T H E
D Y N A S T Y O F D I S T I N C T I O N
Sir Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford, was a wealthy landowner and Whig statesman.
Considered the first
Prime Minister–the term did not come into use until 1905–
he entered politics in 1701 and, despite being briefly imprisoned for financial chicanery,
rose to dominate policy during the reigns of George I and George II. An intimate of Queen
Caroline, hemixed in the highest social circles. In 1732, George II made his favouriteMinister
a personal gift of 10 Downing Street, which Walpole insisted be left to the nation for the
futureuse of the First Lordof the Treasury–a title still engravedon thebrass letter box today.
Like his father, Horace attended Eton and King’s College Cambridge and entered politics.
A bachelor aesthete, trendsetter and eccentric who embarked on a two-year
with his friend the poet Thomas Gray, he is best remembered as a man of letters, amateur
architect and themost important Englishcollector of the18thCentury. Horacewas anearly
champion of the Gothic Revival style, exemplified by his home in Twickenham, Strawberry
Hill, which he transformed into the most celebrated Gothic House in England. An avid and
witty correspondent, he left a legacy of some 4,000 letters which provide valuable social
and political commentary on the times.
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