The Glorious Revolution called the Revolution of 1688, was the overthrow of King James II of England by a union of English Parliamentarians with the Dutch stadtholder William III, Prince of Orange, James's nephew and son-in-law. William's successful invasion of England with a Dutch fleet and army led to his ascension to the throne as William III of England jointly with his wife, Mary II, James's daughter, after the Declaration of Right, leading to the Bill of Rights 1689. King James's policies of religious tolerance after 1685 met with increasing opposition from members of leading political circles, who were troubled by the King's Catholicism and his close ties with France; the crisis facing the King came with the birth of his son, James, on 10 June. This changed the existing line of succession by displacing the heir presumptive with young James as heir apparent; the establishment of a Roman Catholic dynasty in the British kingdoms now seemed likely. Some Tory members of parliament worked with members of the opposition Whigs in an attempt to resolve the crisis by secretly initiating dialogue with William of Orange to come to England, outside the jurisdiction of the English Parliament.
Stadtholder William, the de facto head of state of the Dutch United Provinces, feared a Catholic Anglo–French alliance and had been planning a military intervention in England. After consolidating political and financial support, William crossed the North Sea and English Channel with a large invasion fleet in November 1688, landing at Torbay. After only two minor clashes between the two opposing armies in England, anti-Catholic riots in several towns, James's regime collapsed because of a lack of resolve shown by the king; this was followed, however, by the protracted Williamite War in Ireland and Dundee's rising in Scotland. In England's distant American colonies, the revolution led to the collapse of the Dominion of New England and the overthrow of the Province of Maryland's government. Following a defeat of his forces at the Battle of Reading on 9 December 1688, James and his wife Mary fled England. By threatening to withdraw his troops, William, in February 1689, convinced a newly chosen Convention Parliament to make him and his wife joint monarchs.
The Revolution permanently ended any chance of Catholicism becoming re-established in England. For British Catholics its effects were disastrous both and politically: For over a century Catholics were denied the right to vote and sit in the Westminster Parliament; the Revolution led to limited tolerance for Nonconformist Protestants, although it would be some time before they had full political rights. It has been argued by Whig historians, that James's overthrow began modern English parliamentary democracy: the Bill of Rights 1689 has become one of the most important documents in the political history of Britain and never since has the monarch held absolute power. Internationally, the Revolution was related to the War of the Grand Alliance on mainland Europe, it has been seen as the last successful invasion of England. It ended all attempts by England in the Anglo-Dutch Wars of the 17th century to subdue the Dutch Republic by military force; the resulting economic integration and military co-operation between the English and Dutch navies, shifted the dominance in world trade from the Dutch Republic to England and to Great Britain.
The expression "Glorious Revolution" was first used by John Hampden in late 1689, is an expression, still used by the British Parliament. The Glorious Revolution is occasionally termed the Bloodless Revolution, albeit inaccurately; the English Civil War was still within living memory for most of the major English participants in the events of 1688, for them, in comparison to that war the deaths in the conflict of 1688 were few. During his three-year reign, King James II became directly involved in the political battles in England between Catholicism and Protestantism, between the concept of the divine right of kings and the political rights of the Parliament of England. James's greatest political problem was his Catholicism, which left him alienated from both parties in England; the low church Whigs had failed in their attempt to pass the Exclusion Bill to exclude James from the throne between 1679 and 1681, James's supporters were the high church Anglican Tories. In Scotland, his supporters in the Parliament of Scotland stepped up attempts to force the Covenanters to renounce their faith and accept episcopalian rule of the church by the monarch.
