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Walpole, Horatio (1678-1757) (DNB00)

WALPOLE, HORATIO, first Baron Walpole of Wolverton (1678–1757), diplomatist and politician, was the fifth son of Robert Walpole, and the younger brother of Sir Robert Walpole, first earl of Orford [q. v.] He was born at Houghton on 8 Dec. 1678, and educated at Eton and King's College, Cambridge. A copy of Latin verses by him was included in the ‘Luctus Cantabrigienses’ published on the death of William III in 1702. In the same year Horatio, or, as he was more usually called, Horace Walpole, was elected a fellow of his college. After some hesitation as to the choice of a profession, and a brief residence as a law student at Lincoln's Inn, where he was admitted on 2 Oct. 1700, Walpole entered parliament. A consistent whig, and a member of the Hanover Club, he remained a member of the House of Commons for fifty-four years. On 24 July 1702 he was returned for Castle Rising, and he was re-elected by that constituency in May 1705, May 1708, December 1710, and April and September 1713. On 2 Feb. 1714–15 he was returned for Beeralston, Devonshire, and on 2 Dec. 1718 for East Looe, Cornwall. In the spring of 1722 he was returned for both East Looe and for Great Yarmouth, and chose to sit for the latter constituency. He was again elected for Great Yarmouth on 22 Aug. 1727 and 14 May 1730. Subsequently, from 15 May 1734 till his summons to the upper house in June 1756, he sat for Norwich.

While still a young member of the House of Commons, Walpole took office in the diplomatic service. In 1706 he was appointed secretary under General James Stanhope (afterwards first Earl Stanhope) [q. v.], envoy and minister-plenipotentiary to the titular king Charles III of Spain, and accompanied his chief to Spain in the expedition which relieved Barcelona (May). From 1707 to 1709 he acted as chief secretary to Henry Boyle, lord Carleton [q. v.], who during part of this time was secretary of state. In 1709 he was attached to The Hague embassy, and in the following year accompanied the ambassador, Lord Townshend, as secretary to the abortive peace conferences at Gertruydenberg. He seems already at this time to have gained Townshend's full confidence (see Townshend's letters in Manuscripts of the Marquess Townshend, Hist. MSS. Comm.; cf. Horatio Walpole's letters to his brother in Memoirs of Sir Robert Walpole, vol. i. App.). When on the advent of the whigs to power, at the accession of George I, Townshend became one of the principal secretaries of state, he appointed Walpole under-secretary. In 1715 he was made secretary of the treasury on his brother's becoming first lord and chancellor of the exchequer. In the same year he was sent to The Hague in order to support Lord Cadogan [see Cadogan, William, first Earl Cadogan] in his application for armed help against the expected invasion of the Pretender, and in 1716 he was associated with the same military diplomatist as joint plenipotentiary for obtaining from the States-General a fleet intended, under the pretext of protecting the Baltic trade, to further the Hanoverian designs on the Bremen and Verden territories. Furthermore, the Dutch government was to be induced to enter into a defensive alliance with Great Britain and France (afterwards known as the triple alliance). Walpole strongly objected to the pressure exercised by the Hanoverian interest, then much alarmed by the recent entry of Russian troops into Mecklenburg, and as a matter of good faith he warmly deprecated asking the Dutch to assent to a separate treaty, which, contrary to assurances previously given by him, had been concluded by Great Britain and France. In the end he obtained permission to quit The Hague, leaving the signing of the alliance treaty to his colleague (Memoirs of Sir Robert Walpole, i. 180). Hardly had he arrived in England, when he was sent to George II, then at the Göhrde (November), as the bearer of a despatch to Stanhope, which proved the beginning of Townshend's downfall [see Charles Townshend, second Viscount Townshend]. Intent upon diverting from the secretary of state to himself the blame for the delay about the French treaty, Horace remained ignorant and unobservant of the king's suspicion of cabals with the Prince of Wales on the part of Townshend and Robert Walpole (Stanhope, i. 241 seq.). When, however, the former was finally dismissed, and the latter resigned (April 1717), Horace Walpole likewise went out of office. Shortly before this he had secured for life the appointment of surveyor and auditor general of the plantation (American) revenues of the crown (Calendar of Treasury Papers, 1717–19, ccxiii. 8 et al.) On the return of his brother and Townshend to power in 1720, he was named secretary to the lord-lieutenant of Ireland, and in 1721 was reappointed secretary to the treasury, on his brother once more becoming first lord. About 1720 Lady Cowper describes Horace's lodgings as a useful place for the settlement of confidential court business (Diary, p. 144).

