Sir Robert Walpole 1721-1742 Whig
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Born: 26 August 1676 in Houghton, Norfolk

First entered Parliament: 11 Jan 1701

Age he became PM: 44 years, 107 days

Maiden1 speech: His first recorded speech in the House of Commons was on 24 Jan 1704 on the rights of electors

Total time as PM: 20 years, 314 days

Died: 18 March 1745 in Arlington Street, London

Facts and figures

Nicknames: "Sir Blustering2" and "Screen-Master General"

Education: Eton and King's College, Cambridge

Family: Robert Walpole was the fifth born of 17 children, eight of whom died when they were very young. He was married twice (to Catherine Shorter and then Maria Skerrett) and had three sons.

Interests: Collecting paintings, brewing3 beer, hunting and beagling


The first-ever PM

Today regarded as the first British prime minister, Walpole would not have described himself as such. The title was originally a term of abuse, not status, and was not officially recognised until 1905.

Walpole did, however, have many of the responsibilities and duties of the modern office of prime minister. He gave the position of chief political minister new authority by winning the support of both King and Parliament. Walpole was also the first to live and work in 10 Downing Street.

He was a large man, with a direct and earthy manner, a colourful personality and a brilliant mind.

The third son of a family of seventeen, he was educated at Eton and Cambridge, and inherited a country estate aged4 24.

With this wealth he gained the financial independence necessary to enter politics at the time.

In 1701 he became the Whig member of Parliament for Castle Rising, Norfolk. He proved himself an excellent speaker, and rose rapidly within the party. He was made a member of the Admiralty Board, Secretary of War and, in 1709, Treasurer5 of the Navy.

There was a small setback6 in 1712, when the Whigs were in Opposition7 again.

The Tower of London where Walpole spent six months in prison for fraudThe ruling Tories had Walpole tried for accepting an illegal payment as Secretary of War. Found guilty, he spent six months imprisoned8 in the Tower of London.

Despite this, when the Whigs regained9 power, Walpole quickly rose to the positions of First Lord of theTreasury and Chancellor11 of the Exchequer12. Walpole resigned amid party infighting in 1717, splitting the Whigs in Parliament, but in 1720 returned to the government as Paymaster General.

South Sea Bubble

Walpole's career benefited from a government crisis in 1721, when thousands of people lost large amounts of money after the collapse13 of an investment scheme known as the South Sea Bubble.

Having bailed14 out early, Walpole was credited with financial know-how15.

Appointed as Chancellor of the Exchequer and First Lord of the Treasury10 for a second time, Walpole's powers as prime minister date from this point. Walpole was quickly successful, neutralising dangerous opponents, reducing the national debt and stabilising prices and wages.

His great influence stemmed from his popularity with both King and people. He realised the importance of a closely involved, active role in the Commons to consolidate16 this power.

It was also alleged17 that he effectively used bribery18 and corruption19 to retain the power he so relished20.

After George I's death in 1727, Walpole was briefly21 superseded22 by King George II's favourite, Spencer Compton. He succeeded in returning to prominence23 by buttering up the King, and by consistently going further than Compton's own attempts at sycophancy24.

King George II, now won round to Walpole, made his prime minister a gift of 10 Downing Street, where he moved in 1735.

Poor performance

In 1739 Walpole's poor performance in a war against Spain reduced confidence in his ability to carry out his duties. A poor general election result in 1741 made his position even more precarious25.

Walpole was forced to resign as prime minister in 1742, and was elevated to the House of Lords. An enquiry was launched into the distribution of secret service money under his premiership, alleging26 corruption.

Fortunately for Walpole, the matter was never pursued. Poor health forced Walpole to retire in 1744, and he died in March 1745.

It is said that he had 'a vulgar love of expense, without any true notions of magnificence; that he collected pictures, at immense cost, without either taste or love for the arts.'

Quote Unquote

To the Earl of Bath on their elevation27 to the House of Lords:

"My Lord Bath, you and I are now as insignificant28 men as any in England."

Did you know?

Walpole still holds the record for the longest term of any prime minister in history.

First wife - Catherine Shorter

Lady Walpole, Catherine ShorterWalpole was twice married. His first wife was a merchant's daughter from Kent, who bore him five children.

She enjoyed extravagance, frequently attending the opera and buying expensive clothes and jewellery.

