Portrait of Robert Walpole (1676-1745), 1st Earl of Orford (1742), Prime Minister of Great Britain (1721-1742), First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer (1715-1717; 1721-1742), Leader of the House of Commons (1721-1742)
Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford (26 August 1676 – 18 March 1745), known before 1742 as Sir Robert Walpole, was a British statesman who is generally regarded as the de facto first Prime Minister of Great Britain. Although the exact dates of his dominance are a matter of scholarly debate, the period 1721–1742 is often used. He dominated the Walpole–Townshend ministry and the subsequent Walpole ministry, and holds the record as the longest-serving British prime minister in history. He was a Whig from the gentry class, who was first elected to Parliament in 1701, and held many senior positions. He was a country squire and looked to country gentlemen for his political base. Historian Frank O'Gorman says his leadership in Parliament reflected his "reasonable and persuasive oratory, his ability to move both the emotions as well as the minds of men, and, above all, his extraordinary self-confidence". Hoppit says Walpole's policies sought moderation: he worked for peace, lower taxes, and growing exports, and allowed a little more tolerance for Protestant Dissenters. He avoided controversy and high-intensity disputes, as his middle way attracted moderates from both the Whig and Tory camps. Walpole was born in Houghton, Norfolk, in 1676. One of 19 children, he was the third son and fifth child of Robert Walpole, a member of the local gentry and a Whig politician who represented the borough of Castle Rising in the House of Commons, and his wife Mary Walpole, the daughter and heiress of Sir Geoffrey Burwell of Rougham, Suffolk.
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