When James inherited the English throne in 1685, he had much support in the'Loyal Parliament', composed of Tories. His Catholicism was of concern to many, but the fact that he had no son, his daughters and Anne, were Protestants, was a "saving grace". James's attempt to relax the Penal Laws alienated his natural supporters, because the Tories viewed this as tantamount to disestablishment of the Church of England. Abandoning the Tories, James looked to form a'King's party' as a counterweight to the Anglican Tories, so in 1687 James supported the policy of religious toleration and issued the Declaration of Indulgence; the majority of Irish people backed James II for this reason and because of his promise to the Irish
Sir John Vanbrugh was an English architect and dramatist best known as the designer of Blenheim Palace and Castle Howard. He wrote two argumentative and outspoken Restoration comedies, The Relapse and The Provoked Wife, which have become enduring stage favourites but occasioned much controversy, he was knighted in 1714. Vanbrugh was in many senses a radical throughout his life; as a young man and a committed Whig, he was part of the scheme to overthrow James II, put William III on the throne and protect English parliamentary democracy, he was imprisoned by the French as a political prisoner. In his career as a playwright, he offended many sections of Restoration and 18th century society, not only by the sexual explicitness of his plays, but by their messages in defence of women's rights in marriage, he was attacked on both counts, was one of the prime targets of Jeremy Collier's Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage. In his architectural career, he created, his architectural work was as bold and daring as his early political activism and marriage-themed plays, jarred conservative opinions on the subject.
Born in London and baptised on 24 January 1664, Vanbrugh was the fourth child, eldest surviving son, of Giles Vanbrugh, a London cloth-merchant of Flemish-Protestant background, his wife Elizabeth, widow of Thomas Barker, daughter of Sir Dudley Carleton, of Imber Court, Thames Ditton, Surrey. He grew up in Chester, where his family had been driven by either the major outbreak of the plague in London in 1665, or the Great Fire of 1666, it is possible that he attended The King's School in Chester, though no records of his being a scholar there survive. Another candidate would have been the school at Ashby-de-la-Zouch, founded by Henry Hastings, 3rd Earl of Huntingdon, it was not uncommon for boys to be sent to study at school away from home, or with a tutor. The architectural historian Kerry Downes is sceptical of earlier historians' claims of a lower middle-class background, writes that a 19th-century suggestion that Giles Vanbrugh was a sugar-baker has been misunderstood. "Sugar-baker" implies wealth, as the term refers not to a maker of sweets but to the owner of a sugar house, a factory for the refining of raw sugar from Barbados.
Sugar refining would have been combined with sugar trading, a lucrative business. Downes' example of one sugar baker's house in Liverpool, estimated to bring in £40,000 a year in trade from Barbados, throws a new light on Vanbrugh's social background, one rather different from the picture of a backstreet Chester sweetshop as painted by Leigh Hunt in 1840 and reflected in many accounts. To dispel the myth of Vanbrugh's low origins, Downes took pains to explore Vanbrugh's background examining the family and connexions of each of his four grandparents: Vanbrugh, Jacobs or Jacobson and Croft, summing up the characteristics of each line and concluding that, far from being of lower middle class origins, Vanbrugh was descended from Anglo-Flemish or Netherlandish Protestant merchants who settled in London in the 16th and 17th centuries, minor courtiers, country gentry; the complex web of kinship Downes' research shows that Vanbrugh had ties to many of England's leading mercantile and noble families.
These ties reveal the decidedly Protestant and sometimes radical milieu out of which Vanbrugh's own political opinions came. They gave him a wide social network that would play a role in all sections of his career: architectural, dramatic, military and social. Taken in this context, though he has sometimes been viewed as an odd or unqualified appointee to the College of Arms, it is not surprising, given the social expectations of his day, that by descent his credentials for his offices there were sound, his forebears, both Flemish/Dutch and English, were armigerous, their coats of arms can be traced in three out of four cases, revealing that Vanbrugh was of gentle descent. After growing up in a large household in Chester, the question of how Vanbrugh spent the years from age 18 to 22 was long unanswered, with the baseless suggestion sometimes made that he had been studying architecture in France. In 1681 records name a ` John Vanbrugg' working for Giles Vanbrugh's cousin, it was not unusual for a merchant's son to follow in his father's trade and seek similar work in business, making use of family ties and connections.
