Thursday, January 3, 2013

Sir William Hamilton (That Hamilton Man!)

My last post for the EHFA was on Emma Hamilton, so it seems apropos that we discuss one of her other two halves, the man who is not often discussed, Sir William Hamilton.

Sir William Hamilton

January 12 1731-April 6 1803

Now, 200 years after he has died, he is more famous for whom he was married to, than his achievements in life.


For 36 years he was the British Ambassador to the Kingdom of Naples. From 1764 to 1800. Turbulent times that saw the French Revolution and the rise of Napoleon.

Hamilton was also an antiquarian, an archaeologist and vulcanologist. (DWW-being Ambassador in Naples provided was access to Vesuvius and Etna.) He was a noted collector and became a member of the Royal Society. Born the fourth son of Lord Archibald Hamilton, who was Governor of Jamica, his mother was the daughter of the sixth Earl of Aberdeen. She was a mistress of the son of George II, George the Prince of Wales, who was the father of George III. George III called Sir William his foster brother.


Sir William attended the Westminster School and then was commissioned into the 3rd Foot Guards in 1747. He was promoted to Lieutenant in 1753. He married Catherine Barlow, daughter of a politician and left the army. She died in 1782, they had no children. In 1786, when he was 55 his nephew sent him a stunning young lady who had become the muse for George Romney. Sir William cancelled his nephew, Charles Greville’s debts for the introduction. Emma Lyon (Hart) captivated Sir William. They were married in 1791. He was 60 then and she was 26.

When Horatio Nelson crossed their path, a man he admired, he encouraged the notorious affair to develop. Eventually when they abandoned Naples, the three took up living all in the same houses in both Merton Place and London. Nelson refused to seek his own divorce and marry Emma until Sir William died, for they were such good friends.


William served as an MP for Midhurst in 1761 but then left to become the Ambassador to Naples. He began his collection of Greek Vases and other antiquities selling a part of his collection to the British Museum. A second collection was lost at sea when the HMS Colossus went down. What survived was purchased by Thomas Hope.

Sir William became an author Antiquités étrusques, grecques et romaines (1766–67) and Observations on Mount Vesuvius (1772). And he was a member of the Royal Society, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and a member of the Society of Dilettanti. He made more than 65 ascents to Mount Vesuvius and made a number of drawings before it’s eruption in 1765. He met Mozart during his tour of Italy in 1770. Goethe visited Hamilton in 1787. Goethe thought two chandeliers were most likely smuggled from Pompei, and a friend agreed telling the famed poet, that he should not pursue his investigations any further. Hamilton died in 1803 and is buried next to his first wife.

* * *

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
Mr. Wilkin maintains a Pinterest page with pictures and links to all the Regency Research he uncovers at Pinterest Regency-Era


  1. I well remember Vivian Leigh in the movie. I saw it after it made it to the states in the mid 40's. Even though I was 5 or 6 at the tie,I remember the final scene in which Emma, an old woman much like what we would call "a bag lady' enters a pub hoping for a handout. Hamilton, although accurately depicted as much older, is portrayed as corpulent and hateful as I recall the film. When I was ten I was infatuated with Sir Laurence Olivier, Leslie Howard and epic British movies when my friends were watching cartoons and the Bing,Bob and Dorothy Road Pictures." I haven't changed.

  2. I only had a vague knowledge of this man as you say simply because of to whom he was married so I enjoyed learning more about William Hamilton.


  3. I too came across the Hamiltons because of the Vivian Leigh movie. I learned more about William from reading Vulcano Lover, an excellent book.


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