasing outstanding loans and securities held against the entity. It helps keep the borrower liquid so it can repay the bondholder....

, a device to reduce the national debt. The Cabinet of which he was a member was often divided over most important issues. Normally, Walpole and Lord Townshend were on one side, with Stanhope and Lord Sunderland
Charles Spencer, 3rd Earl of Sunderland
Sir Charles Spencer, 3rd Earl of Sunderland KG PC , known as Lord Spencer from 1688 to 1702, was an English statesman...

 on the other. Foreign policy was the primary issue of contention, for Walpole and Townshend believed that George I was conducting foreign affairs with the interests of his German territories—rather than those of Great Britain—at heart. The Stanhope-Sunderland faction, however, had the King's support. In 1716 Townshend was removed from the important post of Northern Secretary
Secretary of State for the Northern Department
The Secretary of State for the Northern Department was a position in the Cabinet of the government of Great Britain up to 1782. Before the Act of Union, 1707, the Secretary of State's responsibilities were in relation to the English government, not the British. Even after the Union, there was...

 and put in the lesser office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland
Lord Lieutenant of Ireland
The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland was the British King's representative and head of the Irish executive during the Lordship of Ireland , the Kingdom of Ireland and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland...

. Even this change did not appease Stanhope and Sunderland who secured the dismissal of Townshend from the Lord-Lieutenancy in April 1717. On the next day, Walpole resigned from the Cabinet to join Townshend in the Opposition. In the new Cabinet, Sunderland and Stanhope (who was created an Earl) were the effective heads.

Soon after Walpole's resignation, a bitter family quarrel between the King and the Prince of Wales
George II of Great Britain
George II was King of Great Britain and Ireland, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and Archtreasurer and Prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire from 11 June 1727 until his death.George was the last British monarch born outside Great Britain. He was born and brought up in Northern Germany...

 split the Royal Family. Walpole and others who opposed the Government often congregated at Leicester House
Leicester House
There have been two mansions in London, England called Leicester House:*A house in the Strand near the Temple: Leicester House, Strand. This existed in the Tudor period, and possibly earlier ....

, the home of the Prince of Wales, to form political plans. Walpole also became a close friend of the Prince of Wales's wife, Caroline
Caroline of Ansbach
Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach was the queen consort of King George II of Great Britain.Her father, John Frederick, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach, was the ruler of a small German state...

. In 1720 he improved his position by bringing about a reconciliation between the Prince of Wales and the King.

Walpole continued to be an influential figure in the House of Commons. He was especially active in opposing one of the Government's more significant proposals, the Peerage Bill, which would have limited the power of the monarch to create new peerage
Peerage
The Peerage is a legal system of largely hereditary titles in the United Kingdom, which constitute the ranks of British nobility and is part of the British honours system...

s. Walpole brought about a temporary abandonment of the bill in 1719 and the outright rejection of the bill by the House of Commons in the next year. This defeat led Lord Stanhope and Lord Sunderland to reconcile with their opponents; Walpole returned to the Cabinet as Paymaster of the Forces and Townshend was appointed Lord President of the Council
Lord President of the Council
The Lord President of the Council is the fourth of the Great Officers of State of the United Kingdom, ranking beneath the Lord High Treasurer and above the Lord Privy Seal. The Lord President usually attends each meeting of the Privy Council, presenting business for the monarch's approval...

. By returning to the Cabinet, however, Walpole lost the favour of the Prince of Wales (the future King George II) who still harboured disdain for his father's Government.

Rise to power

Soon after Walpole returned to the Cabinet, Britain was swept by a wave of over-enthusiastic speculation which led to the South Sea Bubble. The Government had established a plan whereby the South Sea Company would assume the national debt of Great Britain in exchange for lucrative bonds. It was widely believed that the Company would eventually reap an enormous profit through international trade in cloth, agricultural goods, and slaves. Many in the country, including Walpole himself, frenziedly invested in the company. By the latter part of 1720, however, the company had begun to collapse as the price of its shares plunged. Walpole was saved from financial ruin by his banker who had earlier advised him to sell his shares; other investors, however, were not as fortunate.