However, Robert Williams proved in an article in the TLS that Vanbrugh was in India for part of this period, working for the East India Company at their trading post in Surat, Gujarat where his uncle, Edward Pearce, had been Governor. However, Vanbrugh never mentioned this experience in writing. Scholars debate whether evidence of his exposure to Indian architecture can be detected in any of his architectural designs; the picture of a well-connected youth is reinforced by the fact that Vanbrugh in January 1686 took up an officer's commission in his distant relative the Earl of Huntingdon's foot
Richard Temple, 1st Viscount Cobham
Field Marshal Richard Temple, 1st Viscount Cobham was a British soldier and Whig politician. After serving as a junior officer under William III during the Williamite War in Ireland and during the Nine Years' War, he fought under John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, during the War of the Spanish Succession. During the War of the Quadruple Alliance Temple led a force of 4,000 troops on a raid on the Spanish coastline which captured Vigo and occupied it for ten days before withdrawing. In Parliament he supported the Whigs but fell out with Sir Robert Walpole in 1733, he was known for his ownership of and modifications to the estate at Stowe and for serving as a political mentor to the young William Pitt. Born the son of Sir Richard Temple, 3rd Baronet, his wife Mary Temple, Temple was educated at Eton College and Christ's College and was commissioned as an ensign in Prince George of Denmark's Regiment on 30 June 1685. After becoming a captain in Babington's Regiment in 1689, he fought under William III during the Williamite War in Ireland against the Jacobite Irish Army of James II.
He was present at the Siege of Namur in July 1695 during the Nine Years' War. Temple succeeded his father as 4th Baronet in May 1697 and as Whig Member of Parliament for Buckingham that year: he continued to represent either Buckingham or Buckinghamshire for the next 16 years. Promoted to lieutenant colonel on 10 February 1702, he was given his own regiment to command, he fought under John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough at the Battle of Venlo in September 1702 and at the Battle of Roermond in October 1702 during the War of the Spanish Succession. He took part in the Battle of Oudenarde in July 1708 and the Siege of Lille in Autumn 1708. For his good conduct at Lille he was sent home to present the despatches to Queen Anne. In Parliament he supported the Whigs and voted for the Foreign Protestants Naturalization Act 1708 which allowed Protestants fleeing from the continent to enter Great Britain. Promoted to major-general on 1 January 1709, he fought again at the Battle of Malplaquet in September 1709 and was promoted to lieutenant general on 1 January 1710.
In Parliament, in accordance with Whig party policy, he voted for the impeachment of Henry Sacheverell, a clergyman who had criticised the party, in March 1710. In recognition of his service in the field, Temple was appointed colonel of the Princess Anne of Denmark's Regiment of Dragoons in April 1710. From 1711, he made dramatic changes to his family estate at Stowe. In 1713 the Harley Ministry stripped Temple of his colonelcy for voting against the Treaty of Utrecht. However, after George I ascended the throne, Temple became ambassador to Vienna and was created Baron Cobham in October 1714, he became colonel of The Royal Regiment of Dragoons in 1715 and Constable of Windsor Castle in 1716. He was made a Privy Councillor in July 1716 and created Viscount Cobham in April 1718. Temple was Patron to a number of young Whigs, the most notable being William Pitt. Collectively they became known as Cobham's Cubs. Two of them and Temple's nephew George Grenville went on to be Prime Minister. In September 1719 during the War of the Quadruple Alliance Temple led a force of 4,000 troops on a raid on the Spanish coastline which captured Vigo and occupied it for ten days before withdrawing.
