Friday, December 14, 2012

That Hamilton Woman!

Emma (Hart) Hamilton
April 26 1765 to January 15 1815

Born the daughter of a blacksmith, died in infamy, the avowed mistress of England’s hero, Horatio Nelson. She was born Amy Lyon and later changed her name to Emma Hart.


 At the age of 12 she was a maid at the Hawarden, Wales. House of Doctor Honoratus Leigh Thomas, a surgeon in Chester. She then worked for the Budd family in Chatham place and helped a fellow maid, Jane Powell rehearse to become an actress. She then became a maid at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane to such notables as Mary Robinson. From being a maid she advanced to model and dancer.

  At the age of 15 she met Sir Harry Featherstonhaugh. She became an entertainer for him, dancing naked on the dining room table for he and his friends. At Harry’s Uppark estate in the South Downs she met the second son of the Earl of Warwick, the honorable Charles Francis Greville. She also conceived a child by Sir Harry. (1781.)


  Emma was sent off to London until the baby was born but now she became the mistress of Greville. The child, when it was born was taken to be raised by the Blackburn family. Emma saw her daughter frequently until those periods when she was in debt. The girl became a companion or governess in her later life.

  Greville had Emma sit for George Romney and kept her as his mistress. Romney now took on Emma as one of his chief inspirations, his muse. She is in many of the most famous paintings by Romney.


  By 1783, Greville needed to find a rich wife (though another source says he never married), so he passed Emma to his uncle, Sir William Hamilton, the British Envoy to Naples. Hamilton was glad for Greville’s marriage meant he did not have to support his nephew any longer either. In a transaction, Hamilton acquired Emma much as one buys a piece of pottery. Emma had no knowledge of the transaction, and was furious about it when she found out. But she did become Hamilton’s mistress.

  She created a new art form, crossing between posture, dance and acting for his guests and it was a sensation. Other artists took on this type of performance. In 1791, Hamilton married Emma in England. He was 60 and she 26.


  And then in 1793, she met Horatio Nelson at the court of the King and Queen of Naples. Nelson came back to Naples in 1798 after the Battle of the Nile sorely wounded, and she nursed him back to health. Then for his 40th birthday she had a party with 1800 guests to celebrate it. Sir William even seems then to have tolerated and encouraged the affair that developed between Emma and Nelson.


  That Emma and Nelson could have such an endorsement may stem from the age of Sir William, and that Nelson was the most famous Briton in the world now that he had won the Battle of the Nile, and through George Romney and her founding of a new art form, and her great beauty, Emma was the most famous female Briton. (DWW-The two most important Britons, even more so than any King or Prime Minister, right at that moment) And William Hamilton was a collector. These two were under his roof, carrying on. He was able to show them off.

  Emma was now, in 1799, the close personal friend and advisor to the Queen of Naples, Marie Carolina whose sister, Marie Antoinette had been executed by the French. It was probably not too impossible to tell those of Naples, that the French were the great enemy. Those who did want the French as allies, were the aristocrats, not the people or the royals. The royal family fled to Sicily. Nelson tried to aid the Royal family and put down this aristocratic revolution. He was recalled to Britain, though he, Emma and Sir William took the longest possible route back.

  They arrived in Britain in 1800 to a hero’s welcome. They lived together openly and the affair became public knowledge. The Admiralty sent Nelson back to sea.

  Now Emma and Nelson wished to marry, but they would not do so until Sir William died, who they both cared for very much. Nor could Nelson get a divorce from his wife unless he had another great victory. In 1801, Emma gave birth to her and Nelson’s daughter, Horatia. Nelson bought a house in Wimbledon, Merton Place, where they all could live. They became the papers celebrity sensation of the day. Emma was no longer the great beauty, and they did try to live a quieter life.

  Sir William died in 1803 and Nelson left for the sea again. Emma was pregnant once more. The child died a few weeks after it was born. Emma began to spend lavishly and gamble. Then Nelson died at Trafalgar.

  Now she ran through the remaining money and became heavily in debt. Merton Place was left to her and Emma tried to maintain it as a monument to Nelson. It too sent her into further debt. She had now returned to poverty and drank herself to death in Calais. Horatia married the Reverend Phillip Ward and had ten children.

* * *

Mr. Wilkin writes Regency Historicals and Romances, Ruritanian (A great sub-genre that is fun to explore) and Edwardian Romances, Science Fiction and Fantasy works. He is the author of the very successful Pride & Prejudice continuation; Colonel Fitzwilliam’s Correspondence. He has several other novels set in Regency England including The End of the World and The Shattered Mirror. His most recent work is the humorous spoof; Jane Austen and Ghostsa story of what would happen were we to make any of these Monsters and Austen stories into a movie.

And Two Peas in a Pod, a madcap tale of identical twin brothers in Regency London who find they must impersonate each other to pursue their loves.

The links for all locations selling Mr. Wilkin's work can be found at the webpage and will point you to your favorite internet bookstore: David’s Books, and at various Internet and realworld bookstores including the iBookstoreAmazonBarnes and NobleSmashwords.

He is published by Regency Assembly Press
And he maintains his own blog called The Things That Catch My Eye where the entire Regency Lexicon has been hosted these last months as well as the current work in progress of the full Regency Timeline is being presented.

You also may follow Mr. Wilkin on Twitter at @DWWilkin
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  1. She is said to have been born at Parkgate on the Wirral peninsula and a house there is known as Emma Hamilton's birthplace.

  2. Lovely post David. I knew of Lady Hamilton but not a lot about her. What a sad way for her unusual life to end.


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