In 1721 a committee investigated the scandal, finding that there was corruption on the part of many in the Cabinet. Among those implicated were John Aislabie
John Aislabie
John Aislabie or Aslabie was a British politician, notable for his involvement in the South Sea Bubble and for creating the water garden at Studley Royal.-Background and education:...

 (the Chancellor of the Exchequer), James Craggs the Elder
James Craggs the Elder
James Craggs the Elder was an English politician and the father of James Craggs the Younger.A son of Anthony Craggs of Holbeck, Durham, he was baptized on 10 June 1657...

 (the Postmaster General
United Kingdom Postmaster General
The Postmaster General of the United Kingdom is a defunct Cabinet-level ministerial position in HM Government. Aside from maintaining the postal system, the Telegraph Act of 1868 established the Postmaster General's right to exclusively maintain electric telegraphs...

), James Craggs the Younger
James Craggs the Younger
James Craggs the Younger , son of James Craggs the Elder, was born at Westminster. Part of his early life was spent abroad, where he made the acquaintance of George Louis, Elector of Hanover, afterwards King George I...

 (the Southern Secretary
Secretary of State for the Southern Department
The Secretary of State for the Southern Department was a position in the cabinet of the government of Kingdom of Great Britain up to 1782.Before 1782, the responsibilities of the two British Secretaries of State were divided not based on the principles of modern ministerial divisions, but...

), and even Lord Stanhope and Lord Sunderland (the heads of the Ministry). Craggs the Elder and Craggs the Younger both died in disgrace; the remainder were impeached for their corruption. Aislabie was found guilty and imprisoned, but the personal influence of Walpole saved both Stanhope and Sunderland. For his role in preventing these individuals and others from being punished, Walpole gained the nickname of "Screenmaster-General".

The resignation of Sunderland and the death of Stanhope in 1721 left Walpole as the most important figure in the administration. In April 1721 he was appointed First Lord of the Treasury, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons. Walpole's de facto tenure as "Prime Minister" is often dated to his appointment as First Lord in 1721. In reality, however, Walpole shared power with his brother-in-law Lord Townshend, who served as Secretary of State for the Northern Department and controlled the nation's foreign affairs. The two also had to contend with the Secretary of State for the Southern Department, Lord Carteret
John Carteret, 2nd Earl Granville
John Carteret, 2nd Earl Granville, 7th Seigneur of Sark, KG, PC , commonly known by his earlier title as Lord Carteret, was a British statesman and Lord President of the Council from 1751 to 1763.-Family:...

.

Premiership under George I

Under the guidance of Walpole, Parliament
Parliament of Great Britain
The Parliament of Great Britain was formed in 1707 following the ratification of the Acts of Union by both the Parliament of England and Parliament of Scotland...

 attempted to deal with the financial crisis brought on by the South Sea Bubble. The estates of the directors of the South Sea Company were confiscated and used to relieve the suffering of the victims, and the stock of the company was divided between the Bank of England
Bank of England
The Bank of England is the central bank of the United Kingdom and the model on which most modern central banks have been based. Established in 1694, it is the second oldest central bank in the world...

 and East India Company
East India Company
The East India Company was an early English joint-stock company that was formed initially for pursuing trade with the East Indies, but that ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and China...

. The crisis had significantly damaged the credibility of the King and of the Whig Party, but Walpole defended both with skilful oratory in the House of Commons.

Walpole's first year as Prime Minister was also marked by the discovery of a Jacobite plot formed by Francis Atterbury
Francis Atterbury
Francis Atterbury was an English man of letters, politician and bishop.-Early life:He was born at Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire, where his father was rector. He was educated at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford, where he became a tutor...

, the Bishop of Rochester
Bishop of Rochester
The Bishop of Rochester is the ordinary of the Church of England Diocese of Rochester in the Province of Canterbury.The diocese covers the west of the county of Kent and is centred in the city of Rochester where the bishop's seat is located at the Cathedral Church of Christ and the Blessed Virgin...

. The exposure of the scheme crushed the hopes of the Jacobites
Jacobitism
Jacobitism was the political movement in Britain dedicated to the restoration of the Stuart kings to the thrones of England, Scotland, later the Kingdom of Great Britain, and the Kingdom of Ireland...

 whose previous attempts at rebellion (most notably the risings of 1715 and 1719) had also failed. The Tory Party was equally unfortunate even though Lord Bolingbroke, a Tory leader who fled to France to avoid punishment for his Jacobite sympathies, was permitted to return to Britain in 1723.

