WALPOLE, Horatio I (1663-1717), of Beckhall, Norf.
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Family and Education
b. 11 July 1663, 4th but 2nd surv. s. of Sir Edward Walpole† of Houghton, Norf. by Susan, da. and coh. of Sir Robert Crane, 1st Bt.†, of Chilton, Suff.; bro. of Robert Walpole I*. m. 26 Mar. 1691, Lady Anne, da. of (Sir) Thomas Osborne† (2nd Bt.), 1st Duke of Leeds, sis. of Edward Osborne†, Visct. Latimer and Peregrine Osborne†, Visct. Osborne [S], wid. of Robert Coke† of Holkham, Norf., s.p.1
Cornet, indep. tp. of horse 1685, 2 Drag. Gds. 1685, capt. by Mar. 1689–91; commr. of revenue [I] 1712–16.2
Freeman, Dunwich 1701, King’s Lynn 1703.3
Volatile, quick-tempered and outspoken, but shifty and unscrupulous in business dealings, the hard-drinking Colonel Horatio (he was known by his militia rather than his regular army rank) was the only Tory among the Walpoles. In 1691 he gave up his army career to marry Lady Anne Coke, without the consent of her father, Lord Carmarthen (the future Duke of Leeds). Other than emotionally, the immediate gains from the marriage were all on Walpole’s side. In material terms, Lady Anne brought by virtue of her previous marriage settlement various claims on the vast Coke estates, including a jointure of nearly £1,500 p.a. After negotiations, the heir to Holkham, her son Edward Coke, also agreed to give Walpole a lease for life of Beckhall. Coke made this agreement in his cups, and Walpole, who later boasted that he had got his stepson drunk on purpose, claimed for some years afterwards that the lease was rent-free, that ‘Mr Coke covenanted that I should peaceably and quietly enjoy it for my life or he pay me £1,000’. His marriage also connected him with the aristocracy, and with an eminent Tory branch, a fact of which he was proud even though his wife’s family regarded him with undisguised distaste, and he was ambitious to join his new connexions in Parliament. His only opportunity lay through the influence of his elder brother Robert, who had the disposal of one seat at Castle Rising, to which, however, he returned himself. Horatio had acquired a few burgages there, to help out, and at the 1695 election had been anxious to stand with his brother. When Robert decided instead to join forces with the proprietor of the other controlling interest, Thomas Howard*, Horatio was greatly disappointed.4
The death of Robert Walpole I and his succession by his son Robert II* greatly improved Horatio’s prospects of entering Parliament. As a trustee for his brother’s estates his consent was necessary before any of the property could be mortgaged or sold, and his nephew was in constant want of ready cash. Young Robert took over his father’s seat in the Commons, but when Howard died in April 1701 he offered to put up Uncle Horatio for the vacancy, against the advice of most relations and friends, who cautioned against challenging the Howard interest. But Horatio declined, writing that even if the Howards could have been persuaded to acquiesce he would not have wished to stand:
For I am not a little pleased that I have my liberty, being freed from that long confinement and some not very agreeable company, which many are fond of more than I am, and had my intentions been much stronger to the honour of a senator it would not have prevailed with me at this juncture to come among you, nor till you have got a bigger House to cool your hotheads, for I must needs say I think you are a parcel of very familiar fellows, and I am informed some people’s tongues go before their wits.
However, when Robert failed to repeat the proposal at the second general election in 1701, or to offer his own seat instead, which would have been preferable, Walpole was reported to his nephew to be ‘much out of order, and talks much of selling his burgages [at Castle Rising] in case you won’t buy them, for that he will part with them, being angry you did not make him a compliment’. In 1702 he eagerly accepted the nomination to his nephew’s seat, Robert himself moving to King’s Lynn, where he had to overcome some resentment at his ‘turning with the wind’ and putting up such a strong Tory as his uncle. At the same time local Dissenters had to be reassured that the new Member for Castle Rising ‘would not be for persecuting them and taking off the Act of Toleration’.5
Once in the House, Walpole took little part in its proceedings. In February 1704 he was given three weeks’ leave of absence. He did not vote for the Tack on 28 Nov. 1704, but in the following February was declaring that he would contest the county against the Whigs at the next election, following a difference with the leader of the Norfolk Whigs, Lord Townshend. At this point, Robert Walpole received from a friend at King’s Lynn the following advice:
I must say I have a personal respect for your uncle, notwithstanding differences in politics etc., and I shall always think it your interest not to differ with him, and if he insists upon standing at Rising you ought to let him have it, but he having so much indifference for the Parliament the last session . . . this is a proper season (could you fairly represent the matter to your uncle) to . . . make some advantage of introducing of some considerable person into Rising, that cost your family money . . . I would at least let your uncle know that it hath cost you money and that in consideration of him you waived your own advantage.
