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The Walpoles - politics as a source of wealth


I was reading the eccentric tale of Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill when I began to wonder how his Norfolk family had managed to turn a modest fortune into palatial opulence. So I turned to the Oxford DNB's life of Horace's father, Sir Robert Walpole, Britain's first Prime Minister. For several hours this afternoon I have been swimming through the high seas of a history that is uncannily reminiscent of life in politics today. Robert Walpole built Houghton Hall and all its lavish interiors apparently as a result of his political position.

Another post will emerge after David and I sieve through it all, and try to give you our impressions of Britain's first Prime Minister. He was a complex and probably corrupt character who nevertheless achieved some good for the nation as a whole.

In the meantime, if you like, you can tour Robert Walpole's Saloon, Great Staircase, Tapestry Dressing Room, Embroidered Bedroom, Marble Parlour, White Drawing Room, stables and gardens by entering the Hougton Hall website, the source of the image above.

Hougton was built between 1722 and 1729. The ground floor was ‘dedicated to fox-hunters, hospitality, noise, dirt and business’. The first floor, by contrast, was ‘the floor of taste, expense, state and parade’, and included gold trimmings for the state bed.

You may think that not much has changed in the intervening centuries - that the reward of politics is money - but things did change quite drastically before the 21st century began to retrogress.

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