During the remainder of George I's reign, Walpole's ascendancy continued; the political power of the monarch was gradually diminishing and that of his ministers gradually increasing. In 1724 the primary political rival of Walpole and Townshend in the Cabinet, Lord Carteret, was dismissed from the post of Southern Secretary and once again appointed to the lesser office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. In Ireland, Lord Carteret used his power to secretly aid in the controversy over Wood's Halfpence
William Wood (Mintmaster)
William Wood was a hardware manufacturer and mintmaster, noted for receiving a contract to strike an issue of Irish coinage from 1722 to 1724. He also struck the 'Rosa Americana' coins of British America during the same period....

 and support Drapier's Letters behind the scenes and cause harm to Walpole's power. Walpole was able to recover from these events by removing the patent. However, Irish sentiment was situated against the English control.

Now, Walpole and Townshend were clearly the supreme forces in the ministry. They helped keep Great Britain at peace, especially by negotiating a treaty with France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 and Prussia
Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

 in 1725. Great Britain, free from Jacobite threats, from war, and from financial crises, grew prosperous, and Robert Walpole acquired the favour of George I. In 1725 he was created a Knight of the Bath
Order of the Bath
The Most Honourable Order of the Bath is a British order of chivalry founded by George I on 18 May 1725. The name derives from the elaborate mediæval ceremony for creating a knight, which involved bathing as one of its elements. The knights so created were known as Knights of the Bath...

, and in 1726 a Knight of the Garter
Order of the Garter
The Most Noble Order of the Garter, founded in 1348, is the highest order of chivalry, or knighthood, existing in England. The order is dedicated to the image and arms of St...

 (earning him the nickname "Sir Blustering"). Moreover, his eldest son was granted a barony.

Premiership under George II

Walpole's position was threatened in 1727 when George I died and was succeeded by George II
George II of Great Britain
George II was King of Great Britain and Ireland, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and Archtreasurer and Prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire from 11 June 1727 until his death.George was the last British monarch born outside Great Britain. He was born and brought up in Northern Germany...

. For a few days it seemed that Walpole would be dismissed but the King agreed to keep him in office upon the advice of Queen Caroline
Caroline of Ansbach
Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach was the queen consort of King George II of Great Britain.Her father, John Frederick, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach, was the ruler of a small German state...

. Although the King disliked Townshend, he retained him as well. Over the next years Walpole continued to share power with Townshend but gradually became the clearly dominant partner in government. The two clashed over British foreign affairs, especially over policy regarding Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

, but Walpole was ultimately victorious, with his colleague retiring on 15 May 1730. This date is often given as the beginning of Walpole's unofficial tenure as Prime Minister. In the wake of his triumph Walpole was able to conclude the Treaty of Vienna
Treaty of Vienna (1731)
The Treaty of Vienna was first signed on 16 March 1731 by Count Finzendorf and the Earl of Chesterfield. This treaty marked the collapse of the Anglo-French Alliance , the beginning of the Anglo-Austrian Alliance and the birth of the legend of the natural enmity between the Kingdom of France and...

 creating the Anglo-Austrian alliance
Anglo-Austrian Alliance
The Anglo-Austrian Alliance connected the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Habsburg monarchy during the first half of the 18th century. It was largely the work of the British statesman Duke of Newcastle, who considered an alliance with Austria crucial to prevent the further expansion of French...

.

Opposition

Walpole, a polarising figure, had many opponents, the most important of whom were in the Country Party
Country Party (Britain)
In Britain in the era 1680-1740, especially in the days of Robert Walpole , the Country Party was a coalition of Tories and disaffected Whigs. It was a movement rather than an organized party and had no formal structure or leaders...

, such as Lord Bolingbroke (who had been his political enemy since the days of Queen Anne) and William Pulteney
William Pulteney, 1st Earl of Bath
William Pulteney, 1st Earl of Bath, PC was an English politician, a Whig, created the first Earl of Bath in 1742 by King George II; he is sometimes stated to have been Prime Minister, for the shortest term ever , though most modern sources reckon that he cannot be considered to have held the...

