Robert Walpole

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Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford, KG, KB, PC (26 August 1676 – 18 March 1745), known before 1742 as Sir Robert Walpole, was a British statesman who is generally regarded as having been the first Prime Minister of Great Britain. 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 because of his influence within the Cabinet.

A Whig who was first elected in 1701, Walpole served during the reigns of George I and George II. His tenure is normally dated from 1721 when he obtained the post of First Lord of the Treasury; others date it from 1730 when, with the retirement of Lord Townshend, 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 disaster, making his administration the longest in British history. Because of his homely ways and strong Norfolk roots, he was often known to both friends and detractors as the "fat old Squire of Norfolk."

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Early life and family

Walpole was born in Houghton Hall, Norfolk in 1676. His father, Robert Walpole, was a Whig politician who represented the borough of Castle Rising in the House of Commons. 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.

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