Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford, KG, KB, PC (26 August 1676 – 18 March 1745), known before 1742 as Sir Robert Walpole, was a British statesman who is generally regarded as the first Prime Minister of Great Britain. Although the position of "Prime Minister" had no recognition in law or official use at the time, Walpole is nevertheless acknowledged as having held the office de facto because of his influence within the Cabinet.
A Whig who was first elected in 1701, Walpole served during the reigns of George I and George II. Some sources date his tenure as "Prime Minister" from 1730 when, with the retirement of Lord Townshend, he became the sole and undisputed leader of the Cabinet. But his premiership is normally dated from 1721, when he became First Lord of the Treasury; this was generally upheld by the contemporary press, most notably that of the opposition, who focused far more attention on Walpole than on Townshend. Walpole continued to govern until 1742; he was not only the first but also the longest serving Prime Minister in British history.
Walpole was born in Houghton Hall, Norfolk, in 1676. One of 19 children, he was the third son and fifth child of Robert Walpole, a Whig politician who represented the borough of Castle Rising in the House of Commons, and his wife Mary Walpole, the daughter and heiress of Sir Geoffrey Burwell of Rougham, Suffolk. Horatio Walpole, 1st Baron Walpole was his younger brother.