 (a capable Whig statesman who felt snubbed when Walpole failed to include him in the Cabinet) . Bolingbroke and Pulteney ran a periodical called The Craftsman in which they incessantly denounced the Prime Minister's policies. Walpole was also satirised and parodied extensively; he was often compared to the criminal Jonathan Wild
Jonathan Wild
Jonathan Wild was perhaps the most infamous criminal of London — and possibly Great Britain — during the 18th century, both because of his own actions and the uses novelists, playwrights, and political satirists made of them...

 as, for example, John Gay
John Gay
John Gay was an English poet and dramatist and member of the Scriblerus Club. He is best remembered for The Beggar's Opera , set to music by Johann Christoph Pepusch...

 did in his farcical Beggar's Opera
The Beggar's Opera
The Beggar's Opera is a ballad opera in three acts written in 1728 by John Gay with music arranged by Johann Christoph Pepusch. It is one of the watershed plays in Augustan drama and is the only example of the once thriving genre of satirical ballad opera to remain popular today...

. Walpole's other enemies included Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift was an Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer , poet and cleric who became Dean of St...

, Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope was an 18th-century English poet, best known for his satirical verse and for his translation of Homer. He is the third-most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, after Shakespeare and Tennyson...

, Henry Fielding
Henry Fielding
Henry Fielding was an English novelist and dramatist known for his rich earthy humour and satirical prowess, and as the author of the novel Tom Jones....

, and Dr Samuel Johnson
Samuel Johnson
Samuel Johnson , often referred to as Dr. Johnson, was an English author who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer...

.

Support

Despite such opposition, Walpole secured the support of the people and of the House of Commons with a policy of avoiding war which, in turn, allowed him to impose low taxes. He used his influence to prevent George II from entering a European conflict in 1733 when the War of the Polish Succession
War of the Polish Succession
The War of the Polish Succession was a major European war for princes' possessions sparked by a Polish civil war over the succession to Augustus II, King of Poland that other European powers widened in pursuit of their own national interests...

 broke out. In the same year, however, his influence was seriously threatened by a taxation scheme he introduced. The revenue of the country had been severely diminished by smugglers so Walpole proposed that the tariff on wine and tobacco be replaced by an excise tax. To countervail the threat of smuggling, the tax was to be collected not at ports but at warehouses. This new proposal, however, was extremely unpopular and aroused the opposition of the nation's merchants. Walpole agreed to withdraw the bill before Parliament voted on it but he dismissed the politicians who had dared to oppose it in the first place. Thus, Walpole lost a considerable element of his Whig Party to the Opposition.

After the general elections of 1734, Walpole's supporters still formed a majority in the House of Commons although they were less numerous than before. Though he maintained his parliamentary supremacy, his popularity began to wane. In 1736 an increase in the tax on gin inspired riots in London. The even more serious Porteous Riots
Porteous Riots
The Porteous Riots surrounded the activities of Captain John Porteous, , Captain of the City Guard of Edinburgh, Scotland, who was lynched by a mob for his part in the killing of innocent civilians while ordering the men under his command to quell a disturbance during a public hanging in the...

 broke out in Edinburgh after the King pardoned a captain of the guard (John Porteous) who had commanded his troops to shoot a group of protesters. Though these events diminished Walpole's popularity, they failed to shake his majority in Parliament. Walpole's domination over the House of Commons was highlighted by the ease with which he secured the rejection of Sir John Barnard's plan to reduce the interest on the national debt. Walpole was also able to persuade Parliament to pass the Licensing Act of 1737
Licensing Act 1737
The Licensing Act or Theatrical Licensing Act of 21 June 1737 was a landmark act of censorship of the British stage and one of the most determining factors in the development of Augustan drama...

 under which London theatres were regulated. The Act revealed a disdain for Swift, Pope, Fielding, and other literary figures who had attacked his government in their works.

While the "country party
Country Party
Country Party may refer to* Country Party of Australia, now called "National Party of Australia"* In Great Britain:** Country Party , opponents of the Court Party and the government, late 17th early 18th century** Ultra-Tories, active 1829–32...