However, when it came to the election Horatio, who had no real interest of his own in any other constituency, was returned again at Castle Rising. He was marked as ‘Low Church’ in a list of the 1705 Parliament, presumably because he had failed to support the Tack and had been elected on his nephew’s interest. Having voted against the Court candidate in the contest for the Speakership on 25 Oct. 1705, he was back in Norfolk by 19 Nov. ‘very full and angry, but mostly with Sir C[harles] T[urner]*, whom he calls coxcomb in a high degree’. Barely a fortnight later he set out for London again. He did not attend at the beginning of the first Parliament of Great Britain, nor probably before he was given a month’s leave of absence on 20 Dec. 1707. In a list of 1708 he was classed as a Tory. He may well have been the ‘Mr Walpole’ who clashed with Richard Hampden II* in the House on 16 Dec. 1708, and he voted in 1710 against the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell.6
Walpole was becoming more and more of an embarrassment to his nephew, and when in June 1710 the leading Norfolk Whigs discussed their plans for the next election it was agreed that he would be retained only if his seat were not needed for another. Robert Walpole, who was to put up for the county, was also urged to make sure of his uncle’s support there and that he ‘act as sincere a part towards Mr Windham [Ashe*, Robert’s partner] as towards his nephew, which I am afraid will go a little against the gizzard’. Apprised of the possible danger, Horatio worked during the summer to try to make his nomination secure by negotiating for an ‘accommodation’ between the parties in the county election, which would save the Whigs one seat. In July he wrote to inform Robert Walpole of the failure of his efforts, but urged his nephew none the less to declare for him at Castle Rising. He also wrote to Robert Harley* to inquire whether it was the Queen’s intention to dissolve Parliament. He had been ‘making interest’, he claimed, for the Tories in Norfolk:
And at the expense of my own election, for my nephew has given me to understand that his brethren the Whigs inform him I am very active, nay the life and spirit of all the opposition they are to expect; so that if I will not compound for one in the county he can’t choose me at Castle Rising, which I thought I had an hereditary right in, my nephew and I having the power of the corporation in our hands, but he much the greater share, so I expect to be succeeded.
This was the first in a stream of supplications that Walpole was to send Harley over the next few years, and a typical example. In it he was bombastic, promising service – ‘I shall be able to assist in the choice of a Speaker’ – and pleading for a reward in the shape of office – ‘I would gladly recommend myself to her Majesty’s favour’. As well as the possible loss of his nephew’s electoral support, Walpole had now to face greater domestic expenses, for not only was Lady Anne accustomed to a style of living ‘which among country gentry was thought high doings’ but also he found himself at last having to pay rent for Beckhall. In the event, although his activity in the county proved fruitless, Robert still returned him at Castle Rising. Robert’s Whig brother, Horatio II*, who himself coveted the seat, confessed, ‘I don’t understand management among the nearest friends and relations’.7
Walpole was listed among the ‘Tory patriots’ who opposed the continuation of the war, and also among the ‘worthy patriots’ who detected the mismanagements of the previous ministry. He appears to have begun anew his campaign for office in March 1711, when he wrote to congratulate Harley on escaping Guiscard’s attempt on his life. He was obliged to do so in writing because, having some business out of town, he had chosen to make his journey during the recess so as not to miss any sitting of the House. Thereafter his letters became more frequent and more importunate. The Duke of Leeds was even persuaded to recommend him, and Walpole himself mentioned to Harley a number of offices ‘the town say will be vacant’, such as ‘two in green cloth, four in the commissioners [of the revenue] of Ireland, the treasurer of the Ordnance, four council of trade’, and various posts held by Norfolk Whigs, including members of his own family, whom he said he had opposed most successfully in the 1710 election, claiming for himself the credit for all the Tory successes in Norfolk. In July 1711 he asked for the vacant governorship of Hull, ‘a very honourable post, yet not one of great value’ and thus perhaps one for which he would be more likely to be considered. Harley, however, gave him nothing but promises. Then, in January 1712, he made another great effort. At the turn of the year he wrote to applaud Harley’s ‘great victory over the enemies of peace and monarchy’, to remind him of his promises to ‘take me under your protection’, and to warn that the Tory interest in Norfolk could not be sustained much longer without his being given some visible mark of the Queen’s favour. Leeds also sent a note again on behalf of his son-in-law, who ‘had steadily adhered to the Queen’s interest in Parliament, notwithstanding his temptations to the contrary’. Finally, on 25 Jan., the day after the Commons had censured the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†), Walpole wrote again to congratulate Harley on that ‘great success against the great plunderer of the nation’, assuring him that all the Tory Members from Norfolk ‘attended and voted with me’, and asking for a regiment or some other post. Before May Harley did offer something but, whatever it was, Walpole considered it inadequate and requested the treasurership of the Ordnance instead. Harley yielded so far as to promise this, but a little later Walpole was shocked to hear that it had been given to someone else. He protested:
I know not anything I have done since to cancel her Majesty’s and your lordship’s intended favours, having constantly attended the House, and I may, without vanity, say I do not act alone there. And forgive me if I think my services in the country superior to most in the House, though I have not the faculty of speaking, but had I been so fortunate as to be blessed with that talent I would never have made use of it to reflect on her Majesty and her administration by requiring the secrets of her cabinet, and set up a club against her prerogative, as the October was, where I never went until they were reconciled to the ministry.
He once more recapitulated his ‘faithful services’
in opposition to my family, who were always kind to me. There was nothing I could have asked in reason that my Lord Townshend and my nephew would not have gained for me of Lord Godolphin [Sidney†] and Lord Marlborough, all which I resisted rather than join with the enemies of monarchy and the establishment.8
At last, on 1 July 1712, Walpole was made a revenue commissioner in Ireland. There was still a scare or two for him owing to delays in the issue of the warrant, and more than once he importuned Harley to ensure his precedence in the new commission over Thomas Medlycott*, who had been appointed at the same time. He was returned without opposition at the ensuing by-election in April 1713, having written in the previous September to reassure Harley that there would be no difficulty, in case doubt on this score was the cause of his appointment remaining so long unconfirmed. His nephew Robert, he said, had told him in strict confidence that, notwithstanding the urgings of many Whig friends to use the opportunity to return brother Horatio, he would not desert his uncle at this crisis in his affairs. ‘Matters are so between us’, wrote uncle Horatio to Harley, ‘that I never doubted it, and wondered anybody should be so much his enemy as to advise it, especially those that pretend to be his friends’. The following session saw Walpole report and carry to the Lords a private bill, and vote for the French commerce bill on 18 June 1713. In August he presented to the Queen an address from Norfolk congratulating her on the peace, and regretting the ‘spirit of gainsaying’ which was everywhere manifest.