In 1722 (May–June) he negotiated at The Hague the grant of an auxiliary force, at the highly critical time of the discovery of ‘Atterbury's plot,’ and in October 1723 he proceeded to Paris on what proved the most important diplomatic employment of his career. The nominal purpose of his mission was to arrange for the accession of Portugal to the quadruple alliance; but he was really sent to uproot Sir Luke Schaub [q. v.], who was in Carteret's interest, and who had gained much influence during the ascendency of Dubois. Walpole, without succeeding better than Schaub in forwarding King George's wishes in the intrigue concerning the La Vrillière dukedom [see George I], contrived to supplant Schaub, and was appointed envoy-extraordinary and minister-plenipotentiary in his place (March 1724). He had shown considerable judgment when after the death of the regent Orléans (December 1723) power had temporarily passed into the hands of the Duke of Bourbon and Madame de Prie, by keeping more or less at a distance Bolingbroke, who, foreseeing the eclipse of Carteret, was anxious to conciliate the Townshend-Walpole interest. And, forecasting in his turn the course of ministerial changes in France, Horace Walpole gradually placed himself on a footing of thorough confidence with Fleury, bishop of Fréjus (afterwards Cardinal Fleury), who in June 1726 was definitively established in power. Fleury never forgot a visit which Walpole had paid him at Issy, when in December 1725 persons not so well informed supposed him to have been banished from court (see ST. SIMON, Mémoires, ed. 1863, x. 278 seq., where Sir Robert and Horace Walpole are said to have persuaded Fleury that their policy was directed by his counsels, and where that policy is very caustically characterised). The preliminaries of Paris, signed 31 May 1727, which averted what seemed the inevitable expansion of the existing state of war into a general European conflict, exhibit at its height the co-operation of the French and English prime ministers, between whom Horace was the chief intermediary agent. On the accession of George II (June) Walpole proceeded at once to England, armed with a letter from Fleury, promising adherence to the ‘system’ of the Anglo-French entente, if the new king would uphold it, and, though at first coldly received, was sent back by him to Paris with a gracious answer. Soon afterwards the reconciliation between France and Spain, which Walpole had laboured so persistently to obstruct, was brought about, and Germain Louis Chauvelin, a friend of the Bourbon entente, became secretary of state; but the continuance of an excellent understanding between Fleury and Walpole found expression in the settlement of the claims of Spain, satisfactory to Great Britain, arranged at the congress of Soissons (June 1728), where Walpole was one of the plenipotentiaries, and in the treaty of Seville (November 1729), which established a defensive alliance between Great Britain, France, and Spain (the Townshend manuscripts comprise four volumes of Walpole's Paris correspondence, of which extracts are given by Coxe, vol. i.; cf. as to the latter part of his French embassy, passages from his Apology).

On the resignation of Townshend (May 1730) Sir Robert Walpole offered the vacant secretaryship of state to his brother, who, however, declined it, chiefly from an honourable unwillingness to justify the suspicion that he had fomented the quarrel with Townshend with a view to succeeding him. While still in France he was appointed to the office of cofferer of the household, which gave him a ready access to the king, and, having thereupon resigned his embassy, he was in November 1730 sworn of the privy council. He remained in England till October 1733, when he was sent to The Hague on a confidential mission, which led to his appointment as envoy and minister-plenipotentiary there in the following year. He held this post till 1740, though paying occasional visits to England, where he attended in parliament. In the course of these years he was, together with his friend the grand pensionary Slingelandt, and his successor at Paris, James, lord Waldegrave [q. v.], largely instrumental in promoting the policy which, against the wish of George II, kept Great Britain out of the iniquitous war of the Polish succession, and in 1735 led to the peace of Vienna (to this period belongs the earlier part of his interesting correspondence with Robert Trevor [q. v.], afterwards viscount Hampden, who, after acting as his secretary of legation at The Hague, in 1741 succeeded him there as minister. See Manuscripts of the Earl of Buckinghamshire, Hist. MSS. Comm. Many of these letters had already been printed by Coxe, but very inaccurately. See also, for letters exchanged between the brothers in these years, Appendix to vol. iii. of the Memoirs of Sir Robert Walpole).