" attacked Walpole relentlessly, he subsidized writers who spoke up in his behalf. William Arnall
William Arnall
-Life:He was trained as an attorney, but took to political writing before he was twenty. He was one of the authors in Prime Minister Robert Walpole's pay who replied to the Craftsman and the various attacks of Bolingbroke and Pulteney. He wrote the Free Briton under the signature of "Francis...

 and others defended Walpole from the charge of evil political corruption by arguing that corruption is the universal human condition. Furthermore, they argued, political divisiveness was also universal and inevitable because of selfish passions that were integral to human nature. Arnall argued that government must be strong enough to control conflict, and in that regard Walpole was quite successful. This style of "court" political rhetoric continued through the 18th century.

Decline

The year 1737 was also marked by the death of Walpole's close friend Queen Caroline
Caroline of Ansbach
Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach was the queen consort of King George II of Great Britain.Her father, John Frederick, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach, was the ruler of a small German state...

. Though her death did not end his personal influence with George II, who had grown loyal to the Prime Minister during the preceding years, Walpole's domination of government continued to decline. His opponents acquired a vocal leader in the Prince of Wales
Frederick, Prince of Wales
Frederick, Prince of Wales was a member of the House of Hanover and therefore of the Hanoverian and later British Royal Family, the eldest son of George II and father of George III, as well as the great-grandfather of Queen Victoria...

 who was estranged from his father, the King. Several young politicians including William Pitt the Elder
William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham
William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham PC was a British Whig statesman who led Britain during the Seven Years' War...

 and George Grenville
George Grenville
George Grenville was a British Whig statesman who rose to the position of Prime Minister of Great Britain. Grenville was born into an influential political family and first entered Parliament in 1741 as an MP for Buckingham...

 formed a faction known as the "Patriot Boys
Patriot Whigs
The Patriot Whigs and, later Patriot Party, was a group within the Whig party in Great Britain from 1725 to 1803. The group was formed in opposition to the ministry of Robert Walpole in the House of Commons in 1725, when William Pulteney and seventeen other Whigs joined with the Tory party in...

" and joined the Prince of Wales in opposition.

Walpole's failure to maintain a policy of avoiding military conflict eventually led to his fall from power. Under the Treaty of Seville
Treaty of Seville (1729)
The Treaty of Seville was signed on 9 November 1729 between Great Britain, France, and Spain, concluding the Anglo-Spanish War .Preliminary discussions had already taken place between Britain and Spain at the Convention of Pardo and the Congress of Soissons...

 (1729), Great Britain agreed not to trade with the Spanish colonies in North America. Spain claimed the right to board and search British vessels to ensure compliance with this provision. Disputes, however, broke out over trade with the West Indies. Walpole attempted to prevent war but was opposed by the King, the House of Commons, and by a faction in his own Cabinet. In 1739 Walpole abandoned all efforts to stop the conflict and commenced the War of Jenkins' Ear
War of Jenkins' Ear
The War of Jenkins' Ear was a conflict between Great Britain and Spain that lasted from 1739 to 1748, with major operations largely ended by 1742. Its unusual name, coined by Thomas Carlyle in 1858, relates to Robert Jenkins, captain of a British merchant ship, who exhibited his severed ear in...

 (so called because Robert Jenkins, an English mariner, claimed that a Spaniard inspecting his vessel had severed his ear).

Walpole's influence continued to dramatically decline even after the war began. In the 1741 general election his supporters secured an increase in votes in constituencies that were decided by mass electorates but failed to win in many pocket boroughs
Rotten borough
A "rotten", "decayed" or pocket borough was a parliamentary borough or constituency in the United Kingdom that had a very small electorate and could be used by a patron to gain undue and unrepresentative influence within Parliament....

 (constituencies subject to the informal but strong influence of patrons). In general the government made gains in England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 and Wales
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

 but this was not enough to overturn the reverses of the 1734 election and further losses in Cornwall
Cornwall
Cornwall is a unitary authority and ceremonial county of England, within the United Kingdom. It is bordered to the north and west by the Celtic Sea, to the south by the English Channel, and to the east by the county of Devon, over the River Tamar. Cornwall has a population of , and covers an area of...

 where many constituencies were obedient to the will of the Prince of Wales (who was also Duke of Cornwall
Duke of Cornwall
The Duchy of Cornwall was the first duchy created in the peerage of England.The present Duke of Cornwall is The Prince of Wales, the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II, the reigning British monarch .-History:...