Temple supported the government of Sir Robert Walpole once it came to power in April 1721 and was rewarded with the colonelcy of the King's Own Regiment of Horse that year. He became Governor of Jersey in May 1723 and Lord Lieutenant of Buckinghamshire in March 1728. Temple fell out with Prime Minister Robert Walpole in 1733 and formed a faction in the Whig Party to oppose the Excise Bill which resulted in his being stripped of his colonelcy again, he was promoted to full general on 27 October 1735. Temple provided patronage to the rising star of the Whig Party, William Pitt, securing him a cornet's commission in his regiment; the group of Temple's young supporters were known as Cobham's Cubs and included Richard Grenville, George Grenville and George Lyttelton, as well as Pitt. After Walpole's fall as Prime Minister in 1742, they turned their attacks on his replacement – a government led by Lord Wilmington and Lord Carteret. Promoted to field marshal on 10 July 1742, Temple became colonel of the 1st Troop of Horse Grenadier Guards that same day, colonel of Viscount Cobham's Regiment of Horse in 1744 and colonel of Viscount Cobham's Regiment of Dragoons in June 1745.
He was buried there. In September 1715 Temple married Anne Halsey, daughter of Edmund Halsey who had owned the Anchor Brewery: her inheritance allowed Temple to maintain the Stowe estate. Temple was admired by Alexander Pope, Temple's gardens were praised by Pope in his Epistle to Burlington as a wonder. Pope wrote a "moral epistle" to Temple in 1733 and published it in the same year as An Epistle to the Right Honourable Richard Lord Visct. Cobham. Pope praises Temple as a practical man of the world whose "ruling passion" was service to his country, whatever the cost. Basil Williams said Temple "had all the coarse, roystering bluffness of the hardened old campaigners of that time". Heathcote, Tony; the British Field Marshals 1736–1997. Pen & Sword Books Ltd. ISBN 0-85052-696-5. Hoppit, Julian. A Land of Liberty? England 1689–1727. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 978-0198228424. Rodger, N. A. M.. Command of the Ocean: A Naval History of Britain, 1649–1815. Penguin Books. Williams, Basil; the Life of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham.
John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough
General John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, 1st Prince of Mindelheim, 1st Count of Nellenburg, Prince of the Holy Roman Empire, was an English soldier and statesman whose career spanned the reigns of five monarchs. From a gentry family, he served first as a page at the court of the House of Stuart under James, Duke of York, through the 1670s and early 1680s, earning military and political advancement through his courage and diplomatic skill. Churchill's role in defeating the Monmouth Rebellion in 1685 helped secure James on the throne, yet just three years he abandoned his Catholic patron for the Protestant Dutchman, William of Orange. Honoured for his services at William's coronation with the earldom of Marlborough, he served with further distinction in the early years of the Nine Years' War, but persistent charges of Jacobitism brought about his fall from office and temporary imprisonment in the Tower, it was not until the accession of Queen Anne in 1702 that Marlborough reached the zenith of his powers and secured his fame and fortune.
His marriage to the hot-tempered Sarah Jennings – Anne's intimate friend – ensured Marlborough's rise, first to the Captain-Generalcy of British forces to a dukedom. Becoming de facto leader of Allied forces during the War of the Spanish Succession, his victories on the fields of Blenheim, Ramillies and Malplaquet, ensured his place in history as one of Europe's great generals, but his wife's stormy relationship with the Queen, her subsequent dismissal from court, was central to his own fall. Incurring Anne's disfavour, caught between Tory and Whig factions, who had brought glory and success to Anne's reign, was forced from office and went into self-imposed exile, he returned to England and to influence under the House of Hanover with the accession of George I to the British throne in 1714. Marlborough's insatiable ambition made him the richest of all Anne's subjects, his family connections wove him into the fabric of European politics. His leadership of the allied armies consolidated Britain's emergence as a front-rank power.
He maintained unity among the allies, thereby demonstrating his diplomatic skills. Throughout ten consecutive campaigns during the Spanish Succession war, Marlborough held together a discordant coalition through his sheer force of personality and raised the standing of British arms to a level not known since the Middle Ages. Although in the end he could not compel total capitulation from his enemies, his victories allowed Britain to rise from a minor to a major power, ensuring the country's growing prosperity throughout the 18th century. Churchill was the son of Sir Winston Churchill of Glanvilles Wootton in Dorset, by his wife Elizabeth Drake, fourth daughter of Sir John Drake of Ash in the parish of Musbury in Devon; the Churchill family is stated by the Devon historian William George Hoskins to have originated at the estate of Churchill, in the parish of Broadclyst in Devon, during the reign of King Henry II. At the end of the English Civil War Lady Drake was joined at her Devon home, Ash House in the parish of Musbury, by her fourth daughter Elizabeth Drake and her husband Winston Churchill, a Royalist cavalry captain.