Horace Walpole's free and frequent communications of his political views to the king and queen were not always palatable, and she is said to have told him: ‘Sir Robert would have gone into the war’ of the Polish succession, ‘but you would not let him.’ Before her death, however, he received many friendly communications from her, and in 1736, by her wish, resided at Hanover as minister of state during a long visit of the king to his electoral dominions (cf. Hervey, Memoirs, ii. 297). Yet already in 1738 he was strongly in favour of a Prussian alliance, of all things the most detestable to George II. In this year he warmly advocated the maintenance of peace with Spain, and in March 1739, in a speech of two hours, moved the address in the House of Commons thanking the king for the convention by which it was vainly hoped that war might be averted (Stanhope, ii. 275). In 1740 he strenuously exerted himself in support of his brother's policy of bringing about an understanding between Austria and Prussia, and his foresight in protesting against the obstinacy of Maria Theresa and her advisers and urging the use of every opportunity of securing the good will of Prussia is attested by numerous passages in his correspondence.

On the downfall of Sir Robert Walpole in 1742 (February), Horace thought it prudent to burn a large part of their private correspondence. He rendered a conspicuous service both to the late prime minister and to the existing government by defending in the House of Commons (December), doubtless much against the grain, his brother's very doubtful step of taking sixteen thousand Hanoverians into British pay. When among the pamphlets published on the subject one by Lord Chesterfield and Waller, entitled ‘The Case of the Hanover Tories,’ had created much attention, he was prevailed upon to write an answer to it under the title of ‘The Interest of Great Britain steadily pursued’ (April 1743), which ran through three editions, but which, according to his own account, met with so little encouragement from ministers that he abandoned his intention of following it up with a second part (see his amusing letter to Trevor in Buckinghamshire MSS. p. 87). During the ensuing years, while taking no part in the contests for power and place, he remained a close observer of events and men, displaying his usual courage by a letter to the king in which he urged the appointment of Pitt as secretary at war (January or February 1746), and by a series of letters to the Duke of Cumberland, as well as by an interview (20 Dec. 1747), in which he sought to impress upon the duke, and through him upon the king, that nothing but an alliance with Prussia could insure the conclusion of a satisfactory peace (COXE, ii. 185 seq.). The peace of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748) left the Prussian alliance apparently still out of the question. Walpole printed some comments on it, under the title of ‘A Rhapsody of Foreign Politics,’ in which he advocated the exchange of Gibraltar for Porto Rico or St. Augustin. In 1749 (March) he delivered an able speech, concurring, with the reverse of enthusiasm, in the grant to the Empress Maria Theresa, and subsequently he repeated its substance in a paper entitled ‘A Letter to a Friend,’ which remained unpublished. His ‘Observations on the System of Affairs in 1751,’ which dwell with rhetorical bitterness upon the impolicy of ‘subsidiary treaties in time of peace to German princes,’ he had the boldness to lay before the king (printed ap. Coxe, ii. 307 seq.). In 1752 he, according to his nephew, excited the ridicule of the House of Commons by voting for the subsidy treaty with Saxony, against which he had delivered a convincing harangue (Memoirs of the Last Ten Years of George II, i. 241 sqq.). Although Walpole's long intimacy with Henry Pelham had ended in a suspension of their political connection, he was eagerly courted by the Duke of Newcastle on his succeeding as head of the government (1754), and early in 1755 read to some of the chief members of the duke's cabinet a remarkable expression of his opinion on the inexpediency of the king's going abroad, and of the desirability, in the case of his absence, of appointing the Duke of Cumberland regent (Coxe, ii. 372 seq.). His advice was only partially followed, and later in the year he failed in his efforts to effect a reconciliation between Newcastle and Pitt.