). These constituencies returned Members of Parliament hostile to the Prime Minister. Similarly, the influence of the Duke of Argyll
John Campbell, 2nd Duke of Argyll
Field Marshal John Campbell, 2nd Duke of Argyll, 1st Duke of Greenwich KG , known as Iain Ruaidh nan Cath or Red John of the Battles, was a Scottish soldier and nobleman.-Early Life:...

 secured the election of members opposed to Walpole in some parts of Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

. Walpole's new majority was difficult to determine because of the uncertain loyalties of many new members, but contemporaries and historians estimated it as low as fourteen to eighteen.

In the new Parliament, many Whigs thought the aging Prime Minister incapable of leading the military campaign. Moreover, his majority was not as strong as it used to be, his detractors being approximately as numerous as his supporters. In 1742 when the House of Commons was prepared to determine the validity of an allegedly rigged by-election
By-election
A by-election is an election held to fill a political office that has become vacant between regularly scheduled elections....

 in Chippenham
Chippenham, Wiltshire
Chippenham is a market town in Wiltshire, England, located east of Bath and west of London. In the 2001 census the population of the town was recorded as 28,065....

, Walpole and others agreed to treat the issue as a Motion of No Confidence
Motion of no confidence
A motion of no confidence is a parliamentary motion whose passing would demonstrate to the head of state that the elected parliament no longer has confidence in the appointed government.-Overview:Typically, when a parliament passes a vote of no...

. As Walpole was defeated on the vote, he agreed to resign from the Government. The news of the naval disaster against Spain in the Battle of Cartagena de Indias
Battle of Cartagena de Indias
The Battle of Cartagena de Indias was an amphibious military engagement between the forces of Britain under Vice-Admiral Edward Vernon and those of Spain under Admiral Blas de Lezo. It took place at the city of Cartagena de Indias in March 1741, in present-day Colombia...

 also prompted the end of his political career. As part of his resignation the King agreed to elevate him to the House of Lords
House of Lords
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

 as the Earl of Orford
Earl of Orford
Earl of Orford is a title that has been created three times. The first creation came in the Peerage of England in 1697 in favour of the naval commander Edward Russell, who served three times as First Lord of the Admiralty. He was created Baron Shingay and Viscount Barfleur at the same time...

 and this occurred on 6 February 1742. Five days later he formally relinquished the seals of office.

Later years

Lord Orford was succeeded as Prime Minister by Lord Wilmington
Spencer Compton, 1st Earl of Wilmington
Spencer Compton, 1st Earl of Wilmington KG, KB, PC was a British Whig statesman who served continuously in government from 1715 until his death. He served as the nominal head of government from 1742 until his death in 1743, but was merely a figurehead for the true leader of the government, Lord...

 in an administration whose true head was Lord Carteret
John Carteret, 2nd Earl Granville
John Carteret, 2nd Earl Granville, 7th Seigneur of Sark, KG, PC , commonly known by his earlier title as Lord Carteret, was a British statesman and Lord President of the Council from 1751 to 1763.-Family:...

. A committee was created to inquire into Walpole's ministry but no substantial evidence of wrongdoing or corruption was discovered. Though no longer a member of the Cabinet, Lord Orford continued to maintain personal influence with George II and was often dubbed the "Minister behind the Curtain" for this advice and influence. In 1744 he managed to secure the dismissal of Carteret and the appointment of Henry Pelham
Henry Pelham
Henry Pelham was a British Whig statesman, who served as Prime Minister of Great Britain from 27 August 1743 until his death in 1754...

 whom he regarded as a political protegé. He advised Pelham to make use of his seat in the Commons to serve as a bridge between the King and Parliament, just as Walpole had done.

His health, never good, deteriorated rapidly toward the end of 1744; Lord Orford died in London in 1745, aged nearly sixty-nine years; he was buried in his home town of Houghton. His earldom passed to his eldest son Robert who was in turn succeeded by his only son George. Upon the death of the third Earl, the Earldom was inherited by the first Earl's younger son Horace Walpole
Horace Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford
Horatio Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford was an English art historian, man of letters, antiquarian and Whig politician. He is now largely remembered for Strawberry Hill, the home he built in Twickenham, south-west London where he revived the Gothic style some decades before his Victorian successors,...

