A Love Story

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“Gentlemen, when the enemy is committed to a mistake we must not interrupt him too soon.”

Horatio Nelson

 Lady Hamilton

Every time I visit my Italian hairdresser, I leave with a fabulous haircut and an interesting tidbit of history about Italy.  For the last 10 years, the history lessons have become a delightful interlude, propelling my drive for more information long after the last snip of hair is swept away.   It was during one of those sessions that I first heard about a famous love story.

Everyone loves a love story.  Romeo and Juliet, Cleopatra and Mark Anthony, Paolo and Francesca, Napoleon and Josephine, Odysseus and Penelope, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, have been celebrated in literature, music, poetry and in the modern world, movies.  Less well-known is the story of the daring Lady Emma Hamilton and the courageous Lord Horatio Nelson.

There was a time when the Lady Hamilton and Lord Nelson were the most famous Britons in the world.  One of my primary goals when I visited London was to find evidence of their life together.  Their story has it all: romance, power, a revolution, victory and tragedy.   They met in Naples, much to the joy of my Italian hairdresser, but the story begins with humble beginnings and London’s sordid underworld.

This week I want to revisit my thoughts on a remarkable woman, who risked all to experience the abundance of life and love.

 I love him, I adore him, my mind and soul is now transported with the thought of that blessed ecstatic moment when I shall see him, embrace him……I must sin on and love him more than ever. It is a crime worth going to Hell for.”  Emma Hamilton on Nelson, 1804

 Lord Nelson

 

41 thoughts on “A Love Story

    • Yes, he was! Her name was Frances (Fanny), and by all accounts, she was devoted to him up until the last. This is not a perfect love story; there is a good deal of tragedy.

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      • I have often thought that the mistress gets to play the role of passion and lover always, while the wife lives in the real world of mundane details of everyday life. An unfair advantage.

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      • I agree – an unfair advantage. But in this story, Fanny outlives them all and takes pleasure in her grandchildren.

        “He that loves pleasure must for pleasure fall.”
        ― Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus

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      • I think that you are right….

        Fanny lived for a time with her son in Paris. She once told her granddaughter, Fanny. “When you are older little Fan, you may know what it is to have a broken heart.” She was a bit of a melancholic, which is part of the reason why Lord Nelson rarely came home, even before he met Lady Hamilton.

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      • yes, my own experiences tell me that real life is more vivid than fiction, and I haven’t really known anyone who would be classified as great.

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      • I have a quote for you!!!! I think you will like this one.

        “It is quite possible–overwhelmingly probable, one might guess–that we will always learn more about human life and personality from novels than from scientific psychology”
        ― Noam Chomsky

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  1. Yes, it was a fascinating story,,,I always felt a bit sorry for Sir William Hamilton the cuckolded husband… and then of course for Emma, who Nelson left to the nation! but the nation didn’t want her. Nelson didn’t make any provision for her… and I find it hard to forgive him for that ! So much for love !!!

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    • I felt sorry for Lord Hamilton, too. It seemed that he encouraged the relationship because he thought that being friends with Nelson could help him gain influence. Funds were dwindling, based on Lady Hamilton’s spending habits, and Lord Hamilton needed income. He was also very sick. There are so many twists and turns to this narrative that challenge everything we hold dear. My interest was mostly in the plight of women when I was reading through the history. Those were dark days, indeed. When Nelson passed, there was no provision for her. I agree wholeheartedly – it was unforgivable.

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      • I do love your replies… it’s always like having a conversation !
        Have you read Ten fascinating Women by Elizabeth Jenkins? If you haven’t, I have a feeling it would be right up your alley !!!

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      • I have never read that! And I have looked for the title in the Vancouver Library, Amazon.ca and our Chapters stores. It is currently unavailable, sold out etc. Now I am curious! Elizabeth Jenkins is a prolific writer. I have her Jane Austin, A Biography – haven’t read it yet – it will be on my 2014 list to read, however. And I going to make a trip to the Library to see if they can help me locate a copy. Thank you so much – I love our conversations!

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      • Hello Rebecca… do you know ABE Books, and the Book Depository… I use them instead of Amazon these days…
        I’m interested that you have Elizabeth Jenkin’s Jane Austen – I love it, and I also found Clair Tomalin’s Jane Austen really fascinating too..
        Yes, isnt it fun being in touch !!!

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      • Just signed up to ABE Books!! A veritable treasure house of adventures!! Thank you so very, very much!!! Big hugs…

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    • You would love him and the stories that flow without effort. His Paolo and Francesca story brings tears! And it always helps when you have a bakery right next door – coffee, hot muffin and conversation. That’s what life is all about!

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    • She was a very, very, bold lady! Even though I had done a little reading on this subject, Lady Hamilton is a complex character. That is why I’ve decided to revisit the story!

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  2. Hello Rebecca..

    Looking forward to hearing more about these two, its a long time since I heard their story. We did something way back in school.

    I will come back to catch up 🙂

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    • I have to admit that my hair is getting shorter and shorter….

      Wait until you hear his story about Francesca da Rimini. That will bring tears to your eyes. I do so love being a romantic!!!

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    • Even knowing the end, I continue to wonder how it all came to be. Thanks so much for your kind comments – so much appreciated.

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  3. Hmmm! Great conversation and observations. There is nothing really that I can add. True stories are so revealing of human nature.

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