Robert Walpole, 2nd Earl of Orford
He was the eldest son of Sir Robert Walpole (1676–1745), the King's First Minister, now regarded as the first Prime Minister, by his first wife Catherine Shorter. In 1723 his father declined a peerage for himself but did accept the offer on behalf of his 22-year-old son Robert who was thus raised to the peerage as Baron Walpole, of Walpole in the County of Norfolk.
On c. 26 March 1724 Lord Walpole married the 15-year-old heiress Margaret Rolle (1709–1781), only surviving daughter of Samuel Rolle (1646-1719) of Heanton Satchville, Petrockstowe. Margaret was the heiress to a junior branch of the great Rolle family of Stevenstone in Devon and to her paternal grandmother, born Lady Arabella Clinton, a daughter and co-heiress of her brother Edward Clinton, 5th Earl of Lincoln, 13th Baron Clinton (d. 1692).
The marriage was not a success and Lady Walpole quarrelled violently with his whole family. After one son was born they lived apart and later obtained a legal separation.
In 1736 Hannah Norsa, a leading singer and actress at Covent Garden, moved to Houghton Hall in Norfolk and remained there as Walpole's mistress until his death in March 1751. Her financial support may have saved him from dying bankrupt. In Walpole's many absences Hannah Norsa was escorted in her landau and six horses by his chaplain, Rev William Paxton, who received the position as a small part of the Walpole family compensation for his father's defence of Walpole's father, the Prime Minister.
His estranged widow, Lady Walpole, became the 15th Baroness Clinton, succeeding in her own right after the death of Hugh Fortescue, 1st Earl Clinton (1696—1751). She had remarried on Walpole's death but soon separated from her second husband, Sewallis Shirley, a son of the 1st Earl Ferrers and comptroller of Queen Charlotte's household. She died at Pisa, in Italy, in 1781, and was buried at Leghorn, "a woman of very singular character and considered half mad".
Both the Earl of Orford and his wife Baroness Clinton were succeeded in all their titles by their son George Walpole, 3rd Earl of Orford, 16th Baron Clinton (1730–1791), a celebrated falconer, who left no legitimate children and died insane.
Robert Walpole held the following posts at some time between 1701 and 1751:
- Clerk of the Pells
- Auditor of the Receipt of the Exchequer
- Ranger of Richmond Park
- High Steward of Yarmouth
- Lord Lieutenant of Devon
Styles from birth to death
- Mr Robert Walpole (1701–1723)
- Viscount Walpole (1723-1745)
- The Rt Hon. The Earl of Orford (1745–1751)
Though he held a barony in his own right, from 1742 to 1745 Lord Walpole ranked higher by precedence as the eldest son of an earl.
- Debrett's Peerage, 1968, Baron Walpole, p.1128
- Olive Baldwin and Thelma Wilson, ‘Norsa, Hannah (d. 1784)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
- Kidd, Charles, Williamson, David (editors). Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage (1990 edition). New York: St Martin's Press, 1990.
- Leigh Rayment's Peerage Pages [self-published source][better source needed]
The Earl of Halifax
|Auditor of the Exchequer
1739 – 1751
The Earl of Lincoln
The Lord Clinton
|Lord Lieutenant of Devon
1733 – 1751
The Duke of Bedford
|Peerage of Great Britain|
|Earl of Orford
1745 – 1751
|New creation||Baron Walpole
1723 – 1751