 (a famous writer and friend of poet Thomas Gray
Thomas Gray
Thomas Gray was a poet, letter-writer, classical scholar and professor at Cambridge University.-Early life and education:...

), who died without heirs in 1797.

Legacy

Walpole's influence on the politics of his day was tremendous. The Tories became a minor, insignificant faction, and the Whigs became a dominant and largely unopposed party. His influence on the development of the uncodified constitution of Great Britain was less momentous even though he is regarded as Great Britain's first Prime Minister. He relied primarily on the favour of the King rather than on the support of the House of Commons. His power stemmed from his personal influence instead of the influence of his office. Most of his immediate successors were, comparatively speaking, extremely weak; it would take several decades more for the premiership to develop into the most powerful and most important office in the country.

Walpole's strategy of keeping Great Britain at peace contributed greatly to the country's prosperity. Walpole also managed to secure the position of the Hanoverian Dynasty
House of Hanover
The House of Hanover is a deposed German royal dynasty which has ruled the Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg , the Kingdom of Hanover, the Kingdom of Great Britain, the Kingdom of Ireland and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland...

, and effectively countervailed Jacobitism. The Jacobite threat was ended, soon after Walpole's term ended, by the defeat of the rebellion of 1745. Later in the century, the Whig MP Edmund Burke
Edmund Burke
Edmund Burke PC was an Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist and philosopher who, after moving to England, served for many years in the House of Commons of Great Britain as a member of the Whig party....

 "admitted him into the whig pantheon". Burke wrote:

He was an honorable man and a sound Whig. He was not, as the Jacobites and discontented Whigs of his time have represented him, and as ill-informed people still represent him, a prodigal and corrupt minister. They charged him in their libels and seditious conversations as having first reduced corruption to a system. Such was their cant. But he was far from governing by corruption. He governed by party attachments. The charge of systematic corruption is less applicable to him, perhaps, than to any minister who ever served the crown for so great a length of time. He gained over very few from the Opposition. Without being a genius of the first class, he was an intelligent, prudent, and safe minister. He loved peace; and he helped to communicate the same disposition to nations at least as warlike and restless as that in which he had the chief direction of affairs...With many virtues, public and private, he had his faults; but his faults were superficial. A careless, coarse, and over familiar style of discourse, without sufficient regard to persons or occasions, and an almost total want of political decorum, were the errours by which he was most hurt in the public opinion: and those through which his enemies obtained the greatest advantage over him. But justice must be done. The prudence, steadiness, and vigilance of that man, joined to the greatest possible lenity in his character and his politics, preserved the crown to this royal family; and with it, their laws and liberties to this country.


Lord Chesterfield
Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield
Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield PC KG was a British statesman and man of letters.A Whig, Lord Stanhope, as he was known until his father's death in 1726, was born in London. After being educated at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, he went on the Grand Tour of the continent...

 was sceptical whether "an impartial Character of Sr Robert Walpole, will or can be transmitted to Posterity, for he governed this Kingdom so long that the various passions of Mankind mingled, and in a manner incorporated themselves, with every thing that was said or writt concerning him. Never was Man more flattered nor more abused, and his long power, was probably the chief cause of both". Chesterfield claimed he was "much acquainted with him both in his publick and his private life":

In private life he was good natured, Chearfull, social. Inelegant in his manners, loose in his morals. He had a coarse wit, which he was too free of for a Man in his Station, as it is always inconsistent with dignity. He was very able as a Minister, but without a certain Elevation of mind...He was both the ablest Parliament man, and the ablest manager of a Parliament, that I believe ever lived...Money, not Prerogative, was the chief Engine of his administration, and he employed it with a success that in a manner disgraced humanity...When he found any body proof, against pecuniary temptations, which alass! was but seldom, he had recourse to still a worse art. For he laughed at and ridiculed all notions of Publick virtue, and the love of one's Country, calling them the Chimerical school boy flights of Classical learning; declaring himself at the same time, No Saint, no Spartan, no reformer. He would frequently ask young fellows at their first appearance in the world, while their honest hearts were yet untainted, well are you to be an old Roman? a Patriot? you will soon come off of that, and grow wiser. And thus he was more dangerous to the morals, than to the libertys of his country, to which I am persuaded that he meaned no ill in his heart...His Name will not be recorded in History among the best men, or the best Ministers, but much much less ought it to be ranked among the worst.


