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Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue

Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford (1676-1745), Prime Minister

Whig statesman; born at Houghton, educated at Eton and King's College, Cambridge; MP, 1701-42; secretary at war, 1708-10; treasurer of the navy, 1710-11; expelled after the Whig downfall, 1712, from the House of Commons and committed to the Tower on spurious charges; with the party's return to power, became prime minister and chancellor of the exchequer, 1715-17 and 1721-42; KB,1725, the first commoner so honoured since 1660; KG, 1726; following the death of Queen Caroline, 1737, his policies and person increasingly attacked; in 1739 reluctantly agreed to hostilities with Spain; defeated in the House of Commons, resigned all his employments and created Earl of Orford, 1742; rebuilt Houghton. Married (1) in 1700, Catherine Shorter, daughter of a wealthy timber merchant, and (2) Maria, daughter of Thomas Skerrett, 1738.

'that poor man', Queen Caroline described him 'avec ce gros corps, ces jambes enflées et ce vilain ventre'. [1]

Footnotesback to top

1) Lord Hervey, Memoirs of the Reign of George the Second, II, 1884, p 143.

Referencesback to top

A Catalogue of the Right Honble Sir Robert Walpole's Collection of Pictures, 1736, MS, The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York.

A Description of the Villa of Mr Horace Walpole at Strawberry-Hill, near Twickenham ... , 1784.

'Country Homes: Houghton Hall, Norfolk', Country Life, XXII, 1907 and XLIX, 1921.

Hilles 1929
F. W. Hilles, Letters of Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1929.

Lewis 1961
W. S. Lewis, Horace Walpole (A. W. Mellon Lectures, 1960-61), 1961.

Pictures etc at Houghton, 1744, MS, Hertfordshire County Record Office (Knebworth III).

Plumb 1956
J. H. Plumb, Sir Robert Walpole, the Making of a Statesman, [I], 1956.

Plumb 1960
J. H. Plumb, Sir Robert Walpole, the King's Minister, [II], 1960.

Robertson(?) 1750
R. Robertson(?), A Description of the Pictures at Houghton Hall, 1750, NPG archives.

Toynbee et al. (ed.) 1903-05, 1918-25
The Letters of Horace Walpole, Fourth Earl of Orford, ed. by Mrs P. Toynbee and others, 1903-05, 1918-25.

Walker 1960
R. J. B. Walker, A Catalogue of Paintings ... Palace of Westminster, 1960 (unpublished MS).

Walpole 1752
H. Walpole, Aedes Walpolianae, 1752.


This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Kerslake, Early Georgian Portraits, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1977, and is as published then. For the most up-to-date details on individual Collection works, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text.