On 1 June 1756 Walpole, who chiefly on account of the recent marriage of his eldest son to a daughter of the Duke of Devonshire had solicited this rise in rank, was created a peer by the title of Baron Walpole of Wolterton (his seat near Aylsham in Norfolk). He survived the grant of this honour for less than a twelvemonth. In former years he had been much afflicted by the stone, but he had thought himself cured by a remedy of which he sent an account to the Royal Society. The return of the disease early in 1757 proved fatal. He died on 5 Feb. of that year, and was buried in the chancel of the parish church of Wickmere, near Wolterton.

Horace Walpole has been far from kindly dealt with by historical writers, partly perhaps in consequence of the dicta of his amiable nephew and namesake, who described him as ‘a dead-weight’ in his brother's ministry, and ‘one who knew something of everything but how to hold his tongue or how to apply his knowledge,’ besides adding further amenities as to the homely style of his language and oratory (Memoirs of the Last Ten Years of George II, i. 140). But the younger Horace had in 1756 been involved in a violent personal quarrel with his uncle, in which the right seems to have been on the younger man's side. It concerned the establishment, against Lord Orford's will, of a so-called mutual entail of the Houghton and Wolterton estates, and the consequent exclusion from the former estate of his grandchildren and daughter (see Horace Walpole, Letters, ed. Cunningham, ix. 485). Cardinal Fleury qualified a compliment to his effective eloquence by allowing that it was clothed in bad French. His English speeches are described as delivered with a Norfolk accent, and he himself jested in parliament on the slovenliness of his dress. The engraving of Van Loo's portrait of him, formerly at Strawberry Hill, suggests a gross and unpleasing presence. Moreover, it is easy to perceive that at court and elsewhere the outspokenness which formed part of his nature must frequently have been out of season. Yet his mind was of no ordinary calibre, and his moral courage was, like his intellectual capacity, fully worthy of Walpole's brother. In domestic politics he was consistent, save when under the pressure of exceptional considerations affecting his party and its chief. In foreign affairs, which were the main business of his life, he was alike far- and clear-sighted, and may without hesitation be held to have been one of the most experienced and sure-footed as well as sagacious diplomatists of his times, not a few of whom were trained under his eye. Moreover, both at Versailles and at The Hague he understood how to win complete confidence in the most important quarters. He seems to have been an effective but the reverse of a fastidious speaker in the House of Commons. His writings have the merit of unmistakable lucidity, and often of argumentative strength. In addition to the pamphlets by him already mentioned, two—on the question of war with Spain, and on the Spanish convention (1738)—evidently from his pen, were discovered at Wolterton by his biographer. He also printed in 1763 an ‘Answer to the Latter Part of Lord Bolingbroke's Letters on the Study of History.’ His ‘Apology,’ written towards the close of his life, and dealing with his transactions from 1715 to 1739, the ‘Rhapsody of Foreign Politics’ occasioned by the pacifications of 1748 and 1750, and two manuscripts on his favourite project of a good understanding with Prussia (1740), remained unpublished; but of the first named of these the greater part is reproduced by his biographer.

Horace Walpole the elder married, in 1720, Mary, daughter of Peter Lombard—the ‘Pug’ of Sir Charles Hanbury-Williams's elegant satire (Hanbury-Williams, Works, ed. Horace Walpole, 1822, i. 48, and note). By her he had four sons and three daughters. The eldest son, Horatio (1723–1809), succeeded as second Baron Walpole of Wolterton, and was created Earl of Orford on 10 April 1806. His third son, George, is separately noticed.

[Coxe's Memoirs of Horatio, Lord Walpole, 2 vols. 2nd edit. 1808, here cited as ‘Coxe,’ and Memoirs of Sir Robert Walpole, Lord Orford, 4 vols. ed. 1816, here cited as Memoirs of Sir Robert Walpole; Earl Stanhope's (Lord Mahon) Hist. of England from the Peace of Utrecht, 5th edit. 1858; Hist. MSS. Comm. 11th Rep. App. pt. iv. (MSS. of the Marquis Townshend, 1887), 14th Rep. App. pt. ix. (MSS. of the Earl of Buckinghamshire, 1895); Robethon Corresp. Hanover Papers, vol. viii., Stowe MSS., British Mus.; Collins's Peerage of England, 5th edit. 1779, vol. vii.; other authorities cited in this article and in that on Walpole, Sir Robert, first Earl of Orford.]

A. W. W.