Robert Walpole (1650–1700)

Robert Walpole (1650–1700)
Robert Walpole MP
Robert Walpole's home, Houghton Hall
Member of Parliament
for Castle Rising
In office
January 1689 – 18 November 1700
Personal details
Born 18 November 1650
Norfolk, England
Died 18 November 1700 (aged 50)
Nationality English
Political party Whig
Spouse(s) Mary Burwell
Relations Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford son

Horatio Walpole, 1st Baron Walpole son

Residence Houghton Hall
Occupation Politician

Colonel Robert Walpole (18 November 1650 – 18 November 1700) was an English Whig politician who represented the borough of Castle Rising from 1689 to 1700 in the House of Commons of England. Because he held the rank of Colonel in the militia, he was widely known as Colonel Walpole.[1] He is mainly notable for being the father of Sir Robert Walpole. His son, who served during the reigns of George I and George II, is considered to have been the first Prime Minister of Great Britain.[2] He is also known for being the Guinness World Records titular for having the world's longest overdue book.[3]


Early life and career

Walpole's son, Sir Robert Walpole, the first Prime Minister of Great Britain.

Robert Walpole was born in 1650 to Susan Walpole (née Crane) and Edward Walpole.[2] His father ardently supported Charles II for restoration and would become a Knight of the Bath later in his life.[4] Robert was born in Norfolk on the estate that the Walpole family had lived on for over four hundred years.[5] Walpole owned Houghton Hall in Norfolk. In 1668 Walpole borrowed a German biography book about the Archbishop of Bremen from the library of Sidney Sussex College.[6] It was finally found in 1956 when Professor John Plumb and the 5th Marquess of Cholmondeley discovered the book in Houghton Hall's library. The book was quickly returned, 288 years after it was checked out.[6] He was elected to the House of Commons in 1689 where he would serve for 11 more years.[7] During this time he would also serve as a colonel in the militia.[8]

Political career

Walpole was elected from Castle Rising to the House of Commons in January of 1689.[7] He was considered one of the most influential whigs in Parliament at the time, and he was considered the most influential Whig in Norfolk.[7] Walpole was also the deputy lieutenant for Norfolk serving along with the Duke of Norfolk the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk. He also served as the guardian of the 2nd Viscount Townshend after his father's death. Lord Townshend would go on to marry Walpole's daughter Dorothy.[4] Walpole's son, Sir Robert Walpole, would take on his position in the House of Commons three months after his death. His son would remain a member of Parliament for the next forty years.[9]

Private life

In 1671 Robert married Mary Burwell, the daughter of Sir Jeffrey Burwell, a local landowner.[10] The couple had nineteen children together, two of whom were stillborn, and eight more of whom would die in infancy.[11] He is the ancestor of all the Barons Walpole and Earls of Orford, of all creations. He is also the ancestor of the current Marquess of Cholmondeley. Some of his other descendants include the 1st Viscount Nelson,[12] Maria, Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh, and Diana, Princess of Wales.[13]

He built and resided at Houghton Hall, Norfolk.


Another of Walpole's sons: Horatio Walpole, 1st Baron Walpole, who was a Member of Parliament.

The nineteen children of Robert and Mary were:

  • Susan (1672 - ?)
  • Mary (1673–1701)
  • Edward (1674 - ?)
  • Burwell (1675 - ?)
  • Robert (1676–1745). First Prime Minister
  • John, (1677 - ?)
  • Horatio
  • Christopher died as infant
  • Elizabeth died as infant
  • Elizabeth (1682 - 1736)
  • Galfidus (1683 - 1726)
  • Anne (1685 - ?)
  • Dorothy (1686– 29 March 1728), who married Lord Townshend before 25 July 1713[14]
  • Susan (1687 - ?)
  • Mordaunt (1688 - ?)
  • A stillborn boy (1690)
  • Charles (1691 - ?)
  • William (1693 - ?)
  • A stillborn girl[15]

A short time after Walpole died, his eldest living son Robert became a member of Parliament, and would hold the titles of Secretary at War, Treasurer of the Navy, Paymaster of the Forces, First Lord of the Treasury, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Leader of the House of Commons, and the first Prime Minister of Great Britain.[16] Horatio Walpole was a member of Parliament for fifty-four years from 1702 until his death in 1757.[5] During his political career he would serve as Secretary to the Treasury, Chief Secretary for Ireland, British Ambassador to France, Cofferer of the Household, Ambassador to the United Provinces, and the Teller of the Exchequer.[5]


  1. ^ Pearce p.24
  2. ^ a b Burke, p. 665-667
  3. ^ Oswald p. 130
  4. ^ a b Hillen, p. 465
  5. ^ a b c Chisholm, p. 290
  6. ^ a b Folkard p. 302
  7. ^ a b c Lee p. 636
  8. ^ Plumb p. 82
  9. ^ Ewald p. 390
  10. ^ Englefield, p. 2
  11. ^ Cherry, p. 183
  12. ^ Timbs p. 240
  13. ^ Shorter p. ix
  14. ^ Cracroft's Peerage
  15. ^ Coxe p. 3
  16. ^ Coxe p. 320


  • Burke, Bernard. A genealogical history of the dormant, abeyant, forfeited, and extinct peerages of the British empire. Harrison, 1866.
  • Cherry, George L. The Convention Parliament, 1689: a biographical study of its members. Bookman Associates, 1966.
  • Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopedia Britannica Volume 28 of The Encyclopaedia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature and General Information. Encyclopædia Britannica, 1911.
  • Coxe, William. Memoirs of the Life and Administration of Sir Robert Walpole, Earl of Oxford: Containing the Memoirs. Kessinger Publishing, 2006.
  • Coxe, William. Memoirs of the life and administration of Sir Robert Walpole: earl of Orford, Volume 4. Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, & Brown, 1816.
  • Englefield, Dermont J. T. Facts about the British prime ministers: a compilation of biographical and historical information. H.W. Wilson Co., 1995.
  • Ewald, Alexander Charles. Sir Robert Walpole: a political biography, 1676-1745. Chapman & Hall, 1878
  • Folkard, Claire. Guinness World Records 2003. Bantam Books, 2003.
  • Hillen, Henry J. History of the borough of King's Lynn, Volume 2. EP Publishing, 1978.
  • Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 20. Oxford University Press, 1909.
  • Oswald, Godfrey. Library World Records. McFarland & Co, 2004.
  • Pearce, Edward. The Great Man. Sir Robert Walpole: Scoundrel, genius and Britain's First Prime Minister. Pimlico, 2008.
  • Plumb, John H. Sir Robert Walpole: the making of a statesman, Volume 1. Cresset Press, 1956
  • Shorter, Alyward. The Shorter family: England, America, and Africa in the history of a family. Heritage Books, 2003.
  • Timbs, John. School-days of eminent men: I. Sketches of the progress of education in England, from the reign of King Alfred to that of Queen Victoria. II. Early lives of celebrated British authors, philosophers and poets, inventors and discoverers, divines, heroes, statesmen and legislators. Follet, Foster and Co., 1860.
Parliament of England
Preceded by
Sir Nicholas L'Estrange
Thomas Howard
Member of Parliament for Castle Rising
with Sir Robert Howard 1689–1698
Thomas Howard 1698–1700
Succeeded by
Robert Walpole
Thomas Howard

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