During his time as prime minister Walpole grew estranged29 from his Wife and took a succession of lovers. Within a year of Lady Walpole dying in 1737, Walpole married one of them.

Second wife - Maria Skerett

Nearly 26 years his junior, Maria Skerett was witty30 and beautiful. She died after having a miscarriage31 in 1738, a bitter blow to Walpole.


1 maiden yRpz7     
  • The prince fell in love with a fair young maiden.王子爱上了一位年轻美丽的少女。
  • The aircraft makes its maiden flight tomorrow.这架飞机明天首航。
2 blustering DRxy4     
adj.狂风大作的,狂暴的v.外强中干的威吓( bluster的现在分词 );咆哮;(风)呼啸;狂吹
  • It was five and a half o'clock now, and a raw, blustering morning. 这时才五点半,正是寒气逼人,狂风咆哮的早晨。 来自辞典例句
  • So sink the shadows of night, blustering, rainy, and all paths grow dark. 夜色深沉,风狂雨骤;到处途暗路黑。 来自辞典例句
3 brewing eaabd83324a59add9a6769131bdf81b5     
n. 酿造, 一次酿造的量 动词brew的现在分词形式
  • It was obvious that a big storm was brewing up. 很显然,一场暴风雨正在酝酿中。
  • She set about brewing some herb tea. 她动手泡一些药茶。
4 aged 6zWzdI     
  • He had put on weight and aged a little.他胖了,也老点了。
  • He is aged,but his memory is still good.他已年老,然而记忆力还好。
5 treasurer VmHwm     
  • Mr. Smith was succeeded by Mrs.Jones as treasurer.琼斯夫人继史密斯先生任会计。
  • The treasurer was arrested for trying to manipulate the company's financial records.财务主管由于试图窜改公司财政帐目而被拘留。
6 setback XzuwD     
  • Since that time there has never been any setback in his career.从那时起他在事业上一直没有遇到周折。
  • She views every minor setback as a disaster.她把每个较小的挫折都看成重大灾难。
7 opposition eIUxU     
  • The party leader is facing opposition in his own backyard.该党领袖在自己的党內遇到了反对。
  • The police tried to break down the prisoner's opposition.警察设法制住了那个囚犯的反抗。
8 imprisoned bc7d0bcdd0951055b819cfd008ef0d8d     
下狱,监禁( imprison的过去式和过去分词 )
  • He was imprisoned for two concurrent terms of 30 months and 18 months. 他被判处30个月和18个月的监禁,合并执行。
  • They were imprisoned for possession of drugs. 他们因拥有毒品而被监禁。
9 regained 51ada49e953b830c8bd8fddd6bcd03aa     
复得( regain的过去式和过去分词 ); 赢回; 重回; 复至某地
  • The majority of the people in the world have regained their liberty. 世界上大多数人已重获自由。
  • She hesitated briefly but quickly regained her poise. 她犹豫片刻,但很快恢复了镇静。
10 treasury 7GeyP     
  • The Treasury was opposed in principle to the proposals.财政部原则上反对这些提案。
  • This book is a treasury of useful information.这本书是有价值的信息宝库。
11 chancellor aUAyA     
  • They submitted their reports to the Chancellor yesterday.他们昨天向财政大臣递交了报告。
  • He was regarded as the most successful Chancellor of modern times.他被认为是现代最成功的财政大臣。
12 exchequer VnxxT     
  • In Britain the Chancellor of the Exchequer deals with taxes and government spending.英国的财政大臣负责税务和政府的开支。
  • This resulted in a considerable loss to the exchequer.这使国库遭受了重大损失。
13 collapse aWvyE     
  • The country's economy is on the verge of collapse.国家的经济已到了崩溃的边缘。
  • The engineer made a complete diagnosis of the bridge's collapse.工程师对桥的倒塌做了一次彻底的调查分析。
14 bailed 9d10cc72ad9f0a9c9f58e936ec537563     
保释,帮助脱离困境( bail的过去式和过去分词 )
  • Fortunately the pilot bailed out before the plane crashed. 飞机坠毁之前,驾驶员幸运地跳伞了。
  • Some water had been shipped and the cook bailed it out. 船里进了些水,厨师把水舀了出去。
15 know-how TxeyA     
  • He hasn't got the know-how to run a farm.他没有经营农场的专业知识。