Unlike his mother-in-law who had supported the Parliamentary cause, Winston had the misfortune of fighting on the losing side of the war – for which he, like so many other Cavaliers, was forced to compound. Although Winston had paid off the fine by 1651, it had impoverished him. From this episode may derive the Churchill family motto: Fiel Pero Desdichado. Winston Churchill and his wife Elizabeth Drake had at least nine children, only five of whom survived infancy; the eldest daughter, Arabella Churchill, was born on 28 February 1649. John Churchill, the eldest son, was born on 26 May 1650; the two younger sons were George Churchill, an admiral in the Royal Navy, Charles Churchill, a general who served on campaign in Europe with his eldest brother John. Little is known of John Churchill's childhood about which he left no written description, but growing up in these impoverished conditions at Ashe, with family tensions soured by conflicting allegiances, may have made a lasting impression on the young Churchill.
His descendant and biographer the Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, asserted that the conditions at Ashe "might well have aroused in his mind two prevailing impressions: first a hatred of poverty... and secondly the need of hiding thoughts and feelings from those to whom their expression would be repugnant". After the Restoration of King Charles II in 1660 his father's fortunes took a turn for the better, although he remained far from prosperous. In 1661, Winston became Member of Parliament for Weymouth, as a mark of royal favour he received rewards for losses incurred fighting against the Parliamentarians during the civil war, including the appointment as a Commissioner for Irish Land Claims in Dublin in 1661; when Winston departed for Ireland the following year, John enrolled at the Dublin Free School. The King's own penury meant the old Cavaliers received scant financial reward, but the prodigal monarch could offer something which would cost him nothing – positions at court for their progeny.
Thus in 1665, John's sister Arabella became Maid of Honour to the Duchess of York. Some months John
A Scotch pie or mutton pie is a small, double-crust meat pie filled with minced mutton or other meat. It may be known as a shell pie or mince pie to differentiate it from other varieties of savoury pie, such as the steak pie and kidney pie, steak-and-tattie pie, so forth; the Scotch pie is believed to originate in Scotland, but can be found in other parts of the United Kingdom, is sold all over Canada. They are sold alongside other types of hot food in football grounds, traditionally accompanied by a drink of Bovril, resulting in the occasional reference to football pies; the traditional filling of mutton is highly spiced with pepper and other ingredients and is placed inside a shell of hot water crust pastry. An individual piemaker's precise recipe, including the types and quantities of spice used, is kept a close secret, for fear of imitations, it is baked in a round, straight-sided tin, about 8 cm in diameter and 4 cm high, the top "crust" is placed about 1 cm lower than the rim to make a space for adding accompaniments such as mashed potatoes, baked beans, brown sauce, gravy or an egg.
Scotch pies are served hot by take-away restaurants, bakeries and at outdoor events. The hard crust of the pie enables it to be eaten by hand with no wrapping. There is a round hole of about 7.5mm in the centre of the top crust. Every year, the Scotch Pie Club holds the World Scotch Pie Championship. Butchers and bakers enter their pies into this competition, the maker of the pie judged tastiest by a panel of judges is awarded the title of World Scotch Pie Champion. Rabbit pie List of lamb dishes List of pies and flans Food portal "Aiming high for the best Scotch pie". BBC News Online. November 18, 2004. "World Scotch Pie champion named". BBC News Online. November 30, 2004
An epigram is a brief, interesting and sometimes surprising or satirical statement. The word is derived from the Greek: ἐπίγραμμα epigramma "inscription" from ἐπιγράφειν epigraphein "to write on, to inscribe", the literary device has been employed for over two millennia; the presence of wit or sarcasm tends to distinguish non-poetic epigrams from aphorisms and adages, which may lack them. The Greek tradition of epigrams began as poems inscribed on votive offerings at sanctuaries – including statues of athletes – and on funerary monuments, for example "Go tell it to the Spartans, passersby...". These original epigrams did the same job, but in verse. Epigram became a literary genre in the Hellenistic period developing out of scholarly collections of inscriptional epigrams. Though modern epigrams are thought of as short, Greek literary epigram was not always as short as examples, the divide between "epigram" and "elegy" is sometimes indistinct. In the classical period, the clear distinction between them was that epigrams were inscribed and meant to be read, while elegies were recited and meant to be heard.