Another part of Walpole's legacy is 10 Downing Street
10 Downing Street
10 Downing Street, colloquially known in the United Kingdom as "Number 10", is the headquarters of Her Majesty's Government and the official residence and office of the First Lord of the Treasury, who is now always the Prime Minister....

. George II offered this home to Walpole as a personal gift in 1732 but Walpole accepted it only as the official residence of the First Lord of the Treasury, taking up his residence there on 22 September 1735. His immediate successors did not always reside in Number 10 (preferring their larger private residences) but the home has nevertheless become established as the official residence of the Prime Minister (in his or her capacity as First Lord of the Treasury).

Walpole built as his country seat Houghton Hall
Houghton Hall
Houghton Hall is a country house in Norfolk, England. It was built for the de facto first British Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, and it is a key building in the history of Palladian architecture in England...

 in Norfolk
Norfolk
Norfolk is a low-lying county in the East of England. It has borders with Lincolnshire to the west, Cambridgeshire to the west and southwest and Suffolk to the south. Its northern and eastern boundaries are the North Sea coast and to the north-west the county is bordered by The Wash. The county...

.

Walpole also left behind a famous collection of art which he had assembled during his career. This collection was sold by his grandson, the 3rd Earl of Orford, to the Russian Empress Catherine II
Catherine II of Russia
Catherine II, also known as Catherine the Great , Empress of Russia, was born in Stettin, Pomerania, Prussia on as Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg...

 in 1779. This collection—which was regarded as one of the finest in Europe—now lies in the State Hermitage Museum
Hermitage Museum
The State Hermitage is a museum of art and culture in Saint Petersburg, Russia. One of the largest and oldest museums of the world, it was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great and has been opened to the public since 1852. Its collections, of which only a small part is on permanent display,...

 in Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea...

, Russia.

The nursery rhyme, "Who Killed Cock Robin
Cock Robin
"Who Killed Cock Robin" is an English nursery rhyme, which has been much used as a murder archetype in world culture. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 494.-Lyrics:...

?" is said to be an allusion to the fall of Walpole (Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes ISBN 0-19-860088-7).

The town of Walpole, Massachusetts
Walpole, Massachusetts
Walpole is a town in Norfolk County, Massachusetts, United States. It is located about south of Boston and north of Providence, Rhode Island. The population was 24,070 at the 2010 census. Walpole was first settled in 1659 and was considered a part of Dedham until officially incorporated in 1724...

, USA was founded in 1724 and named after Sir Robert Walpole.

Walpole Street in Wolverhampton is named after Sir Robert Walpole.

Styles from birth to death

  • Mr Robert Walpole (1676–1701)
  • Mr Robert Walpole, MP (1701–1714)
  • The Rt Hon. Robert Walpole, MP (1714–1725)
  • The Rt Hon. Sir Robert Walpole, KB, MP (1725–1726)
  • The Rt Hon. Sir Robert Walpole, KG, KB, MP (1726–1742)
  • The Rt Hon. The Earl of Orford, KG, KB, PC (1742–1745)

See also

  • Walpole/Townshend Ministry (1721–1730)
    Walpole/Townshend Ministry
    -Robert Walpole's Cabinet:*For several months in 1721, Lord Carteret concurrently held the positions of Northern Secretary and Lord President of the Council....

  • Walpole Ministry (1730–1742)
    Walpole Ministry
    -The Ministry:...

  • List of Prime Ministers of Great Britain
  • Marquess of Cholmondeley
    Marquess of Cholmondeley
    Marquess of Cholmondeley is a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. It was created in 1815 for George Cholmondeley, 4th Earl of Cholmondeley. Each Marquess of Cholmondeley is a descendant of Sir Robert Walpole, the first Prime Minister of Great Britain....

  • Baron Delamere
    Baron Delamere
    Baron Delamere, of Vale Royal in the County of Chester, is a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. It was created in 1821 for Thomas Cholmondeley, a former Member of Parliament for Cheshire...


External links

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