Robert Walpole (lived August 26, 1676 to March 18, 1745) is regarded as the first Prime Minister of Great Britain (although this term was not used during this time). He served under George I and II. He was born in Houghton Hall, Norfolk to mother Mary Walpole and father, Robert Walpole. After his father’s death, he inherited the family parliamentary seat at Castle Rising and was elected. Later, in 1702, he transferred to King’s Lynn, which he represented for 40 years. He was a “Whig,” a political party that existed in the Parliament of England, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom. The Whig’s rivaled the Tories (the more conservative supporters of Charles II who enforced a strong monarchy) from the 1680’s to the 1850’s. The Whig’s originated in constitutional monarchism and opposition to absolute rule. Walpole became a member of Prince George of Denmark’s Council in 1705, which controlled naval activities during the War of the Spanish Succession (which reduced French power). Walpole was later promoted to secretary at war (1708) and then treasurer of the navy (1710)—he was later dismissed from the position in 1711.
Due to his refusal to join the rival political party, the Tories, Walpole became a victim of the Tories jealousy and rivalry. He was impeached and jailed. Other members of the Whig party viewed him as a martyr and hero. After he regained political stance and returned to the cabinet, Walpole played a large role in many important events. He helped bring about the rejection of the Peerage Bill in 1917 (which would have limited the king’s prerogative to create new peers), helped bring about a reconciliation with the king in 1720, and most notably, preserving the reputation of Whig leaders and the court while only sacrificing some of those involved in the South Sea Bubble. He restored confidence with his impressive oratory and persuasive skills, and his successes made the Whig’s the dominant political party over the Tories. Walpole’s high standing with George I and George II fueled his power and allowed him to use royal patronage for political ends.
Walpole’s overall influence on 18th-century politics was large. He brought glory to the Whig political party and reduced the popularity of the rival Tory party by branding them as Jacobites, a reference to a conspiracy group that tried to take control of the government before their mission was aborted. The reaction of the public to this kept Tories out of the office until 1770. Walpole’s actions also discredited government institutions and strengthened the early growth of urban radicalism. He also enjoyed judgment of works of art—his house is furnished with Palladian architecture and represents one of the most impressive collections in Europe.
Sources Used for Robert Walpole Article
“Robert Walpole.” WikiPedia: the free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 5 Mar
2013. Web. 09 Mar 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Walpole>.
“Robert Walpole, 1st earl of Orford.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia
Britannica Inc., 2012. Accessed 10 March 2013. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/635013/Robert-Walpole-1st-earl-of-Orford>.
“Sir Robert Walpole.” Britain’s Prime Ministers. Delaware: 2007. Accessed 10 March
“South Sea Bubble.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica Inc.,
2012. Accessed 10 March 2013.