WALPOLE, Hon. John (1787-1859), of 58 Jermyn Street, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press



29 June 1822 - 1831

Family and Education

b. 17 Nov. 1787, 4th but 2nd surv. s. of Horatio Walpole†, 2nd earl of Orford (d. 1822), and 1st. w. Sophia, da. and coh. of Col. Charles Churchill† of Chalfont, Bucks.; bro. of Horatio Walpole, Lord Walpole*. educ. Eton 1802. unm. d. 10 Dec. 1859.

Offices Held

Lt. 1 Ft. Gds. 1808, capt. and lt.-col. 1814, ret. 1825.

Private sec. to sec. of state for foreign affairs (Lord Palmerston*) Nov. 1830-Apr. 1833; consul-gen. Chile 1833, plenip. 1837, chargé d’affaires 1841, ret. 1849.


Walpole, the 2nd earl of Orford’s youngest son, initially pursued a military career, punctuated with sojourns attending his eldest brother Horace on diplomatic missions to St. Petersburg, Vienna and Dresden. Henry Williams Wynn†, who first met him there in 1805, found him ‘much more comme il faut than the rest [of English travellers], he also appears to more advantage as he talks French tolerably well, which few of my countrymen do’.1 A veteran of the siege of Burgos, which cost him the use of his left arm, he was consigned to the home service following the death of his brother William in 1814, and it was anticipated that he would replace Horace as the Walpole or corporation member for King’s Lynn on their father’s death. He experienced little opposition when he deputized for his absent brother at the general election of 1820; but in what proved to be the first of four violent contests which marked his tenure of the seat, his election on 29 June 1822, shortly after the 2nd earl’s funeral, was bitterly opposed, as dissidents on the corporation and the anti-corporation party combined to back Sir William Henry Browne Ffolkes*, whose father had previously represented the borough.2

Walpole, who made no reported speeches and generally followed his brother the 3rd earl’s political leadership, was condemned by his opponents as a placeman and recipient of an army pension of £700 a year.3 He divided with Lord Liverpool’s ministry on taxation, 3, 10, 13 Mar., and the prosecution of the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr. 1823. He voted against Scottish parliamentary reform, 26 Feb., and against condemning the indictment in Demerara of the Methodist missionary John Smith, 11 June 1824. He took charge of the 1824, 1825 and 1826 Eau Brink bills on the corporation of King’s Lynn’s behalf.4 His votes against Catholic relief, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., and the Irish franchise bill, 26 Apr. 1825, were the last attributed to him in that Parliament. He came in at great cost with Lord William Cavendish Bentinck at the 1826 general election.5 He voted against Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827, and repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb. 1828. His brother’s uncertain allegiance to the Canning, Goderich and Wellington ministries was tempered by vain hopes of diplomatic preferment to ease his financial difficulties.6 Walpole’s own finances fluctuated with those of the Potosi La Paz and Peruvian Mining Association, of which he was a director with the government whip William Holmes*, the former sheriff of London Sir Francis Desanges and Thomas Thistleton, and which in 1827 became the subject of a ‘great scam’.7 He applied unsuccessfully for preferment after a Potosi board meeting on 22 Aug. 1828 had called for a subscription of a pound a share, and Orford suggested him for the vacant post of surveyor-general of the ordnance, but he was informed by Wellington that only ‘a gentlemen who has attended to business and who has the reputation of having attended to business more than your brother has’ would do.8 As the patronage secretary Planta had predicted, he voted ‘with government’ for Catholic emancipation, 30 Mar. 1829.9 He voted against transferring East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 11 Feb., and enfranchising Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb., and divided against Jewish emancipation, 17 May 1830. His opposition to reform was the reason given for forcing a poll at King’s Lynn at the general election in August when Browne Ffolkes came in for the county.10

The Wellington ministry counted Walpole among their ‘friends’ and he divided with them on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830, when they were brought down.11 His surprising appointment at £300 a year as private secretary to the foreign secretary Lord Palmerston in Lord Grey’s administration was authorized on personal and compassionate grounds arising from his readiness to stand surety for a brother officer who had absconded for debt, and a king’s bench ruling in a test case, Temple v. Walpole and others (4 Mar. 1830), that he was personally liable for the Potosi debts.12 His votes for the government’s reform bill at its second reading, 22 Mar., and against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831, failed to satisfy his opponents in King’s Lynn at the ensuing general election that he was a reformer, and he was obliged to retire before the poll to avoid a costly defeat.13

Walpole made several statements to the House on behalf of the foreign office, but he did not stand for Parliament again. After much prevarication, for he wanted a European posting, preferably St. Petersburg, he agreed to go to Chile as consul-general, and arrived there in December 1833.14 His diplomatic career is detailed in official dispatches and his private correspondence with Palmerston. He negotiated and signed the slave trade treaty of 19 Jan. 1839 with Chile, was promoted to chargé d’affaires shortly before securing agreement on the Chilean Convention of 7 Aug. 1841 and remained there until independence was declared in 1847.15 He subsequently received a pension of £365 a year. He never married and died intestate at Sydenham in December 1859. On 19 Jan. 1860 administration of his estate was granted at the principal registry to Maria, the wife of Martin John West of Leeds, the eldest of his four surviving sisters. His library and other effects from his house in Jermyn Street were sold at auction in 1860.16

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Margaret Escott


  • 1. Williams Wynn Coresp. 87; HP Commons, 1790-1820, v. 474-5.
  • 2. H. Hillen, King’s Lynn, ii. 558-67; Bury and Norwich Post, 8, 15 Mar. 1820, 3, 10 July; Norwich, Yarmouth and Lynn Courier and Norfolk Gen. Advertiser, 29 June, 6, 13 July 1822.
  • 3. Norwich, Yarmouth and Lynn Courier and Norfolk Gen. Advertiser, 6, 10 July 1822.
  • 4. Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland mss PWJe 77, 112.
  • 5. Bury and Norwich Post, 7, 14 June 1826; J. Rosselli, Lord William Bentinck, 76; Portland mss PwJe 121, 1079.
  • 6. All Souls, Oxf. Vaughan mss, Orford to Vaughan, 26 July 1827, 3 July 1829 [NRA 10564]; Wellington mss WP1/937/17; 952/23; 984/11; 992/5; Southampton Univ. Lib. Broadlands mss GC/OR/6; GC/GR/1935.
  • 7. Morning Herald, 24, 30 Oct., 2, 3, 7-10, 12-14 Nov., 22 Dec.; The Times, 2, 8, 12, 14 Nov. 1827.
  • 8. London Gazette, 30 Sept. 1828; Wellington mss WP1/952/23; 957/21.
  • 9. Wellington mss WP1/992/5; 998/16; 999/7; 1007/34.
  • 10. Norfolk Mercury, 10, 24, 31 July, 7 Aug. 1830.
  • 11. Wellington mss WP1/1054/82.
  • 12. Morning Herald, 5 Mar. 1830; K. Bourne, Palmerston, 427.
  • 13. Norfolk Mercury, 16, 30 Apr.; Bury and Norwich Post, 4, 11 May 1831; Lord W.P. Lennox, 50 Years Biog. Reminiscences, ii. 158-9, 162-3.
  • 14. Raikes Jnl. i. 46; TNA FO16/22, ff. 1-99; Broadlands mss GC/WA/39; Bourne, 428.
  • 15. FO16/22-23, 25-28, 30-32, 34-35 passim. Broadlands mss GC/WA/40-74.
  • 16. Norwich Mercury, 14 Dec. 1859; Gent. Mag. (1860), i. 195; Lord Walpole of Wolterton mss 24/48 [NRA 43212, p. 132].