Some elegies could be quite short. All the same, the origin of epigram in inscription exerted a residual pressure to keep things concise when they were recited in Hellenistic times. Many of the characteristic types of literary epigram look back to inscriptional contexts funerary epigram, which in the Hellenistic era becomes a literary exercise. Many "sympotic" epigrams combine sympotic and funerary elements – they tell their readers to drink and live for today because life is short. Any theme found in classical elegies could be and were adapted for literary epigrams. Hellenistic epigrams are thought of as having a "point" – that is, the poem ends in a punchline or satirical twist. By no means do all Greek epigrams behave this way. Since their collections helped form knowledge of the genre in Rome and later throughout Europe, Epigram came to be associated with'point,' because the European epigram tradition takes the Latin poet Martial as its principal model. Greek epigram was much more diverse, as the Milan Papyrus now indicates.
A major source for Greek literary epigram is the Greek Anthology, a compilation from the 10th century AD based on older collections, including those of Meleager and Philippus. It contains epigrams ranging from the Hellenistic period through the Imperial period and Late Antiquity into the compiler's own Byzantine era – a thousand years of short elegiac texts on every topic under the sun; the Anthology includes one book of Christian epigrams as well as one book of erotic and amorous homosexual epigrams called the Μοῦσα Παιδικἠ. Roman epigrams owe much to their Greek contemporaries. Roman epigrams, were more satirical than Greek ones, at times used obscene language for effect. Latin epigrams could be composed as inscriptions or graffiti, such as this one from Pompeii, which exists in several versions and seems from its inexact meter to have been composed by a less educated person, its content makes it clear how popular such poems were: Admiror, O paries, te non cecidisse ruinis qui tot scriptorum taedia sustineas.
I'm astonished, that you haven't collapsed into ruins, since you're holding up the weary verse of so many poets. However, in the literary world, epigrams were most gifts to patrons or entertaining verse to be published, not inscriptions. Many Roman writers seem to have composed epigrams, including Domitius Marsus, whose collection Cicuta was named after the poisonous plant Cicuta for its biting wit, Lucan, more famous for his epic Pharsalia. Authors whose epigrams survive include Catullus, who wrote both invectives and love epigrams – his poem 85 is one of the latter. Odi et amo. Quare id faciam fortasse requires. Nescio, sed fieri sentio, et excrucior. I hate and I love. Maybe you'd like to know why I do? I don't know, but I feel it happening, I am tormented. Martial, however, is considered to be the master of the Latin epigram, his technique relies on the satirical poem with a joke in the last line, thus drawing him closer to the modern idea of epigram as a genre. Here he defines his genre against a critic: Disce quod ignoras: Marsi doctique Pedonis saepe duplex unum pagina tractat opus.