  • I don't have much know-how about engines.发动机方面的技术知识我知之甚少。
16 consolidate XYkyV     
  • The two banks will consolidate in July next year. 这两家银行明年7月将合并。
  • The government hoped to consolidate ten states to form three new ones.政府希望把十个州合并成三个新的州。
17 alleged gzaz3i     
  • It was alleged that he had taken bribes while in office. 他被指称在任时收受贿赂。
  • alleged irregularities in the election campaign 被指称竞选运动中的不正当行为
18 bribery Lxdz7Z     
  • FBI found out that the senator committed bribery.美国联邦调查局查明这个参议员有受贿行为。
  • He was charged with bribery.他被指控受贿。
19 corruption TzCxn     
  • The people asked the government to hit out against corruption and theft.人民要求政府严惩贪污盗窃。
  • The old man reviled against corruption.那老人痛斥了贪污舞弊。
20 relished c700682884b4734d455673bc9e66a90c     
v.欣赏( relish的过去式和过去分词 );从…获得乐趣;渴望
  • The chaplain relished the privacy and isolation of his verdant surroundings. 牧师十分欣赏他那苍翠的环境所具有的幽雅恬静,与世隔绝的气氛。 来自辞典例句
  • Dalleson relished the first portion of the work before him. 达尔生对眼前这工作的前半部分满有兴趣。 来自辞典例句
21 briefly 9Styo     
  • I want to touch briefly on another aspect of the problem.我想简单地谈一下这个问题的另一方面。
  • He was kidnapped and briefly detained by a terrorist group.他被一个恐怖组织绑架并短暂拘禁。
22 superseded 382fa69b4a5ff1a290d502df1ee98010     
  • The theory has been superseded by more recent research. 这一理论已为新近的研究所取代。
  • The use of machinery has superseded manual labour. 机器的使用已经取代了手工劳动。
23 prominence a0Mzw     
  • He came to prominence during the World Cup in Italy.他在意大利的世界杯赛中声名鹊起。
  • This young fashion designer is rising to prominence.这位年轻的时装设计师的声望越来越高。
24 sycophancy b0e7423929a1ebe63a2f76a35daf9ceb     
  • He was free from all sycophancy or obsequiousness in the face of the reactionary ruling class. 他在反动统治阶级面前没有丝毫的奴颜与媚骨。 来自《现代汉英综合大词典》
  • Sycophancy was the device of the least trustworthy. 阿谀奉承之辈最不可靠。 来自辞典例句
25 precarious Lu5yV     
  • Our financial situation had become precarious.我们的财务状况已变得不稳定了。
  • He earned a precarious living as an artist.作为一个艺术家,他过得是朝不保夕的生活。
26 alleging 16407100de5c54b7b204953b7a851bc3     
断言,宣称,辩解( allege的现在分词 )
  • His reputation was blemished by a newspaper article alleging he'd evaded his taxes. 由于报上一篇文章声称他曾逃税,他的名誉受到损害。
  • This our Peeress declined as unnecessary, alleging that her cousin Thornhill's recommendation would be sufficient. 那位贵人不肯,还说不必,只要有她老表唐希尔保荐就够了。
27 elevation bqsxH     
  • The house is at an elevation of 2,000 metres.那幢房子位于海拔两千米的高处。
  • His elevation to the position of General Manager was announced yesterday.昨天宣布他晋升总经理职位。
28 insignificant k6Mx1     
  • In winter the effect was found to be insignificant.在冬季,这种作用是不明显的。
  • This problem was insignificant compared to others she faced.这一问题与她面临的其他问题比较起来算不得什么。
29 estranged estranged     
  • He became estranged from his family after the argument.那场争吵后他便与家人疏远了。
  • The argument estranged him from his brother.争吵使他同他的兄弟之间的关系疏远了。
30 witty GMmz0     
  • Her witty remarks added a little salt to the conversation.她的妙语使谈话增添了一些风趣。
  • He scored a bull's-eye in their argument with that witty retort.在他们的辩论中他那一句机智的反驳击中了要害。
31 miscarriage Onvzz3     
  • The miscarriage of our plans was a great blow.计划的失败给我们以巨大的打击。
  • Women who smoke are more to have a miscarriage.女性吸烟者更容易流产。
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