Walpole, Robert, 1st Earl of Orford (1676 -1745)
Sir Robert Walpole was the third son of Robert Walpole, Member of Parliament for Castle Rising in Norfolk, and Mary, only daughter and heir of Sir Geoffrey Burwell of Rougham in Suffolk. He was educated at Eton College and King's College, Cambridge, where he was admitted a scholar 22 April 1695. He left Cambridge 25 May 1698, on hearing of the death of his eldest brother, Edward, the second brother having already died. He was now heir to his father's estate. On 30 July 1700 he married Catherine, daughter of John Shorter, of Bybrook in Kent. She died 20 August 1737, leaving three sons and two daughters. Early in March 1738, he married his mistress, Maria, daughter of Thomas Skerrett, merchant of Dover Street, an Irishman. She died of a miscarriage 4 June of the same year, and Walpole was inconsolable. In November 1700, his father died and he succeeded to the estate. On 11 January 1701 he was returned as Member of Parliament for Castle Rising, which he transferred to his uncle Horatio in 1702, himself sitting for King's Lynn, the seat which he represented until his elevation to the peerage in 1742. By 1703 he had established himself as leader of the Whigs. His first taste of office was under Marlborough, when he served first on the Navy Board, then as Secretary for War, and Treasurer for the Navy, but was dismissed from the last post in 1711, expelled from the House and committed to the Tower on grounds of corruption. At the accession of George I, Walpole was only made Paymaster General, but was given the management of the House of Commons by his party, and on 11 October 1715, as a result of his handling of the Jacobite Rebellion, he was made First Lord of the Treasury, a post that he held throughout the reign of George I and much of that of George II. He was in effect Prime Minister from 1715 to 1742. Sir Robert was first honoured with the newly reformed Order of the Bath 27 May 1725, and with that of the Garter 26 June 1726. On leaving office, he was elevated to the peerage on 9 February 1742 as Baron Walpole of Houghton, Viscount Walpole, and Earl of Orford.