Walpole, a Whig, was elected to the House of Commons in 1701. An outstanding orator, Walpole was appointed Secretary of War in 1708 and Treasurer of the Navy in 1710. After the collapse of the Whig government Walpole was accused of corruption and spent a short period in the Tower of London.
In 1714 Queen Anne became very ill. The true heir to the throne was James Stuart, the son of James II. Many Tory ministers supported James becoming king. However, James Stuart was a Catholic and was strongly opposed by the Whigs. A group of Whigs visited Anne just before she died and persuaded her to sack her Tory ministers. With the support of the Whigs, Queen Anne nominated Prince George of Hanover as the next king of Britain.
When George arrived in England, he knew little about British politics nor could he speak very much English. George therefore became very dependent on the Whigs who had arranged for him to become king. This included Walpole who was made Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1715.
Walpole was such a powerful figure in the government he became known as Prime Minister, the first in Britain's history. He was also given 10 Downing Street by Prince George, which became the permanent home of all future Prime Ministers.
Walpole believed that the strength of a country depended on its wealth. The main objective of Walpole's policies was to achieve and maintain this wealth. For example, he helped the business community sell goods by removing taxes on foreign exports.
Walpole did all he could to avoid war, as he believed it drained a country of its financial resources. However, in 1739 Britain became involved in a war with Spain. George II was in favour of the war and became Britain's last king to lead his troops into battle. Walpole, who thought the war was unnecessary, did not provide the dynamic leadership needed during a war. The Tory opposition accused Walpole of not supplying enough money for the British armed forces. Walpole gradually lost the support of the House of Commons, and in February 1742 he was forced to resign from office.
Sir Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford, died in 1745.