Non sunt longa quibus nihil est quod demere possis, sed tu, disticha longa facis. Learn what you don't know: one work of Marsus or learned Pedo stretches out over a doublesided page. A work isn't long if you can't take anything out of it, but you, write a couplet too long. Poets known for their epigrams whose work has been lost include Cornificia. In early English literature the short couplet poem was dominated by the poetic epigram and proverb in the translations of the Bible and the Greek and Roman poets. Since 1600, two successive lines of verse that rhyme with each other, known as a couplet featured as a part of the longer sonnet form, most notably in William Shakespeare's sonnets. Sonnet 76 is an excellent example; the two line poetic form as a closed cou
Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford, known between 1725 and 1742 as Sir Robert Walpole, was a British statesman, regarded as the de facto first Prime Minister of Great Britain. Although the exact dates of Walpole's dominance, dubbed the "Robinocracy", are a matter of scholarly debate, the period 1721–1742 is 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. Speck says that Walpole's uninterrupted run of 20 years as Prime Minister "is rightly regarded as one of the major feats of British political history... Explanations are offered in terms of his expert handling of the political system after 1720, his unique blending of the surviving powers of the crown with the increasing influence of the Commons", he was a Whig from the gentry class, first elected to Parliament in 1701 and held many senior positions. He 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, 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. H. P. Dickinson sums up his historical role by saying that "Walpole was one of the greatest politicians in British history, he played a significant role in sustaining the Whig party, safeguarding the Hanoverian succession, defending the principles of the Glorious Revolution He established a stable political supremacy for the Whig party and taught succeeding ministers how best to establish an effective working relationship between Crown and Parliament". 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, his wife Mary Walpole, the daughter and heiress of Sir Geoffrey Burwell of Rougham, Suffolk.
Horatio Walpole, 1st Baron Walpole was his younger brother. As a child, Walpole attended a private school at Norfolk. Walpole entered Eton College in 1690 where he was considered "an excellent scholar", he matriculated at King's College, Cambridge on the same day. On 25 May 1698, he left Cambridge after the death of his only remaining elder brother, Edward, so that he could help his father administer the family estate to which he had become the heir. Walpole had planned to become a clergyman but as he was now the eldest surviving son in the family, he abandoned the idea. In November 1700 his father died, Robert succeeded to inherit the Walpole estate. A paper in his father's handwriting, dated 9 June 1700, shows the family estate in Norfolk and Suffolk to have been nine manors in Norfolk and one in Suffolk; as a young man, Walpole had bought shares in the South Sea Company, which monopolized trade with Spain, the Caribbean and South America. The speculative market for slaves and mahogany spawned a frenzy that had ramifications throughout Europe when it collapsed.
However, Walpole had bought at the bottom and sold at the top, adding to his inherited wealth and allowing him to create Houghton Hall as seen today. Walpole's political career began in January 1701 when he won a seat in the general election at Castle Rising, he left Castle Rising in 1702 so that he could represent the neighbouring borough of King's Lynn, a pocket borough that would re-elect him for the remainder of his political career. Voters and politicians nicknamed him "Robin". Like his father, Robert Walpole was a member of the Whig Party. In 1705, Walpole was appointed by Queen Anne to be a member of the council for her husband, Prince George of Denmark, Lord High Admiral. After having been singled out in a struggle between the Whigs and the government, Walpole became the intermediary for reconciling the government to the Whig leaders, his abilities were recognised by Lord Godolphin and he was subsequently appointed to the position of Secretary at War in 1708. Despite his personal clout, Walpole could not stop Lord Godolphin and the Whigs from pressing for the prosecution of Henry Sacheverell, a minister who preached anti-Whig sermons.
The trial was unpopular with much of the country, causing the Sacheverell riots, was followed by the downfall of the Duke of Marlborough and the Whig Party in the general election of 1710. The new ministry, under the leadership of the Tory Robert Harley, removed Walpole from his office of Secretary at War but he remained Treasurer of the Navy until 2 January 1711. Harley had first attempted to entice him and threatened him to join the Tories, but Walpole rejected the offers, instead becoming one of the most outspoken members of the Whig Opposition, he defended Lord Godolphin against Tory attacks in parliamentary debate, as well as in the press. In 1712, Walpole was accused of venality and corruption in the matter of two forage contracts for Scotland. Although it was proven that he had retained none of the money, Walpole was pronounced "guilty of a high breach of trust and notorious corruption", he was found guilty by the House of Lords. While in the T